No Clutter Gifts for the Outdoorsy Minnesotan on Your List

Cut the clutter and give a gift of adventure, experience, and knowledge. Check out this list of no-clutter gifts.

Cut the clutter and give a gift that will be useful and appreciated. The season of giving is such a wonderful time and seeing the look on your loved one’s face is a wonderful experience. But the aftermath of gifting can leave a chore of finding space for the gifts received, not that they aren’t appreciated, but we can skip this step with the gifts listed here.

Adventure Gifts

Memberships to the MN Wolf/Bear Center– Have a wolf or bear lover on your list? They’ll love being part of to the Wolf or Bear Center community in Ely, MN.

**Be Aware: The Bear Center is only open from the end of April to the end of October as the bears are taking their seasonal nap.

**Hours are limited during the winter months at the Wolf Center, but the wolves are most active during this time. Worth a visit!

MN State Parks Pass/Gift Card– The gift that gives all year-round! Endless adventure for the entire year at the 66 Minnesota State Parks.

National Parks Pass– Same goes for the Nationals Parks. A wonderful gift for those who travel far and wide, especially the snow-birds heading south.

Vertical Endeavors Rock Climbing Lessons/Pass– With 6 locations in Minnesota this pass can be the start of a new adventure or passion. Classes, gear, and memberships are available here.

Ziplining Tickets– For the thrill seeker, adventure awaits with locations across the state. Check height and weight restrictions prior to investing in this gift. Many parks in the state are closed during the winter, so this may be a gift redeemable in the spring,

Ski/Snowboard or Snowtubing Pass– Keep your outdoorsman busy all winter long with a pass to their favorite winter sports joint. For those who love winter but aren’t into flying down the hill on a board, try out snow tubing.

Zoo Season Pass– There are several Zoo’s in Minnesota, some open all year long, some only part of the year.

MN Arboretum Pass– For a more mellow crowd, a Minnesota Arboretum Pass is a great gift those in the vicinity of the Twin Cities area. With each changing season, the arboretum if filled with a new beauty.

Knowledge Gaining Gifts

Outdoorsy Magazine Subscription– Yeah, yeah… I know, so much is read online. You’re reading this online right now… But your adventurer won’t always have wifi or cell service. Outdoors magazines are a great resource for learning new skills and about new adventures that you may not have thought of. Some examples of outdoors magazines include:

Adventure Book– Have an outdoorsman so into adventures that they read about adventures while they are between adventures? Get them a new book! Here are some ideas:

  • The Twenty-ninth Day by Alex Messenger
  • Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Guide Book– A guide book to their favorite area or an area they’ve mentioned they’d like to explore. Even better, a guide book and map of their dream trip!

Road Atlas– For the Road-tripper, an Atlas is a rather practical gift. Relying on GPS alone is unrealistic and frankly, dangerous.

Consumable Gifts

Outfitter Gift Card– The list of Outfitters in Minnesota is endless, surely your adventurer has mentioned a favorite or a most frequented outfitter. A gift card to this location will ensure that they can acquire the gear they need for their next excursion.

Trail Snacks– Granola bars, power bars, trail mix, protein bites… find out your hikers favorite snacks for a trail snack basket.

Camp Desserts– There is a wide variety of freeze-dried or dehydrated food items on the market. Grab a couple of desserts for your favorite hiker. They’ll thank you later for a special treat after a strenuous hike. My daughters favorite so far has been a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich.

S’mores Basket– The s’more lover will be thrilled with a s’more basket! A variety of chocolates, grahams, and mallows with stylish roasting sticks… oh yes! This w

Boot Socks– Lets face it, socks take a beating on the trail. I can’t tell you how many socks I’ve burned through while hiking. Holes, holes, and more holes. Quality boot socks is a gift that keeps the hiker on the trail.

Color Packets for the Campfire– This is a new discovery for our family. This past year we came upon color changing packets for campfires and a local outfitter sells pinecones that change the flame color as well. Great for older kids and adults!

