One of the great things about living in and around the Twin Cities is that we have an abundance of outdoor spaces to explore. The trails within our many parks offer year-round adventures across a wide variety of terrain and natural features. Exploring these trails in the winter has the added benefits of being bug-free, less crowded, and I would claim even more beautiful. Many trail systems allow off-trail hiking (aka bushwhacking) during the winter months which makes for an even more adventurous and strenuous activity.
Here's 15 of the best places to go snowshoeing in the Twin Cities:
Afton State Park is one of my favorite places to snowshoe. The park has over 12 miles of designated snowshoe trails that cross rolling prairies, hilly wooded areas, and parallel the St. Croix River. There's lots of hills within the park so you'll be sure to burn a lot of calories! They also have a nice visitor center with three outdoor fireplaces you can use.
There are two different areas to snowshoe at William O'Brien State Park. One of these trails begins at the Visitor Center within the park. The other is accessible outside of the main park and near a little parking lot off Highway 4.
The trail within the park starts at the Visitor Center and travels down a non-maintained winter road, into the woods, and then along the St. Croix River. You will then travel back up the long winter road and make your way back to the Visitor Center. The backcountry southern trails off Highway 4 is completely non-groomed and makes its way across prairies and up and down rolling hills. It's really beautiful.
Carver has roughly 4 miles of designated snowshoe trails that make their way through the woods and up and down some rolling hills. They are the same trails used for fat tire biking but don't let this stop you from enjoying this beautiful park.
Lake Elmo is one of the hidden gems within the Twin Cities. This park has something for everyone. There are over 5 miles of multi-use trails for snowshoeing, hiking, and biking and bushwhacking is allowed throughout the park. You can warm up in the nordic center which is only a few minute walk from the snowshoe trailhead. Remember to be a good steward and stay off the groomed XC ski trails.
This urban park lies near the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport. However, once you enter the park and get to the main trailhead you'll forget about the hustle and bustle happening outside of the park and melt away into the wilderness. With over 18 miles of hiking trails that travel along riverbanks, wooded areas, and lakes, you can spend several days exploring this trail system. Traveling off-path is also welcomed.
Snowshoeing at Theodore Wirth is a blast. There are some naturalist led hikes or you are welcome to explore the park on your own. A favorite among visitors is to hike along the off-road mountain bike trails that wind their way through the woods and up and down a variety of hills. These trails offer around 8 miles of hiking in various sections located in the park.
Baker Park Reserve is part of the Three River Parks District and has 5.1 miles of designated snowshoeing trails. The entire park district has over 38 miles of trails across 11 parks and reserves if you're looking to do even more. You can either pickup the trails at the Baker XC Ski Chalet or use the available multi-use trails or go off-trail at the campground.
Battle Creek is located just outside of downtown St. Paul and thus is a great place to explore without leaving the metro. There's roughly 5 miles of designated snowshoeing trails but you are welcome to hike on the mountain bike trails or go bushwhacking throughout this enormous park. Many sections of the park are quite hilly which will get your heart racing and keep you warm even on the coldest days. There's also ample parking which makes getting there that much easier.
This park lets you explore the shores of the Mississippi River and is close to many places to eat either before or after your hike. Enter the St. Paul trail between Hidden Falls Regional Park and Emerald St on Mississippi River Blvd. If you want to snowshoe on the Minneapolis side of the river, you will find access points at the end of the Ford bridge, the Lake Street bridge, and Franklin Ave. There are also many access points in between these locations.
If you're looking for something a little different, try snowshoeing on the Minnehaha Creek during the winter. If fully frozen, there is around 22 miles to explore. A local favorite is to hike between Lake Nokomis and Lake Harriet which follows along Minnehaha Parkway. There are bridges and some beautiful homes to check out on your urban journey.
With the exception of the trail system, this park is mostly undeveloped which makes a great backdrop for a winter wonderland. There are 5.7 miles of trail for snowshoeing and additional mileage located within the mountain biking trail section. The terrain is comprised of glacial ridges, hills, and a very extensive and thick forest.
The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one big park. It has over 14,000 acres to explore and is located between Fort Snelling and Jordan. There are many different types of terrain and wildlife habitats to hike through and your chances of seeing some critters is pretty good.
Tamarack Nature Center in White Bear Lake holds a special place in my heart as I grew up there and did much exploring within its boundaries. You will find rolling hills, prairies, a lake, and a lot of wildlife within the park. There isn't a ton of snowshoeing mileage within the park (under 2 miles), but it sure is pretty. They don't allow bushwhacking so please be considerate. There is also a great outdoor park for the kids that is like nothing else around.
Mountain bikers across the Twin Cities know Lebanon as one of the premier spots in the cities to pursue their two wheeled passion. What many don't know is that it is a great place for snowshoeing as well. They have over 14 miles of dedicate snowshoeing trails that travel along lakes and through the woods. These trails are not open to mountain biking so you can lose yourself in the quietness without the worry of a fat bike whizzing by.
Interstate Park in Wisconsin is located by Taylors Falls and has 10 miles of multi-use snowshoeing trails. You'll travel up and down hills and partake in the scenic views of the St. Croix River and the steep-sided gorge known as the Dalles of the St. Croix. Bring your camera as it truly is a beautiful place and you'll never know what surprises the water and ice will provide.