Minnesotans don’t hibernate in the winter, they get out and get going! From the snow-blanketed forests and frozen waterfalls up north to an idyllic island getaway inside the metro area, there are natural wonders within easy—and not so easy—reach of your snowshoes, cross-country skis or sturdy boots. Here are 10 amazing places for your must-do adventure checklist. So, layer up, embrace the chill, and go make some really cool memories!
C.J. Ramstad/ North Shore State Trail
Ready to take your snowmobile for an expedition into the Minnesota wilderness? The C.J. Ramstad/North Shore State Trail awaits. Stretching 146 miles from Duluth to Grand Marais, the trail runs along forested ridgelines overlooking Lake Superior. In this remote and pristine wilderness, you might spot moose, deer, fox and the occasional timber wolf. Named in honor of the late photojournalist and snowmobile enthusiast, C.J. Ramstad, the trail is one of the state’s natural treasures. Plan your adventure by visiting the MN Department of Natural Resources Trail Guide.
Warroad Skate Path
Tired of skating circles around your neighborhood pond or local rink? Crank up the heat in your vehicle and head north to the Warroad Skate Path. Spanning 2.5 miles along the Warroad River, the trail connects seven community hockey rinks and provides skaters with hours of glide time on the frozen river. Located just south of the Canadian border on the shores of the Lake of the Woods, Warroad is a community dedicated to transforming deep-winter chills into exhilarating thrills. Start planning your trip by visiting the Riverbend Skate Path page. Learn more about the skate path’s story by reading this story from MPRNews.
North Country Trail – Itasca State Park
On its 4,600-mile path from North Dakota to Vermont, the epic North Country Trail meanders through some of the most beautiful landscape in Minnesota. Strap on your skis or snowshoes and take in the quiet beauty of a winter forest on the trail’s stretch across Itasca State Park. Winding through towering stands of pine and along icy streams and lakes, the landscape is dotted with boulders and frozen bogs where you might hear hooting owls if you’re out after dark. Visit the Itasca State Park page for directions, trail information and maps.
Thomson Trail – Jay Cooke State Park
The Thomson Trail in Jay Cooke State Park takes you across the picturesque Swinging Bridge and onto a rustic loop that traces 6.5 miles along the St. Louis River. Points of interest include the historic Thomson Pioneer Cemetery, spectacular views of the river from Oldenburg Overlook, and a beautiful log-and-stone picnic pavilion and other structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. Skiers and snowshoers should note that they’ll share a portion of the trail with snowmobilers. Learn more at Jay Cooke State Park.
High Falls Trail – Grand Portage State Park
An easy half-mile snowshoe hike takes you to the frozen base of the High Falls, where the Pigeon River bursts from the ice and cascades 120 feet on the last leg of its journey to Lake Superior. Located on the Canadian border in Grand Portage State Park, this stunning waterfall (the tallest in Minnesota) is easily accessible but not easily forgotten. For a more ambitious snowshoe excursion, tackle the steep and rugged Middle Falls trail. Learn more at Grand Portage State Park.
Quarry Loop Trail – Banning State Park
Known for the churning white waters of the Kettle River, Banning State Park attracts scores of canoers and kayakers throughout the warm seasons. For a short but scenic snowshoeing outing, try the 1.8-mile Quarry Loop Trail. Hugging towering rock walls where sandstone was once quarried, the path follows the riverbanks, eventually leading to Hell’s Gate, where you’ll find the ruin of a building where sandstone was once crushed and sorted. Plan your snowshoe hike by visiting Banning State Park.
High Falls Trail – Tettegouche State Park
For a short winter trek with a big payoff, it’s hard to beat the High Falls Trail in Tettegouche State Park. Just 1.5 miles from the trailhead, this moderate hike takes you to the feet of the High Falls of the Baptism River. If you’re not too chilled and hungry for more views, head up to Palisade Head and take in the expansive views of Lake Superior. Start planning your excursion by visiting Tettegouche State Park.
Minnehaha Regional Park
You don’t have to leave Minneapolis to experience the natural splendors of winter. Offering over three miles of paved and plowed trails, visitors catch great views of limestone bluffs, enchanting river overlooks, and the crowning touch—a 53-foot frozen waterfall. The park also has a six-acre dog park that lets your furry friend run through the snow and socialize with other pooches—all leash free! Find out more at Minnehaha Regional Park.
Pike Island – Fort Snelling
In the midst of the Twin Cities metro is an idyllic spot the Dakota people once called the “center of the earth.” Set at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, Pike Island is encircled by a four-mile loop that takes you through groves of dormant cottonwoods, ash, silver maples, and willows. Winter is an ideal time to explore because the crowds have thinned, letting you enjoy rare moments of peace and solitude in the city. Visit the Fort Snelling State Park page for maps and directions.
River Trail – Wild River State Park
Meandering 1.5 miles along the banks of the frozen St. Croix River, the River Trail is perfect for a quick winter outing. Whether taking your time on snowshoes or zipping along on cross-country skis, you’ll be treated to splendid views of the river and distant hills of Wisconsin before reaching the Nevers Dam overlook and historic display. If you’re keen to go deeper into nature, Wild River State Park offers over 30 miles of trails for all skill levels, from beginning to advanced skiers and snowshoers. Learn more at the Wild River Trail Guide.