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Snowshoeing opportunities abound on state lands Snow cover in northeast and southwest Minnesota means snowshoers can enjoy the sport


Snowshoeing is the perfect way to beat cabin fever, bringing people outside for fresh air and provid­ing a connection with nature that is benefi­cial for physical and mental health. Snow came late to Minne­sota this year, and even ­though there are still areas of the state with little snow cover, there are also many loca­tions in northern and southwest Minneso­ta with enough snow for snowshoeing, and there are many oppor­tunities to participate in snowshoeing on state lands managed by the Minnesota De­partment of Natural Resources.

Exploring on snow­shoes is not only great exercise, is also a way to see areas of parks, forests and other lands that aren’t accessible in the summer. When the ground is snow-cov­ered, it’s safe to wander off trail without the risk of trampling sensitive plants or spreading in­vasive species through picking up seeds of in­vasive plants on foot­wear.

The recreation com­pass tool is an easy way to find locations for snowshoeing. All types of DNR-man­aged lands listed be­low are included on the Recreation Com­pass map (mndnr.gov/maps/compass.html)  

Here are places to en­joy snowshoeing on state lands this winter:

State parks, recreation areas and trails

Snowshoeing is al­lowed at all state parks, recreation areas, and trails. Visitors can snowshoe anywhere ex­cept on trails that are spe­cially groomed for another activity, such as cross-country skiing or snowmobiling.

Many state parks offer snowshoe rentals for $6 per day. Details are available on the DNR’s state parks snowshoeing webpage (mndnr.gov/state parks/snowshoeing.html).  

Some parks and trail locations offer snow­shoeing programs such as guided snowshoe walks and wildlife watching. Participants in these programs are provided with a set of snowshoes if they don’t have their own. To ensure there are enough snowshoes for all participants, many of the programs re­quire advance regis­tration. Most programs are free; more details are available on the DNR’s parks and trails event calendar (mndnr.gov/ptcalendar).

For those who are new to the activity, six loca­tions offer snowshoe­ing programs specif­ically geared toward beginners: Afton, Fort Snelling, Itasca and Mille Lacs Kathio state parks, Big Bog State Recreation Area, and the Gateway State Trail.

No permit is needed for state trails, but a vehicle permit is re­quired for state parks and recreation areas. The DNR recom­mends purchasing a permit in advance us­ing the DNR permits webpage (mndnr.gov/permits). Permits can also be purchased at park offices during open hours, which can be found at mndnr.gov/parklist.

Scientific and natural areas

Minnesota has 168 scientific and natural areas, and snowshoe­ing is allowed in all of them. Visitors will need to bring their own snowshoes, and keep in mind that most SNAs do not have main­tained trails. Some roads in SNAs are plowed, but parking areas are not plowed in the winter. There is no pass or permit needed to visit an SNA.

SNAs recommended for snowshoeing in­clude Bonanza Prairie, Grey Cloud Dunes, Lutsen, Mille Lacs Moraine, Purvis Lake – Ober Foundation, Sand Lake Peatland, St. Croix Savanna and Wild Indigo.

State forests

Minnesota’s 60 state forests are also great places for snowshoe­ing. Like in state parks, snowshoes should avoid snowshoeing on trails groomed specif­ically for other activi­ties like cross-country skiing or snowmobil­ing. No permit or pass is needed to snowshoe in state forests.

Those who want to snowshoe in state forests will need to bring their own snow­shoes and should be aware that state forests are open to hunting and trapping during the appropriate sea­sons. Some small game hunting seasons opened on Jan. 1, and wearing blaze orange or pink is a good safety precaution.

Wildlife management areas

The DNR manages more than 1,500 wild­life management ar­eas. Snowshoeing is allowed at all WMAs, and no pass or permit is needed.

People will need to bring their own snow­shoes and keep in mind that they may be sharing the land with hunters and trap­pers. Some small game hunting seasons are open and it’s a good idea to wear blaze or­ange or pink even if you’re not hunting. People bringing dogs to a WMA should be aware that there are trapping seasons during the winter.

Safety tips

Being prepared is im­portant for a safe and fun snowshoeing out­ing.

  • To learn about snow­shoeing, check out the Minnesota Outdoor Skills and Stewardship webinar on snowshoe­ing and cross-country skiing basics (youtube.com/watch?v= Bo1SKY5pdm4).
  • Know before go­ing. Visit the tempo­rary closures webpage (mndnr.gov/closures) for links to information on state forest roads, wildlife management areas, state parks and state recreation areas.
  • Check the weather forecast before head­ing out, and dress ap­propriately for the conditions. The DNR offers a guide to dress­ing for Minnesota win­ters (mndnr.gov/dress­forwinter).
  • Always check the ice depth before going into frozen water and remember that ice is never 100% safe. A life jacket and ice picks are essential safety gear to wear on the ice. Read the DNR ice safety website (mndnr.gov/icesafety) for informa­tion.
  • Snowshoeing can make people thirsty, even in cold tempera­tures. Bring water, as drinking water faucets are typically turned off in the winter at lo­cations with drinking water.
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