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Guide To Minnesota Snowshoeing

By Meghan Marx

Each winter, fastest growing winter sport of snowshoeing sweeps Minnesota each winter after the first good snowfall. This sport lets you explore areas normally untouchable in prime hiking seasons. Check out these locations for some of Minnesota's best snowshoeing terrains.

Snowshoeing, Snowshoes
(credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

Hartley Nature Center

3001 Woodland Ave.
Duluth, MN 55803
Hours: Mon-Fri: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; Sat: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Membership levels vary. Snowshoe rental $10 non-members, $5 for members
Reviews, Directions & More Info:

The Hartley Nature Center, just north of the University of Minnesota-Duluth's campus has more than 10 miles of snow-covered trails just waiting to be explored. This wooded preserve is a serene spot especially gorgeous when the snow is falling. They have 70 pairs of snowshoes waiting to be rented, so don't feel disadvantaged if you don't own a pair of your own. Snowshoes come in the traditional wooden types and lightweight metal models in youth sizes. When you're ready to call it a day, stop by one of the handful of coffee shops to warm up.

Itasca State Park Lantern Snowshoeing
(credit: Minnesota DNR Itasca State Park)

Lantern-Lit Snowshoeing Itasca State Park

36750 Main Park Drive
Park Rapids, MN 56470
Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012
5:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Park permits: $25.00 annual, $18.00 second vehicle, $12.00 handicapped or $5.00 daily
Reviews, Directions & More Info:

Itasca State Park, just north of Park Rapids, MN has over five miles of beautiful groomed trails open for all snowshoers and two nights a year the park offers lantern-lit snowshoeing. Experiencing a snowy night, lit by lantern is not only adventurous but also romantic. The park rents snowshoes for those of you just getting your first taste of the sport and skiers are welcome too, but note Itasca State Park does not rent skis. Park-goers suggest bringing snacks and warm beverages to enjoy while snuggling around the big campfire.

Moose, Snow Generic
(credit: Michael Smith/Newsmakers)

Bear Head Lake State Park & Guesthouse

9301 Bear Head State Park Road
Ely, MN 55731
Open year round. Check-in: 4:00 p.m., with checkout at 1:00 p.m.
Guesthouse rental fee is $160.00 + tax per night
Reviews, Directions & More Info:

If you are looking for a likely place to see some of nature's animals, such as a moose, head to Bear Head State Park. Known for its quiet, tranquil atmosphere, this park lies between Ely and Tower, MN. For snowshoe-enthusiasts who like to wake and sleep in nature, look to rent one of the park's guesthouses which offers a little more shelter in the winter months than your typical tent, and you can get an early start to your snowshoeing adventures. But before you head out, be sure to stretch! Snowshoeing requires a longer stride than normal walking. Warming up your muscles is important for flexibility.

Woman Snowshoes In Washington
(credit: CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Moonlight Snowshoeing at Whitewater State Park

19041 Highway 74
Altura, MN 55910
Open year round, 8:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Park permits: $25.00 annual, $18.00 second vehicle, $12.00 handicapped or $5.00 daily.
Reviews, Directions & More Info: Website

In southeast Minnesota, snowshoers and skiers alike can make their way through Whitewater State Park's 2,700 acres of extraordinary trails. The park prides itself on being open late, so wintertime-lovers can snowshoe into the evening and possibly stay the night in the park's winterized cabins. Contact the park and ask when local Naturalist Dave Palmquist moonlight snowshoe walks are scheduled. They are well worth the wait, with his narration and reading of well-known prose, this tour makes for a unique experience. For safety, always bring plenty of water, a headlamp or flashlight, and hand warmers just in case.

Snowshoe Race
(credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

The 7th Annual Twin Cities Snowshoe Shuffle

Long Lake Regional Park
1500 Old Hwy 8
New Brighton, MN
Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.
Registration: $35.00
Reviews, Directions & More Info:

So you think you are good at snowshoeing? How about getting together with a couple hundred other snowshoe enthusiasts and head out for a shuffle or a race! The 7th Annual Twin Cities Snowshoe Shuffle, held in Long Lake Regional Park in New Brighton, MN is a 5k and 10k run/walk race is for all ages and all abilities. The race takes on a bit of a festival feel with lots of food, silent auction, and an award ceremony. Not only is this race a blast, but also it raises funds for Camp Bovey to provide summer camp scholarships to low-income children. Consider packing a change of clothes, while you're warm during the jaunt, afterwards the cool down comes fast, changing from damp clothing is a good idea.

A word of warning, if you're in some more populated areas, try to head out shortly after a fresh snowfall so the trails are not too packed down. You are bound to have some great places right in your own back yard as well – in this land of 10,000 lakes, you can walk on water almost anywhere…

Meghan Marx was born and raised in the mid-west, where outdoor activity is her second nature. Meghan is a graphics artist, college professor and web designer. Follow Meg at @designingmarx.

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