First Aid Kit– Great for an accident prone outdoorsman or the one who ventures past cell service regions. A compact and stocked first aid kit complete with a First Aid Guide, is the gift of preparedness.

Whatever gift you choose for your adventurer they’ll be sure to appreciate it! Happy shopping!

Minnesota State Parks to Visit for Late Season Leaf Peeping

Miss the peak colors of the North Shore? Don’t worry, Lake Superior isn’t the only place to go ‘Leaf Peeping.’ Take a look down South! These parks can still scratch that autumn itch without the long drive north.

Miss the peak colors of the North Shore? Don’t worry, Lake Superior isn’t the only place to go ‘Leaf Peeping.’ Take a look down South! These parks can still scratch that autumn itch without the long drive north.

Within 1 Hour of the Twin Cities

1. Wild River State Park: Stunning trails along the St. Croix river, through prairie grasses and forests of mixed tree species. Keep the camaras ready, while visiting this park. We happened to cross paths with deer, hawks, and eagles. For great river views, check out the Old Military Road Trail and Walter F. Mondale River Trail. While hiking along the rivers edge, keep an eye out for beavers and otters.

2. Interstate State Park: Dramatic cliffs, pot-holes, unique landscape, stunning leaves, and a plethora of activities. Can’t really miss with this park. While there is a lack of mileage for hiking (just 4 miles in the park) the trails make up for distance with rugged terrain. Rock climbing, boat tours, canoeing/kayaking, and overlooks are other ways to enjoying the leaves in this park.

**Pro-tip: Arrive early at this park. Due to it’s awesome features this park fills up fast, get an early start to avoid the crowds and land a parking space.

3. William O’Brian State Park: William O’Brian State Park is home to a variety of views. The 12 miles of hiking trails will take you to prairie overlooks, oak covered hills and to riverside scenery. Majority of the trails are not by the rivers edge. If hiking doesn’t quite sate that autumn wanderlust, hop in a canoe and paddle your way to satisfying autumn bliss. Watch for waterfowl and beavers along your way.

4. Afton State Park: 20 miles of hiking trails cover prairie restoration, creeks, rivers edge, wooded hills and ravines. This park also has 5 miles of horse trails and 4 miles of paved biked trails. Along the waters edge, birdwatcher can glimpse the waterfowl and raptors.

5. Lake Maria State Park: The previous 4 parks mentioned lie east of the Twin Cities. Lake Maria rests an hour to the west. This park has a different feel to it. More “off the beaten path”. The old growth forest changes the hue of the forest floor and adds a mystical edge to the air. The hiking trails lead to numerous small lakes and tranquil ponds giving chance to come across the rare Blanding’s Turtle. If you prefer birds to reptiles, then keep your sights on the 200+ birds species that live in or pass through the park.

Within 2 Hours of Twin Cities

1. Minneopa State Park: Minneopa is one of the few parks in Minnesota to host a bison herd. Catch these beauties in the autumn colors. Not only does Minneopa have majestic beasts, it is also home to a double waterfall. Be warned, the waterfall is more of a water trickle at this time of the year, but it is still beautiful! The parks only holds about 4.5 miles of hiking, but there is also the Bison Drive. This Bison Drive is a road that goes through the bison enclosure. Stay in your vehicle!!

2. Whitewater State Park: For majestic views that compare to the North Shore, head to Whitewater. With drastic elevation changes on trail, you’ll catch some incredible overlooks. With this park’s 10 miles of hiking trials, you’ll pass along rivers edge, bluffs, and deep ravines. This is a park you don’t want to miss this fall and it doesn’t take a trip to the North Shore to see it.

3. Charles A. Lindbergh State Park: If you are looking to miss the crowds of the busier parks, check out this little park. The 7 miles of well maintained trails will lead you through a variety of colors, over streams, and the open space of a meadow. Up the road from the main park lies a little sections called Little Elk, this area holds a short trail along the Mississippi River.

