Minnesota Winter Nights: 6 Winter Events to Embrace the Darkness

There is something truly enchanting about experiencing a wintery woods in the darkness. So many in the Midwest complain of the long, cold, dark winters. Then there are those who embrace the darkness enough to see the glow of the snow under the moonlight. It brings out a different kind of beauty that is only witnessed by those willing to seek it.

I have compiled a list of events that take place around Minnesota that give you the opportunity to seek the beauty. I hope you can get out and enjoy a few before the winter slips through our fingers.

Illuminated Events

Twinkle Light Trail- Lake Itasca State Park- December 1st- Mid-March (snow conditions vary). This event is not run on just one day of the season. The 3/4 mile trail near the Bear Paw Campground is lit for 3 months. This whimsical trail is available for hikers, snowshoers and skiers but the trail is not groomed for skis. The electric twinkle lights are illuminated from sundown to 10pm for your viewing and adventure.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (Daily $10, yearly $25)

Candle Light Event- Mille Lacs Kathio State Park- February 12th 6pm-9:30pm The candle light trail will be between the Trail Center and the Interpretive Center. The trail is available to snowshoers, skiers and hikers. Trails will be packed but not groomed, ski conditions vary. Snowshoe and ski rentals are available on a first come, first serve basis at $6 per snowshoe pair and $10 per ski set. There will be a fire to warm you up after your wintery hike.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (Daily $10, yearly $25)

Candle Light Event- Fort Ridgley State Park- February 12th 5pm-8pm Bonfires and a candle lit trail will make for a magical wintery evening in the woods. The trail begins at the Parks Chalet and winds its way into the forest and prairie. The trail is set for snowshoers and hikers.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Candle Light Event- Frontenac State Park- February 12th 6pm-8-pm Snowshoeing, skiing, or hiking at this candlelit trail event will have you in awe at this beautiful park. Campfires will greet you at either end of this trail along with a warming shelter equipped with a woodstove. Snowshoe rentals are available for $6 on a first come, first serve basis.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7), Ski pass, if over 16 years old and skiing (daily $10, yearly $25)

Owl Moon Walk- White Water State Park- February 19th 6pm8pm A quick presentation and education on the owls of Minnesota will find you out in the woods calling for these mysterious birds by moonlight.

Passes- Normally this park has a $7 daily use fee, but it just so happens that this event falls on the Free Park Day. There are a few freebie days throughout the year. Bonus!

Moonlight Snowshoe Hike- Minneopa State Park- February 26th 7pm-8pm Meet up at the group campground for an educational night hike at this unique park. The guide will take you through the woods and overlooking valley. Discussions will be had at numerous locations including talks about the five senses in the dark, this is a great chance for kids learn about themselves and to concur any fears of the dark. There are no instruments used for light on this hike, just the light of the moon.

Passes- Day Pass to enter park ($7)

Items to bring along

Beverages: Nothing warms the family up after a chilly walk in the woods like a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Here is a tip; bring a thermos of hot water and chocolate packets for your travel mugs (no ceramic mugs, the contrasting temps with shatter them). Thermoses are hard to wash hot cocoa out of, mugs are easier to clean up. If hot chocolate isn’t your speed bring along some tea bags or a tightly sealed thermos of coffee. You’ll be happy you have it at the end of the trail.

S’mores Supplies: Many of the State Park events have a roaring fire ablaze at the end of the trail, this makes for a great opportunity for some s’more making. But you’ll have to bring your own supply.

Headlamp: Though the trails are well lit with candles at these events, it’s not a bad idea to bring along a headlamp just in case. We’ve used headlamps for retying boots and fastening snowshoe/ski straps. It’s nice to have a backup light for emergencies.

Warm Gear: Dress for the weather! As night falls the temperature drops. The thermometer might read a different temperature by the end of your hike. Winter boots are a must, don’t try this in summer hiking shoes. Winter hiking boots and summer hiking boots are two very different kinds of footwear. Dressing for the weather should be second nature to most Minnesotans, but I still feel it necessary to mention.

Winter Sport Gear: Bringing your own skis and snowshoes will give you better odds of completing the activity that you have your heart set on. The only other determining factor would be snow conditions. Sometimes mother nature doesn’t always deliver the snow quantity or quality that we are hoping for. When we did our snowshoe hike at Minneopa State Park this year. We ended up leaving the snowshoes in the car, the conditions were better for boot hiking.

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