Making tracks up, down, over, and around the Twin Cities
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Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area
There’s plenty of variety—and opportunities for backcountry solitude—at 4,900-acre Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove, the largest unit of the Three Rivers Park District. The park has more than 11 miles of trails groomed for both skate and classic skiing, three miles of which are lighted for nighttime skiing and 1.5 miles available to get a coating of artificial snow when needed. Loop difficulty ranges from beginner (including most of the lighted area) to expert. On evenings and weekends, hot drinks, burgers, and fries are available for purchase at the Elm Creek Chalet, which also rents ski equipment. Two camper cabins equipped with electricity and heat are available to rent for $50 a night. Skiers need a Three Rivers ski pass.
Address: 12400 James Deane Pkwy., Maple Grove
Lake Maria State Park
Lake Maria’s 14 miles of trail are a roller coaster of winding hills. While there’s plenty of action, none of it is particularly difficult. The loops take in oak woods (including some old growth) and lakeshore. Only two miles are groomed for skate skiing, the rest is reserved for classic. If you want to make a weekend adventure of it, reserve a camper cabin and haul in your gear and food by sled. Cabins have wood stoves for heat, but no electricity.
Address: 11411 Clementa Ave. NW, Monticello
Woodland Trails Park
Woodland Trails Park has more than nine miles of trails. It’s a 330-acre oasis in Elk River, and it’s renowned for its skier-friendly design. The trails take in plenty of hills as well as some flat terrain, weaving in and out of prairies and dense woods. The loops include some steep climbs and descents, and are groomed for both skate and classic skiing.
Address: 20135 Elk Lake Rd., Elk River