4. Banning State Park: The beauty of this park is astonishing. Taking the Quarry loop to Hell’s Gate Trail passes along the Kettle River, passed the old ruins, and to a section of falls. The burnt orange and yellow leaves falling over the ruins and falls make for a picturesque scene. With 17 miles of trails and adventure, this has become one of my favorites.

It’s not too late to get your leaf peeping in. The North Shore isn’t the only gorgeous place in the state to see autumn’s glory. Get your hiking shoes and hit the trails before the autumns leaves decorate the forest floor.

6 Minnesota State Parks Not to Miss This Winter

Don’t shy away from the cold this winter. Embrace it with these 6 Minnesota State Parks that will have you out enjoying the beauty all winter long!

Winter does not mark the end of the hiking season here in Minnesota. It marks the change of footwear in Minnesota. Break out the boots, snowshoes, skis, and hot chocolate! It’s winter and we are loving it!

I have put together a short list of State Parks that offer a variety of accommodations for your winter excursions. Try a few activities out, what have you got to lose? It’s a long winter, don’t waste it indoors.

Know Before You Go: Skiers over the age of 16 must have a Great Minnesota Ski Pass to ski on groomed state park and state forest trails in Minnesota. You can purchase your yearly pass($25) here or a daily pass($10) can be purchased in person. Why the fee? It helps pay for the cost of grooming trails.

1. Jay Cooke State Park

For those hard core skiers our there, here you go. This park is for you, with miles and miles of trails ranging from easy to difficult you’ll be in a cross country skiers paradise. For those wanting to keep it less intense, stick closer to the trails near the visitor center. The farther out you venture, the more extreme the trails get. Located just south of Duluth, it’s easy to add in during a weekend trip to the northern city.

Things to do & see:

  • Cross Country Ski- 20 to 32 miles groomed trails depending on snow conditions
  • Snowshoe- 9 miles (keep off groomed trails)
  • Hike- Use snowshoe trails
  • Snowmobile- .87 miles
  • Swinging Bridge
  • Warming House- River Inn Interpretive Center
  • Camping/Camper Cabins
  • Views of St. Louis River
  • Winter Events

2. Wild River State Park

A short hour northeast out of the metro lies a winter wonderland of a park. This park is very well kept during the winter months with many groomed trails for different winter sports. Hold onto your pups, there are many dogs that visit this park with their people. Being that this park is closer to the city, it is a popular day trip location.

Things to do & see:

  • Cross Country Skiing- 19 miles groomed
  • Back Country Skiing- 13 miles ungroomed
  • Skate Skiing- 6 miles groomed
  • Snowshoeing- 5 miles of trails & anywhere off trail
  • Hiking- Use snowshoe trails
  • Ski & Snowshoe Rentals
  • Camping/Camper Cabin
  • Warming House- Trail Center
  • St. Croix River Views

3. Lake Maria State Park

Just an hour northwest of the metro, this park is a great option for those wanting to take a daytrip for some winter fun. Lake Maria State Park usually has winter events such as a candlelit winter hike. Unfortunately, this year events have been canceled. We are a bit bummed, but there are plenty of winter adventures to be had by daylight.

Things to do & see:

  • Cross Country Ski- 6 miles groomed trails
  • Skate Ski- 2 miles groomed trail
  • Snowshoe- any ungroomed trail
  • Hike- any ungroomed trail
  • Pond & Lake Views
  • Warming House- Trail Center (may vary due to covid)
  • Secluded Camping/Walk-in Camper Cabins

4. Itasca State Park

This is on my list! We have visited Itasca State Park during the summer months and will do many more visits in the coming years, my parents have hunting land conveniently located 40 minutes from this park. I have yet to visit in the winter and am very eager to do so. I have looked into the activities and will have a hard time choosing which to do!

