It’s Snowshoe Fun to Exercise Outdoors in Minnesota in Winter

girl with snowshoes

Snowshoeing anyone? There’s no place like Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro for winter fun with this popular recreational activity!

Exercising in Minnesota in the winter is extra great since we carry around twice as much of a weight load with all of our snow gear. What with snow boots, snow pants, scarves, mittens, hats, coat, three layers of sweaters, two pairs of socks, etc., just walking into the backyard adds 2 pounds. That is a lot of additional weight to carry on long hikes and boy do our legs get a workout stepping through the deep snow that our neighbors haven’t quite got around to shoveling. Just going to work or school can be a workout for your muscles. I always feel the first snow in my hips.

With that said, there are many activities that require more movement than that and are lots of fun.

One of those activities is snowshoeing. I never really understood snowshoeing when I was a kid. I thought you wore the snowshoes and could walk atop powder snow drifts. That’s not so much it. Snowshoers trudging along trails through the woods and your foot may not break through the snow. There is a good possibility that you will break through and get your leg stuck in the drift up to your knees, snowshoe and all. And then you need to pull your snowshoe out except that it broke free from your foot so now you have to dig it out.

So you wanna go? It is a lot of fun and you do get some great exercise out of it! And it would be a fun experience to have as a family.

Before you get started, print this 5-page, full color “Let’s Go Snowshoeing!” brochure from the Minnesota DNR’s Young Naturalists program. It gives a good overview of snowshoe basics, like how to snowshoe on a slope, on hills or ice, how to walk and step, and more. It is a useful and free resource to help get kids excited about getting out in the snow.

Where to Snowshoe in the Twin Cities

Below we’ve gathered places to go snowshoeing (and rent snowshoes if you need them). Snowshoe season is dependent on snowy conditions, but usually runs from December through February or March.

Anoka County Parks

Rent snowshoes at three locations in the Anoka County Park System.  Snowshoe rentals are $5 for up to two hours to be used within the park where they are rented:

Carver County Parks

Winter rentals, including snowshoes, are available at two parks in the Carver County System – Baylor & Lake Minnewashta. Adult snowshoes are $6/day and children’s are $5/day.

Visitors to the three parks listed below are encouraged to snowshoe into the wooded areas of the parks where the snow is often untouched. But Carver County asks that guests stay off the groomed ski trails with their snowshoes.

Upcoming Snowshoeing Events in Carver County Parks

Dakota County Parks

6 Dakota county parks have snowshoe trails. Only Lebanon Hills Visitor Center offers rentals. Snowshoe rentals are $5-$7/hour for kids and adults. Snowshoeing locations include:

Minneapolis Parks

3 Minneapolis Parks properties offer snowshoe trails and two of the locations offer rentals for $12. For a more budget-friendly option, see the next entry.

  • THEODORE WIRTH PARK – rentals available at Trailhead Adventure Shop
  • HIAWATHA GOLF COURSE – rentals available at Hiawatha Golf Clubhouse
Kids posing in front of the "cave man" in Theodore Wirth Park, Minneapolis
Explore Theodore Wirth Park by Snowshoe!

Minnesota State Parks

5 Minnesota State Parks within an hours drive of the Twin Cities metro area offer snowshoe rentals on a first-come basis ($6/day). Dreaming of more exploring during temperate months? Explore more state parks within an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities.

  • AFTON STATE PARK, Hastings
  • WILLIAM O’BRIEN STATE PARK, Marine-on-St Croix

Metro Nature Centers

The opportunity to snowshoe on quiet, scenic trails is just one more reason to love our Twin Cities metro-area nature centers year-round.

  • HARRIET ALEXANDER NATURE CENTER – Trails located at 2520 North Dale Street, Roseville, MN 55113. Snowshoes must be picked up and dropped off at the Parks & Recreation office inside City Hall at the designated time. Call 651-792-7006 to reserve a two-day rental, $8-$10/pair.
  • MAPLEWOOD NATURE CENTER – 2659 East Seventh Street, Maplewood. Mon-Fri, 9am-3pm. $5/2 hr rentals fit ages 4-adult.
  • MINNESOTA VALLEY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE – Bloomington Visitor Center, 3815 American Blvd. East Bloomington, MN 55425. Visitors can borrow snowshoes for free, subject to availability. The center offers both adult and children’s sizes as well as a few poles.
  • SPRINGBROOK NATURE CENTER, 100 85th Avenue, NE, Fridley, MN 55432 (9am-2pm dependent on snow conditions). $5/pair.

