Experience New Territories with Snowshoeing

Even though snowshoeing has been around for thousands of years, only recently has it been gaining popularity as a recreational activity.

“It’s one of the easiest sports,” says Ron Brodigan, owner of Snow Country Rustic Log Cabin Rental in Isabella, near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.”

It’s easy to learn, it doesn’t require a long list of expensive equipment, and it’s a great way to explore the state’s natural beauty.

“It’s one of the quietest ways to go through the woods. You can really pay attention to your surroundings,” Brodigan explains.

There are excellent snowshoe trails at Giants Ridge in Biwabik and Lutsen Mountains, and there are nine separate snowshoe trails — 25 miles worth — along the Gunflint Trail, through the Superior National Forest (just north of Grand Marais.) Many Minnesota state parks, such as Fort Snelling, William O’Brien, Afton, Wild River, Lake Bemidji, Gooseberry Falls, Sibley, Mille Lacs Kathio, Jay Cooke and Whitewater, have extensive snowshoeing trail systems. Snowshoeing is allowed in any state park except on groomed ski trails and where posted.

For those who want to try the sport before they purchase equipment, snowshoe rental is available at 18 state parks, such as St. Croix and Wild River.

Not only is snowshoeing fun (and often a preferred way to travel when snowbanks start climbing past the three-foot mark), but it’s also a great way to stay in shape, Brodigan says.

“Snowshoeing uses a lot of muscles that aren’t ordinarily used,” he comments, adding that it can be excellent physical therapy following knee or leg surgery.

He suggests wearing layers, just as if you were skiing or hiking, since it can be quite a workout.

Different levels of snowshoeing include recreational hiking, advanced mountaineering and snowshoe racing or sport. The most common kind of Minnesota snowshoeing is recreational hiking. People can reach places they wouldn’t normally reach without their snowshoes carrying them over deep snowbanks. Seeing the beauty of a snow-covered area that is otherwise not accessible is truly magical.

“Snowshoes can go anywhere, including places skis can’t,” says Barb Gecas, co-owner of Heston’s Lodge in Grand Marais. For example, she and her husband Greg went on an adventure to Northern Light Lake last winter in search of a certain hill Greg noticed while driving home on the Gunflint Trail. They headed out without a map, knowing their tracks would guide them back to the car.

“We were 18 to 24 inches above the frozen ground and it was white everywhere,” she explains. “Other times, we were bush-whacking through enough forest that we knew it wasn’t possible for a summer trail to go through those areas. We reached an overlook so high, I thought I was on a trail in one of the western states. It’s wonderful to find places like that in Minnesota, not too far from home.”

Many Minnesota resorts, lodges and B&Bs rent snowshoes or offer them free of charge to guests. Visit Explore Minnesota and search by the keyword “snowshoeing” for more details.