Based on data from the US Census Bureau, the city offers a total area of 2.92 square miles (7.56 km2); 2.11 square miles (5.46 km2) is land and 0.81 square miles (2.10 km2) is water. A portion of the city lies along the Elk River.
Located about 40 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, Big Lake was once a popular location for escapes from the city, its lakes filled with summer cabins. Now it is considered an exurb of the metro area, with a significant portion of residents commuting into the Cities daily.
The lake for which the town is named was once an important part of the Twin Cities economy, as in the days before modern refrigerators, much of the ice for metropolitan iceboxes was harvested from Big Lake.
Big Lake is currently the northernmost terminus of the Northstar Commuter Rail line connecting the northwest suburbs and downtown Minneapolis; there are plans for the line to be extended to St. Cloud by 2015.
Currently, commuters can use the Northstar Link Commuter Bus to reach St. Cloud, MN.