Ramsey County Parks

Ramsey County allows snowshoeing in all parks, except on designated trails for skiers and pedestrian walkways. It’s just good snowshoeing etiquette to avoid these groomed areas. In particular, Ramsey County recommends these spots:

  • GOODRICH GOLF COURSE, 1820 Van Dyke Street, Saint Paul, MN 55109. Follow the snowshoe trails or explore off-trail, just avoid the greens and ponds.
  • TAMARACK NATURE CENTER, 5287 Otter Lake Road, White Bear Township, MN 55110. Tamarack has a designated snowshoe trail and also offers snowshoe rental ($12/pp)
  • VADNAIS-SNAIL LAKES REGIONAL PARK, 500 Gramsie Road, Shoreview, MN 55126. Groomed, multi-use trails are available for snowshoeing adventure.

Saint Paul Parks

As part of its new partnership with Ramsey County, Saint Paul will now allow snowshoeing (as well as skijoring & dog sledding) on the skate ski side of the 3.5K cross country trail at Highland 9 Golf Course. A fat tire biking trail will also be available on the perimeter of the golf course.

  • HIGHLAND 9 GOLF COURSE, 1797 Edgcumbe Rd, St Paul, MN 55116
  • COMO PARK SKI CENTER, 1431 North Lexington Parkway, Saint Paul, MN 55103 – Rents snowshoes ($12/pp), but does not list where snowshoeing is allowed.

Sally Manzara Interpretive Center

Borrow snowshoes for free on a first-come, first served basis. The nature center has two adult pairs and several children’s sets. Ask the receptionist for more information. Regular hours are Mondays 9am-3pm, Tuesday-Friday 9am-4pm, Saturdays 9am-3pm and Sundays 10am-4pm.

Three Rivers Parks

16 parks that are part of the Three Rivers Park District offer miles of trails for snowshoeing and 8 of these locations offer snow shoe rentals ($6/2 hrs). Advanced reservations are required. Reservations can be made online or by phone up to 7 days in advance.

Exterior of Eastman Nature Center in Dayton MN
Eastman Nature Center. Image Courtesy of Three Rivers Parks

Washington County Parks

Snowshoe rentals are first come, first serve at the following Washington County Park Offices: Lake Elmo Park Reserve, St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park, and Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park. $10 for adults and $5 for youth for 3-hours.

Wood Lake Nature Center

Two miles of trails with snowshoe rentals available to use in the park on a first come, first serve basis. Ages 16+: $10; Kids: $5.

More places to Rent Snowshoes in the Twin Cities

  • MINNESOTA LANDSCAPE ARBORETUM – 11 miles of snowshoe trails, $7/first hour, additional hours $5/each
  • REI, 750 W American Blvd, Bloomington, MN 55420 – day rentals $8/youth, $22/adult

Snowshoe Safety

The Minnesota DNR offers Hiking Safety Tips that can be applied to snowshoeing, too. They provide a checklist of things to bring. While you might not need insect repellant, the first aid kit, fire starter and cell phone are always good ideas. A good cell phone can offer both GPS and a compass. Of course you want to dress for warmth. You know the drill – layers, layers, layers and moisture wicking layers, wool, fleece, blah, blah, blah. Cover your head, wear proper footwear, warm socks & gloves. If you need a refresher, the experts at Three Rivers Parks District offer more information on dressing for winter here.

Why Snowshoes May Be The Best Wintertime Sport Investment

It has occurred to me that the best time to go snowshoeing would be on snow days, when getting out to a park with a car may be difficult. However, put them on, and you can snowshoe anywhere off-trail before the plows come through. Investing in snowshoes for the family is quite a bit cheaper and more practical than skis. Moreover, snowshoes don’t require a special permit like skis, so, once the snow is plowed, your family can snowshoe spontaneously at any park with a snowy terrain.

In case you were wondering, modern snowshoes do NOT look like tennis rackets.

Published January 26, 2015 by Gianna Kordatzky
and updated annually

girl with snowshoes
Sure the temperatures could go subzero at any time and sure we can barely move in all our layers, but we're Minnesotans. We love all kinds of weather!

More family exercise ideas:

We have more ideas in the articles below for staying fit during Minnesota winters, including where to find cross-country skis, cross-country ski trails, downhill skiing and snowboarding opportunities, indoor activities, indoor waterparks and pools, outdoor ice skating, sledding, and our calendar of family-friendly sports and fitness events.

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