Things to do & see:

  • Hike- ungroomed trails
  • Snowshoe- anywhere/ungroomed trails (rentals available)
  • Ski- 13 miles groomed trails
  • Skate Ski
  • Snowmobile: 31 Miles around perimeter, connects trails leading to nearby towns
  • Twinkle Light Trail (for night hiking)
  • Numerous Organized Events
  • Headwaters of the Mississippi River
  • Warming House- Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center
  • Camping & other Lodging

5. Minneopa State Park

Minneopa State Park is just an hour and a half southeast of the Twin Cities. Not a far drive for what’s in store at this park. The trails are not as numerous as other parks. But you’ll have plenty of things to stop and see, if you arrive before dark that is. We had the pleasure of participating in a candle light hike at night. Though we were unable to see the bison in the dark, it was a near full moon and the frozen waterfalls were spectacular in the moonlight. With far fewer folks out in the dark, we were able to hear the trickle of water still flowing around the ice.

Things to do & see:

  • Hiking- 5 miles
  • Snowshoe- anywhere
  • Ski- use hiking trials (ungroomed)
  • Bison Viewing
  • Waterfall Viewing
  • Bison Drive (closed on Wednesdays)
  • Camper Cabin/Camping
  • Winter Events

6. Gooseberry

The north shore holds Gooseberry Falls, one of our family favorites. Currently our daughters all time favorite. Visiting this park during the winter months eliminates the excessive crowds at this very popular park and creates a more serene environment for exploring the beautiful area. For more on Gooseberry in the winter click here.

Things to do & see:

  • Hike- use snowshoe trails
  • Snowshoe- ungroomed trails & anywhere ungroomed
  • Cross Country Ski- 12 miles groomed
  • Snowmobile- 2 miles
  • Waterfall viewing
  • Lake Superior Shoreline
  • Warming House- Visitor Center
  • Camping

Bonus Park: Split Rock

After Visiting Gooseberry, travel up the road a few miles to check out Split Rock Lighthouse. Stop in for just a quick peak at the light house or enjoy 8 miles of fat tire biking or snowshoeing.

DIY Stroller Skis

Keep your winter adventures going with a quick fix to your babies outdoor mobility. DIY Ski attachments added to your stroller is a cost effective way to add to your winter experience.

Getting out and enjoying the snow and ice is a great way to embrace winter, not just get through it. Winter is my favorite! Don’t tell the other seasons. Snowshoeing is one of the best winter activities. It’s very simple to toss a baby into a carrier and get moving. But unless you have a really roomy baby carrier, all of that winter gear is going to gum up your plans and possibly cut off circulation for your little one with all the straps and snow gear. A stroller is more spacious and has a lot more carrying room for your little ones and all of their supplies.

Sure you could invest in a kick sled with a basket and cruise around the winter that way. These days used kick sleds are hard to come by and new ones are quite expensive with all of the material cost going up now. Best way to cut costs and use the resources at hand is to make one yourself. My daughter and I whipped this one up 2 years ago for her brothers first winter.


  • Jogging Stroller- with air-filled tires
  • 2X4 lumber- 2 boards at 18 inches, 1 board at 14 inches
  • Old Cross Country Skis: 3
  • Jig Saw
  • Miter Saw
  • Sander
  • Drill
  • Screws
  • Zipties

Finding Skis

Most folks don’t have old/unused skis lying around, at least nobody that I knew did. You can search online for an old set, ask friends and family, check Facebook marketplace. In our case, we went to our local Play It Again Sports shop, a used sporting goods store. I asked the owner if he had any mismatched, ancient, broken or unsellable skis in the back. Sure enough he did! I paid 5 dollars for 3 skis. Bonus: two were even a matching set!

A Word on Strollers

When our daughter was little we had one of those four plastic wheeled kinds of strollers and a little Minnie Mouse stroller that folded up into a fat stick. These stroller have their use and their place. But their place is no longer in my life. We have moved up to the Babytrend Expedition fat tire jogging stroller and that thing can take a beating! No, I am not sponsored by this brand, I just really like it! I cannot tell you how many times I have taken that thing to state parks, county parks, off trail, over rocks, through cow pastures and even skiing. I have no doubt in my mind that you are capable of turning a different kind of stroller into a ski stroller; but an air tire jogging stroller will make it much easier.

