What used to be a necessity for getting around is now recreational fun
By Taylor Weeks
Minnesota is known for its glittering, white, snowy winters. On average, Minnesota receives anywhere from 36 inches to 70 inches of snow from the southwestern part of the state to the snow belt of Lake Superior. There are many opportunities to take advantage of the powdery blanket, whether skating across a frozen pond, skidding down a snow-clad hill, building a snowman or simply gazing out the window and enjoying the view. One unique option is to try following in the “snowshoes” of our ancestors and trek over the snow with large webbed footwear.
Snowshoeing was first invented over 4,000 years ago out of a desire to explore and hunt for food. The initial inspiration came from observing successful winter travelers like the snowshoe hare, whose large padded feed helped it stay on top of the snow. People began to study the design of animal paws and model the shape of their snowshoes after the animal prints, and eventually snowshoeing transitioned from a winter necessity into the recreational activity we think of today.
Snowshoeing is alive and well, especially in Minnesota’s snowy climate. There are many opportunities for snowshoeing around the Twin Cities. Don’t worry if you don’t have snowshoes—most places have a rental option as well.
An excellent snowshoeing resource includes Tamarack Nature Center, which is a mere 25 minutes northeast of the Twin Cities in White Bear Lake. This park is the only one in the entire county parks system with a designated snowshoe trail. Strap on some snowshoes and head out on the Acorn Loop (1.25 miles), Bluestem Trail (0.5 mile) and Turtle Pass Trail (0.12 miles) for an invigorating journey through the woods and around Tamarack Lake. If you don’t know how to snowshoe, Tamarack Nature Center also offers private and semi-private winter recreation lessons for you to enjoy.
To rent a pair of snowshoes, visit Tamarack's Winter Recreation Rental Shack, which is open Dec. 16-March 2. Snowshoes for ages 6 to adult cost $14 for two hours, and ages 5 and under cost $7 for two hours.
You can add to your snowshoeing experience at Tamarack by participating in the Parent-Child Snowshoe Trek, as well. The snowshoe treks, carefully planned during days without school, are open to children ages 4 and up. For an hour and a half, you and your child will go off-trail with a naturalist and seek out hidden winter wonders.
- Dates: Jan. 15 and Feb. 19
- Time: 10-11:30 a.m.
- Cost: $8.25/child, $4.25/adult, $7/person optional snowshoe rental
- Ages: 4 years and up
You can also hone your snowshoeing skills at Columbia Golf Course, Hiawatha Golf Course or Theodore Wirth Park, all located within Minneapolis and the western suburb Golden Valley. These three locations have excellent trails for snowshoeing, and Theodore Wirth Park is adding even more trails set to open around January 2018. You can rent snowshoes from these locations for $12 per two hours. At Wirth Park, you can also sign up for a naturalist-led adventure or occupy yourself with other outdoor recreational activities, such as biking, snow tubing, snowboarding and cross country skiing.
Start training now for the annual Snowshoe Loppet, which is an event on the last day of the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival Jan. 27-Feb. 4. The Snowshoe Loppet follows a 10K course that begins in Wirth Park and finishes at Loppet Village in Uptown and contains bridge crossings and tunnels.
On the eastern side of the Twin Cities, take advantage of the scenic overlooks of the St. Croix River at Afton State Park, 35 minutes away in Hastings. Afton State Park has 4 miles of snowshoe-designated trails (with rentals available at the park office) and another 6 miles of winter hiking trails.
Don’t miss out on the exciting candlelight snowshoeing events coming up. Trek alongside a magical, candlelit trail at night at Fort Snelling, Lebanon Hills Regional Park and Afton State Park. You can also participate in the Luminary Loppet, which is another event in the Loppet festival that involves skiing, snowshoeing or walking around Lake of the Isles alongside whimsical, lighted luminaries. Here are just a few to keep in mind:
- Dec. 31 – Fort Snelling Candlelight Walking and Skating
- Dec. 31 – Lebanon Hills Regional Park Candlelight Snowshoeing
- Feb. 3 – Lake of the Isles Luminary Loppet
- Feb. 4 – Afton State Park Candlelight Snowshoeing