Top 10 Parks for Snowshoeing

By: Andrea Breitung

March 04, 2019

Category: Recreation

I honestly do not remember my first time snowshoeing, but it has turned into my favorite way to explore during the winter. 

This past January, my boyfriend Alex and I attempted to make our way to Middle Falls in Grand Portage State Park — and we were very happy to have snowshoes on our feet!

It quickly became clear that not many people (if any) had been that way recently and we found ourselves packing the trail through snow that was at least two-feet deep in places.

With a quick 300-foot elevation gain, it turned into a great workout, too! We never made it to Middle Falls, but the stunning views of Lake Superior at our turnaround spot made us forget about the waterfall anyway.

Snowshoeing is inexpensive, very beginner friendly, and not restricted to groomed trails (although, ungroomed trails can be challenging!).

Wearing snowshoes makes it much easier to traverse deeper snow conditions — your body weight is more spread out, which reduces how deep you step and how often you “punch” into the snow. It’s also a great, low impact workout (add hiking poles to work your arms and help with balance).

Here are some snowshoeing options in Three Rivers:

1. Baker Park Reserve

group of people snowshoeing on a snowy lake

Groomed: Evergreen Trail – Yes; Snowshoe Area – No; Multi-use Trail – Yes
Rentals: Yes (at the Winter Trailhead)

The campground area in Baker Park Reserve is a fantastic place to explore off trail in snowshoes. Park near the campground office and start walking!

The multi-use trail at Baker wanders through forest habitat and offers views of Lake Katrina. Park in the parking lot off County Road 201/Homestead Trail. Bonus: Leashed dogs are allowed on the multi-use trail.

The Evergreen Trail is great for beginners. Park in the Winter Trailhead area (Baker National Golf Course). The trail begins on the north side of the lot.

2. Mississippi Gateway Regional Park

Groomed: No
Rentals: Yes

Aside from a short hill when leaving or returning to the parking lot, the trails at Mississippi Gateway Regional Park offer flat, easy terrain and wander through wetland and woodland habitats, with views of the Mississippi River.

There are a couple distance options — the loop north of the creek is about a 2-mile trek, or continue south over the creek bridge for a jaunt of about 4 miles total. Bonus: Leashed dogs are allowed on the snowshoe trails in this park.

While trails are not groomed, they are traveled often and easy to follow; if you lose your way, as long as you keep the road to your left and the river to your right, you'll be heading north to the visitor center and your vehicle. The building closes at 5 PM, but the trails are open for exploration until 10 PM.

3. Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

snowy prairie landscape
Photo courtesy of Andrea Breitung.

Groomed: Minimally
Rentals: No

The multi-use trail in Crow-Hassan Park Reserve meanders through forest and part of the largest prairie in the Twin Cities area. Visit during the golden hour and at sunset for particularly breathtaking views along the northern prairie portion of this trail.

Park in the trailhead parking lot and head north or south from there. While the trail is minimally maintained, it was packed after a recent snow and the 2.6-mile loop was very easy to follow. Bonus: Leashed dogs are allowed on the multi-use trail.

4. Eastman Nature Center at Elm Creek Park Reserve

man in snowshoes in a wintry woods
Photo courtesy of Erin Korsmo.

Groomed: No
Rentals: Yes

Some recommendations at Eastman Nature Center from Web Coordinator Erin Korsmo:

Head through the sugar bush on the Sumac Trail and off to the Meadowlark Trail where you can follow a well-traversed 1.5-mile loop. Benches along the way offer views of an open basin dotted with frosty pines and scrubby bushes poking through the blanket of snow. It’s a scene worth soaking in — and you're encouraged to explore it off trail!

On your way back, veer right for the Oxbow Trail. In heavy snow, it may take you a minute to realize that you’re hiking alongside a winding stream. Be on the lookout for owls and other critters in cavity-filled trees along the trail.

While trails are not groomed, they are traveled often and easy to follow. The building closes at 5 PM, but its heated vestibule with restrooms and maps remains open, so you can comfortably explore the trails until the park closes at 10 PM.

5. French Regional Park

Groomed: Lagoon Trail – Yes; Snowshoe Areas – No
Rentals: Yes

French Regional Park offers abundant opportunities for going off trail. The nature exploration area has an unofficial trail around a pond, or you can follow animal trails through hilly forest areas. Access is off the parking lot on the north side of the main road next to the sledding hill.

Another off-trail exploration area includes the picnic areas along the shore of Medicine Lake. Park by the lake access.

The Lagoon Trail is a groomed 0.7-mile loop perfect for beginners. Park by the visitor center and hop on the cross-country ski trail that heads southeast along the main road.

6. Gale Woods Farm

snowy trail with red barn in the background
Photo courtesy of Andrea Breitung.

Groomed: No
Rentals: Yes

Most people visit Gale Woods Farm for farm-related happenings, but hiking trails through natural areas are available for snowshoeing, too. Take a detour to the carry-in canoe access on Whaletail Lake and get beautiful views of the barn (and maybe see some sheep and the great Pyrenees dogs!).

Aside from a plowed road along the pastures, trails are not maintained, but there may be tracks to follow from previous snowshoers or hikers. If you are a beginner, the trail around the Valley Pasture is a 2-mile loop through the forest with a couple rolling hills and views of Whaletail Lake.

7. Lake Rebecca Park Reserve

snowy trail winding through snowy trees
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Schauer.

Groomed: Deerwood Trail – No; Singletrack Trail – Minimally
Rentals: No

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve is a gorgeous, quiet place to snowshoe, with views of wide open prairies and wetlands and trails along forested ridges that overlook the lake. Some trail recommendations from Digital Marketing Assistant Alyssa Schauer:

The Deerwood Trail is a good trail for beginners. It is a 1.3-mile loop with few hills and lots of chances to view birds and other wildlife. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a few deer prancing through the big woods. This trail is not groomed, but there will mostly likely be tracks from previous snowshoers and hikers. Park in the singletrack trailhead lot and find the Deerwood Trailhead at the south end.

The singletrack at Lake Rebecca is a 13.25-mile loop with varying difficulty. One of the most photo-worthy sections on this trail is located near trail marker 12, where the path winds through a tunnel of fir trees and makes you feel like you’re in a secret winter wonderland, especially after a fresh snow.

8. Lowry Nature Center at Carver Park Reserve

person standing on snowy trail among giant trees
Photo courtesy of Erin Korsmo.

Groomed: No
Rentals: Yes

Some recommendations at Lowry Nature Center from Web Coordinator Erin Korsmo:

If tall twisted trees and lake views are up your alley, take a tromp along the 1.4-mile Maple Trail loop. Between jaunts through the woods, you’ll have the chance to take in views at two overlooks.

Toward the end of the loop, a boardwalk through frozen wetlands gives you a view of the forest’s edge. Keep a lookout for birds heading toward Lowry’s buzzing feeders!

While trails are not groomed, they are traveled often and easy to follow. The building closes at 5 PM, but the trails are open for exploration until 10 PM.

9. Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

snowy prairie landscape
Photo courtesy of Andrea Breitung.

Groomed: Minimally
Rentals: No

While Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve offers some of the most difficult cross-country ski trails in the area, the multi-use trails are much milder in its difficulty. These trails wander through prairie and forest habitats with a couple rolling hills and views of small lakes.

Park at the trailhead off Sunset Lake Road. While trails are minimally maintained, there may be tracks to follow from previous snowshoers or hikers, and they are well marked with maps and trail intersection numbers. Bonus: Leashed dogs are allowed on the winter multi-use trails.

10. Richardson Nature Center at Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Groomed: No
Rentals: Yes

Trails at Richardson Nature Center are wide and great for beginners. Some recommendations from Web Coordinator Erin Korsmo:

The hilly, forested Oak Trail spills out onto a rolling prairie.

The Prairie Trail is particularly picturesque by moonlight. Keep your eyes peeled for owls or just take in the sounds and stillness of the night.

While trails are not groomed, they are traveled often and easy to follow. The building closes at 5 PM, but the trails are open for exploration until 10 PM.

Get Out and Explore!

Snow conditions are the best we’ve seen in years. Layer up, strap on a pair of snowshoes, and enjoy the great conditions while they last! Visit the snowshoeing page for a full list of locations.

 

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About the Author

Andrea in a quinzhee

Andrea Breitung is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Three Rivers. She has been with the Park District in various roles since 2001. She graduated from the University of North Dakota with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology. When not working, she likes to go camping, hiking, geocaching, biking, and paddling, as well as spend time with her boyfriend and fur kids.

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