Photo courtesy Lutsen Resorts

Find solitude in a state park

When the snow piles up, hiking can be a challenge–unless, of course, you strap on snowshoes. Snowshoes have been used for centuries for traversing the winter landscape. Today’s light, high-tech frames are much advanced from the bent wood-frame shoes of old–although those work fine, too. Away from the schussing of ski slopes, “quiet†takes on a new definition after a winter storm. Cloaked with piles of white, the outdoors seems to slip into a slumber. This is a Minnesota winter at its finest–and the time to strap on your snowshoes and trek into the woods.

“It’s enjoyable. It’s fun. The scenery is just gorgeous, and you have the wonderful quiet where you can just enjoy being in the outdoors,†says DNR Information Officer Carmen Diestler. You’ll find places to snowshoe all over the state, but some of the best and most accessible are in Minnesota’s state parks, where you can follow a marked snowshoeing trail, or head out in any direction (the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources just asks that you stay off of groomed cross-country ski trails). Twenty state parks rent snowshoes.

“You can snowshoe in virtually any state park,†Diestler says. “Often, in the wintertime, it’s an opportunity to get to parts of the park that you may not have seen before.â€

These free family-oriented programs, hosted by a naturalist, give park visitors a chance to try on snowshoes, take them for a test run, and pick up a few pointers. Snowshoes are provided, but you are welcome to bring your own. Programs are generally on weekends in January and February, during the day or in the evening. A calendar with program dates and more information is available on the DNR’s website,

Beyond state parks, the North Shore, particularly, is a popular place to snowshoe. Here, winter provides the opportunity to hike along ice-covered rivers to frozen waterfalls–perhaps a new perspective of a place you’ve visited in the summer. Many North Shore resorts have snowshoes for guests to use. Snowshoes are also available for rent at 20 state parks and from select lodges and resorts across north central and southeastern Minnesota.

On the website, do an advanced search under “Lodging†to find resorts, B&Bs, and state parks that have snowshoes available.

Though the list of state parks with snowshoe trails is long, several particularly cater to the snowshoeing set with special midwinter snowshoeing programs.

Fort Snelling State Park, in the Twin Cities
Lake Maria State Park, west of Monticello
Wild River State Park, along the St. Croix River
Sibley State Park, north of Willmar
Lake Bemidji State Park, near Bemidji
Jay Cooke State Park, near Duluth
Gooseberry Falls State Park, on the North Shore