The topology of Sunfish Lake Park features a low-lying central area of irregular shape running northwest-southeast from Sunfish Lake (altitude about 900 feet) to the closed Washington County Landfill (diagonal stripe pattern). The sides of this low area rise to over 950 feet in some areas of the Park, making for some steep trails. There are three major ecosystem areas: the wetlands which exist in the low areas, the grasslands which include the restored prairie in the South-central section and some small open meadows, and the deciduous forests which cover most of the Park. Much of the forest is dominated by Oak and Maple with some areas where Aspen and Birch are dominant, but there is a lot of mixing of the types. A few sections were planted with pine in the 1970’s and remain today as relatively small areas of evergreen forest. There is a City Forester’s Report of 2011,updated 2015, that gives great detail about the ecosystems. (link to this report located below) Much of the forest has been invaded by buckthorn over the past 40 years. Progress has been made recently in the removal of buckthorn and the restoration of the native undergrowth.
Trail Use Ruling
The Lake Elmo City Council on November 3rd voted to accept the Sunfish Lake Park User Group recommendation that there should be no hiking on the bike trails (also known as one-way single-track or mountain bike trails) and no biking on the multi-user trails, which are reserved for hiking, horseback, nature walks, skiing, snowshoeing, etc. The intent was to improve trail safety for all users by reducing the travel speed differences. User compliance will be appreciated by all. Icon signs describing the new rules have been installed at the trail heads. The signs at intersections between multi-user and bike trails will be up soon. The Minnesota Off Road Cyclists organization website https://trails.morcmtb.org/ has a section describing the current bike trail conditions in Sunfish Lake Park.
The Brown trails in Sunfish Lake Park consist of a double loop of Multi-use Trail, an Outer Loop from Sign # 1 to Sign #12 and an Inner Loop from Sign # 13 to Sign # 21. There are five access points, at the Northwest and Northeast corners of the parking lot, the Prairie trailhead on the exit road just South of the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center, the Fire Station at the northwest corner of the Park, and the Tapestry neighborhood access point. There are trail connections between the Outer and Inner Loops at Signs 2-15, 4-16, 8-17, and 9-18.
The Green, Blue, and Black trails form a set of one-way Single-Track Bike Trails which provide a continuous approximately 5-mile course. This course starts and ends at the parking lot. The Green section runs N-S from the Parking lot to a point West of Sunfish Lake, connecting with the Blue section which runs E-W almost to the power line corridor, connecting with the Black section which wanders around in the northwest corner of the Park.
There is a Port-a-Potty at the Northeast corner of the parking lot.
For bike trail condition information please visit https://trails.morcmtb.org/
The QR codes on the navigation signposts connect to the website of the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center. This building is located on the South side of the parking lot. Please stop in and visit the exhibits which are focused on the natural features of Sunfish Lake Park. We offer clean restrooms and free coffee, a tire pump for your bike and water for your dog (or yourself). Visit http://www.sminc-lake-elmo.org for open hours, events calendar, and more information.
How to use the Trail Info page
Each QR code sign in the Park is associated with a specific location, identified by a number on its navigation sign or a letter on its compass sign. The black oblong buttons on the Trail Info page, marked with these numbers or letters, are links to different webpages that describe the features of the specific locations, such as its Global Positioning System derived Longitude and Latitude (e.g. 92.9052 degrees West, 45.0036 degrees North). The number on the navigation sign is close to the RED STAR “You Are Here” and also shown in larger font in the lower left corner, as circled in this example:
If there is not a navigation sign associated with the QR code you are viewing, look at the compass dial just below it to find the letter code for that location: