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89 Days

Nine Minnesota destinations for winter hiking

Crow-Hassan Park in Hanover, MN
Crow-Hassan Park in Hanover, MNDarby Ottoson

by Darby Ottoson

January 11, 2023

With a good pair of snowshoes and lots of willpower, one can hike most trails in Minnesota year-round. Luckily for the rest of us, there are also options either paved or packed down enough to not require fancy footwear or an emergency beacon. 

Here’s a list of nine trails to try out this winter, many of which offer other winter activities as well. Note that sometimes, it snows 15-plus inches, and trail conditions change. Double-check conditions on the park website the day of your outing and, if possible, bring boots with good traction. (Speaking from personal experience, Doc Martens do not count.)

Silverwood Park

Surface: Paved and wheelchair accessible

The small but bustling Silverwood Park unfolds just north of Minneapolis in St. Anthony. A regularly plowed one-mile loop brings you through oak and aspen forests, along Silver Lake, and past a collection of sculptures and art installations scattered throughout the park. Afterward, find even more art and warm up with locally sourced soup inside the visitor center, open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. 2500 County Rd. E, St. Anthony

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Surface: Packed, some uneven surfaces 

At one of the less developed and more peaceful parks around the metro, miles of hiking and ungroomed cross country ski trails wind across rolling prairies, into maple forests, and down to the Crow River. The 3.6-mile loop trail is minimally maintained, but packed down by regular foot traffic, so it’s wise to wait a few days after snowfall if you don’t have the right gear. 
12595 Park Dr., Hanover

A yellow prairie against a tree line and blue sky
Crow-Hassan Park in Hanover, MN
Darby Ottoson

Lake Nokomis Loop

Surface: Paved and wheelchair accessible

Reachable by public transit, the 2.5-mile Lake Nokomis loop is flat and easily traversable. A great spot for bird-watching in all seasons, you can also watch planes take off from the nearby airport and try not to wish you were traveling somewhere warmer. On the beach shore, find hockey rinks and general skating areas. 
5001 Lake Nokomis Parkway W, Minneapolis

Lake Minnewashta Regional Park

Surface: Mixed Paved and Packed

Lake Minnewashta Park has a little bit of everything with a paved walking trail, an off-leash dog park and a range of easy-to-difficult groomed cross country ski trails, as well as ski rentals. You can ski for free in Carver County unlike ski trails around the Twin Cities that require a pass, and there’s no entry or parking fees in the park. 
6900 Hazeltine Blvd., Chanhassen

Afton State Park

Surface: Mixed Paved and Packed

Overlooking the St. Croix River and only 30 minutes east of the cities, this ever-popular park has many packed-down hiking trails along with one shorter snow-blowed path. Thrill seekers can also hop on the slopes at Afton Alps afterward for a night ski or stay at winter campground sites overnight. 
6959 Peller Ave. S., Hastings

Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area

Surface: Mixed Paved and Packed

The Winter Recreation Area offers every snow-adjacent activity you can imagine plus a few more, including flying down one of 10 lanes on an intertube or skijoring — a Norwegian sport that involves a person on skis being pulled along by animals, usually horses or dogs. There are also great hiking options, ranging from paved paths to rogue snowshoe routes. 
12400 James Deane Parkway, Maple Grove 

Battle Creek Regional Park

Surface: Mixed Paved and Packed

Rated as steep, Battle Creek always comes up in the great debate of the best Twin Cities sledding hills and stays lit until 9 p.m. For a more mellow experience, explore miles of hiking trails weaving through the sprawling and hilly riverside terrain.
75 S. Winthrop St., St. Paul

Jay Cooke State Park 

Surface: Packed, uneven surfaces

Jay Cooke is for the hardiest of winter lovers willing to traverse less maintained paths to see spectacular North Woods scenery and take in the turbulent river that cuts through it. Cross-country skiers will appreciate more than a marathon’s worth of classic trails. Recent winter storms have impacted conditions here, so check out your options before you make the trip.
780 MN-210, Carlton

A rocky shoreline with icicles hanging near the incoming tide
North Shore of Lake Superior
Darby Ottoson

Grand Portage State Park

Surface: Mixed paved and packed

If you drive for about three hours past Jay Cooke, you’ll end up near the Canadian border at Grand Portage State Park — if you can resist stopping every few miles to ogle at the Great Lake’s icicle-laden shores on the way. There are no lodging options, but it’s one of the few free state parks and encompasses the tallest waterfall within Minnesota’s border, reachable by a one-mile paved out-and-back trail.  9393 E MN-61, Grand Portage

Find accessible trails, lodging, and campsites around the state here. (Note that many are not accessible during the winter months.)

A winter scene on a frozen lake with people sitting around a fire
The Current's 89 Days of Winter brings together highlights of the season for music, entertainment, and more.
Alexis Politz for MPR

This feature is part of The Current’s 89 Days series, helping you enjoy the best of the season with weekly guides to events, entertainment, and recreation in the Twin Cities.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.