Enjoy winter at St. Croix River country’s state parks

Events include candlelight skiing, full moon snowshoeing, snowmobile safety, and opportunities to get the kids out of the house.




5 minute read

As the river begins to ice up, events are available to help you enjoy the snow. Below is a list of highlights. (Please note: I looked for events at the Wisconsin state parks on the river but couldn’t find anything. Please let me know if you have information!)

Luminaries at Wild River State Park
Wild River State Park photo

Wild River State Park

Snowshoe Along the St. Croix

  • December 15 – Animal Tracks
  • December 29 – Owls of Minnesota
  • January 6 – Mammals of Minnesota
  • January 20 – Area History and Geology
  • February 16 – Birding for Beginners
  • February 24 – Winter Insects

Join the Naturalist for a leisurely walk along the St. Croix River on snowshoes. Designed for ages 8 and up; we’ll explore a different topic each day on this 1-mile trek. Registration required by calling 651-583-2125 x227. Program is free and limited to 30 participants. Cancelled if temperature or wind chill is below -15 or snow conditions are inadequate.

Winter Break at Wild River
December 27 – January 5

All programs take place at noon at the Visitor Center

School’s out for winter break, so what fun can you get into? Join us for a variety of school-age oriented activities December 27 – January 5. Bring a picnic lunch, crock-pots, or hot chocolate, and spend the day outdoors at Wild River State Park. Snowshoes and cross-country skis are available to rent, and the fires will be stoked at the Visitor and Trail Centers.

  • Thursday, December 27 – Winter Geocaching
  • Friday, December 28 – Snow Science & Ice Cream Making
  • Saturday, December 29 – Snowshoe Along the St. Croix (registration required)
  • Sunday, December 30 – Where for Winter & Pinecone Birdfeeders
  • Monday, December 31 – Winter Survival & Solar Ovens
  • Thursday, January 3 – Scavenging by Snowshoe
  • Friday, January 4 – Cross-country Skiing for Kids (registration required)
  • Saturday, January 5 – Winter Recreation Day! (See below.)
  • Sunday, January 6 – Snowshoe Along the St. Croix (registration required)

Winter Recreation Day
Jan. 5

After a week of Winter Break activities, we’re putting it all together for a one-day finale of outdoor fun! Join a Naturalist on a guided snowshoe walk or journey out on your own, make and take your own ice cream, build a quinzee (if enough snow available), treasure hunt with a GPS unit, hit the trails on cross-country skis (skis FREE! for kids – adults can reserve skis by calling 651-257-0685), roast a marshmallow over a warm fire, and more! Snowshoes available for free during this event. Registration not required.

Full Moon & Folklore Snowshoe
Dec. 28 (5-7 p.m.) & Feb. 16 (6-8 p.m.)

Enjoy an evening of snowshoeing under the full moon as the Naturalist tells tall tales along the way! Hot chocolate and marshmallow roasting over a warm fire will take place after the 1-mile walk. Registration required by calling 651-583-2125 ? limited to 25 participants ages 8 and older. Program is free and snowshoes are provided. Cancelled if temperature or wind chill is below -15 or snow conditions are inadequate.

21st Annual Candlelight Ski and Snowshoe Event
Jan. 26 (6 – 9 p.m.)

Illuminating 6 miles of trails, candles will guide you through one of once-in-a-winter opportunity at Wild River State Park. Snowshoes, skiers, and walkers are welcome to take the trails to the largest bonfire in Minnesota, live musical entertainment, star gazing, raffles, cookies, cider, and more! Call 651-257-0685 to reserve skis and snowshoes. Event cancelled if temperature or wind chill is below -20. If inadequate snow, the event will still take place as a winter hike. Skis and Snowshoes can be reserved by calling 651-257-0685.

  • Ski Cost: $20/adults, $15/children
  • Snowshoe Cost: $15/adults, $10/children
Banning State Park

Banning State Park

Candlelight Ski
Jan. 26 (5 to 8 p.m.)

Ski along 1.7 miles of candlelit trails at Banning State Park. Meet for a bonfire in the picnic area A Minnesota Ski Pass, required for skiers ages 16 and older, may be purchased at the park headquarters or at any DNR licensing center. Register by calling 320-384-6615.

Full Moon Snowshoe Hike
Feb. 23 (6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

Explore the winter forest by the light of the moon! Learn about the nocturnal hunters of Banning State Park as you snowshoe 1.7 miles. Meet at the bonfire in the picnic area. Call 320-384-6615 by February 15th to register. A limited number of snowshoes are available to rent.

St. Croix State Park

Snowmobile Survival
Feb. 9 (1 to 3 p.m.)

Learn survival skills every snowmobiler should know. Meet at the All Seasons Trail Center shelter building. We will ride 8 miles to the Heidi Benoit Memorial Shelter and practice fire-building, shelter-making, and discuss other important winter survival topics. A Minnesota Snowmobile Pass, available at all DNR licensing centers, is required.

Candlelight Ski
Feb. 16 (5 to 8 p.m.)

Enjoy skiing 2.4 miles of candlelit trails, then warm up in front of the fire in the St. Croix Lodge. A Minnesota Ski Pass, required for skiers 16 and older, can be purchased from park headquarters or any DNR licensing center. Call 320-384-6615 to register.

William O'Brien State Park ski trail
William O’Brien State Park

William O’Brien State Park

St. Croix Valley Youth Ski League
Starting Jan. 6 (1 p.m.)

The park will be a host site for the St. Croix Valley Youth Ski League. Skiers of all ability levels between the ages of 3 and 13 are encouraged to join with their parents. The league is a volunteer organization that offers children and their parents the opportunity to learn and enjoy cross-country skiing together. The membership fee is $25/child, and all participants must have their own ski equipment. They will meet every Sunday for eight weeks in all weather conditions at the visitor center from 1 PM until 3 PM. For more information contact John Dybvig at john_dybvig@yahoo.com. Ski passes ($6), required for skiers age 16 and older, can be purchased at the park.

42nd Annual Marine/O Brien Cross-Country Ski Race

Join us on this exciting race day in the park. Participate or watch, it will be a great day. The adult registration starts at 9 a.m., with adult races starting at 10:30 a.m. The childrens registration starts at 11 a.m., with children’s races starting at 1 p.m. There will be a wooden ski tour that starts off the event. All abilities are welcome to participate! More info…

Afton State Park

First Day Hike
Jan. 1 (1 to 2:30 p.m.)

The New Year is about new resolutions and intentions. Join the park naturalist and the Director of Minnesota State Parks for this new intentions walk to find one thing that inspires, intrigues or increases your awareness on this first day of the New Year (even if it is just another day to get some exercise in one of our great Minnesota state parks).

Winter Bird Walk
Jan. 5 (10 a.m.)

Winter is the perfect time to hike on the trails and see what birds are still here. Join the naturalist on this walk to learn more about Minnesota?s winter birds; what they eat and how they survive. Binoculars and field guides available for use.

Candlelight Walk and Snowshoe
Feb. 2 (6 to 9 p.m.)

People of all ages and abilities are welcome to enjoy the candlelit trails. The trail is 3 miles and suitable for beginner-level snowshoers and hikers. Call 651.436.5391 for information about equipment rental. If there is not enough snow for snowshoes, the trail will still be illuminated for hiking. In case of bad weather, this event may be changed or canceled.


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Enjoy winter at St. Croix River country’s state parks