Lets Get Building

Step 1: Cutting the Boards

Your first task is to trace the tire shape onto your first board. The longer boards will be used for the rear tires and the smaller board for the smaller front tire. Pretty obvious, but it felt necessary.

  1. Center your tire on your board.
  2. Leave 1 inch of space between the bottom of the tire to the bottom of the board.
  3. Trace with your pencil to create your cutting line.
  4. Use the Jigsaw to cut out the crescent shape from the tire.
  5. Sand down the edges for a smooth finish.
  6. Test the fit, you may need to sand more to get a good fit.
  7. Repeat for all 3 tires, be sure that the back blocks are fairly close to the same position on the wood so that you stroller has good balance.

Step 2: Cutting the skies

This step was a little nerve wracking for me. I can always try again with more 2X4s, but I only had these three skis. They had to be just right on the first try. Pressure is on!

  1. Use a matching set for the rear two skis. If you were unable to secure a matching set, use the two skis that are most alike.
  2. Measuring from where the curve starts, the rear skis should be cut between 30 and 35 inches. Be sure the rear skis are the same length.
  3. The front wheel ski will be shorter to accommodate turns on trail. Cut this piece at about 20 inches.

Step 3: Drilling the holes

It’s easiest to drill the holes for the zipties before placing the boards on the skis. I know because I did it both ways. I first drilled only two holes. One on either end of the board, that was not enough on my first test run, you do in fact need the third hole in the center on all three wheels. If you only have the two holes, your ski will slip off to the side of the tire and you’ll spend your whole excursion fixing skis. Not fun.

  1. Using your drill, make a hole on each end of the boards broad side. These should be about half an inch from the curve
  2. Next make a hole in the very center at the bottom of the curve on the broad side. This will prevent the whole ski from turning on it’s side while going over bumps

Step 4: Securing the Boards to the Skis

During this step make sure that the rear skis are placed on the boards in the exact same location. If they are off, you will not have good balance in you ski stroller.

  1. Place your board on a flat surface, curved side down.
  2. Center your ski over the top of the board lengthwise.
  3. Going through the bottom of the ski, screw the board ski to the board.
  4. It’s best if the screw is slightly embedded, this ensures that there will be nothing to catch on the bottom.
  5. Repeat for all 3 skis, make sure the rear two skis are placed in the exact same location on the board. Measure twice, cut once (or screw in this case).

Step 5: Putting it all Together

Finally near the end of this project, you are almost ready to hit the trails! But it’s pretty hard to go anywhere when your skis aren’t attached.

  1. Place the skis under their designated wheel.
    • Having them all in place at the same time will ensure that they are all level while fastening them
  2. Fish a ziptie through each hole of the ski boards and around the tire
  3. Use a pliers to tighten the zipties once they’re all finger tight.
    • Do not cut off the ends until you’ve had a test run. You may find that after some shifting, you need to tighten some more

**Tip** I like to lock my wheels while skiing over loose snow, it makes steering easier.

Using The Stroller Skis

The best places to use this set up is on groomed trails. This is not the right gear for a backcountry adventure, for that you’ll want to use a backpack carrier. We tested it on different terrain and here are the results;

  • Groomed Trails: Yes, works wonderfully! Be mindful on rules and regulations of parks that you visit. Depending on your own footwear, some trails may be limited.
  • Ungroomed but packed trails: Yes, they are not as easy as a well groomed ski trail but these trails are still great for an outing.
  • Ice: Yes, fantastic on ice. Also gives an unstable parent or child something to hold on to.
  • Backcountry: No, does not work well at all. The front wheel gets stuck in the powder and the whole thing sinks. Use a backpack carrier.

There you have it! You’re little ones can cruise along with you all winter long! We’ve used these skis for three winters now. With any luck, our next winter will involve teaching our youngest how to ski, and maybe just a little stroller skiing. Happy Trails!