By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Poppy Harlow's My North
When CNN anchor and Minneapolis native Poppy Harlow was a kid, every summer weekend her family would pile into the station wagon and head up to their cabin on Third Lake, just outside of Walker. While Poppy and her family would typically unwind at their remote outpost, for a less rustic vacation Walker’s charming, main street slice of Leech Lake offers plenty of great summertime to-dos. From bumming around its great old downtown to soaking up some Minnesota history, here’s how to do Walker right.
Stay at Chase on the Lake
After a devastating 1997 fire that gutted the original, turn-of-the-century hotel building, Chase on the Lake sat vacant for more than a decade – but the belle of Leech Lake underwent a $30 million dollar renovation in 2008 that brought it back to its former glory and more. The comforts of this well-appointed resort make for unparalleled Northwoods relaxation, and its Walker Bay-side perch on Leech Lake doubles down with gorgeous views best viewed over a glass of wine. Amenities like their Aveda day spa, their walleye-slinging restaurant, The 502, and clever two-lane bowling facility Chaser’s Alley are just the icing on the cake.
Eat at Benson’s
If there’s one rule to follow when visiting a small town, it’s that you should always seek out the town’s old-timey greasy spoon and eat there as often as possible during your stay. In Walker’s case, that homestyle eatery is Benson’s, an updated 1896 “eating and drinking emporium” that serves everything from mean pizza to even meaner burgers. Literally. Their famous one-pounder, the Leech Lake Burger, is topped with ham, bacon, cheese and about a million other things, plus an entire pound of cheese fries as a side. Eat the whole meal in under 45 minutes and win a free t-shirt to commemorate the day your waistline grew three sizes.
Shop at The Walker General Store
There’s lots of curious shopping in downtown Walker, but none more quintessentially Northwoods than the Walker General Store. From the fully-functioning throwback soda machine with glass bottle pop, to a penny pincher, to wares ranging from rock candy to Minnetonka Moccasins, The Walker General Store take the nostalgia meter up to 11.
Go Fishing on Walker Bay
When you’re staying on one of the best stocked fishing lakes in the state, you’d best plan on some fishing. Loaded with basically the entire arsenal of Minnesota lake fish, from walleye to muskie to bass to northerns, Leech Lake is a fisher’s paradise. Whether you rent a pontoon from J & K Marine and head out on your own, or hire a guide to bring you face-to-face with the teeth on a 15-pound northern, no trip to Walker is complete without casting off on Walker Bay.
Bike on The Paul Bunyan Trail
The state’s longest continuously-paved bike trail, named for Minnesota’s famously huge lumberjack, Paul Bunyan, runs from Brainerd up to Bemidji and passes right through Walker. Saddle up and ride the entire 120 mile trail, or just pop on our paved ode to the logman for a few quick miles. The trail's quiet northern section near Walker passes through dense hardwood forests and past shimmering lakes, meadows and farmland. And if your legs get tired, bicycle shuttle service for the Paul Bunyan Trail is available from Walker’s very own trailside B&B, Embracing Pines.