Local Outdoor Recreation Educators


Several Twin Cities outdoor businesses and non-profits—both “brick-and-mortar” and online—offer classes and resources for learning outdoor recreation skills.

Some of these focus on learning skills. Some focus on getting folks into the outdoors—doing the activities to expose them to the possibilities, and planting the seeds for lifetime enjoyment.

Here are options for you and your family:

REI Co-op

REI is a national outdoor retailer with three stores in the Twin Cities: Maple Grove, Bloomington and Roseville. They offer outdoor activities classes throughout the year. These include all the activites we cover here on Twin Cities Outdoors: hiking, paddling, camping, biking and snow sports.

You can search their database by location, date, skill level, activity level and price. Some are free, others cost (REI members will pay less). Their website also has a series of short how-to videos to watch online.

Besides activities, REI offers courses in Wilderness Medicine, in partnership with National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)

If you’re ready to go all-out, sign up for one of REI’s national or international adventure trips. That’s one way to pack in a lot of learning in a short time, while being somewhere really cool.

Go to REI’s Classes & Events page

Midwest Mountaineering

Midwest Mountaineering is another locally-grown outdoor retailer. They’ve been around since 1970 (if you want a fun read, check out their About Us page). They offer classes in three main areas:

  • Lecture-style classes on topics like canoeing the BWCA, rock climbing, backpacking and hiking.
  • Youth Programs, working with the Brian Coyle Community Center and the Boy Scouts. These get kids out in the outdoors.
  • Women’s-only classes, especially in rock climbing and bouldering, also hands-on.

MM is well known for its twice-yearly Outdoor Adventure Expo, which also includes presentations and classes.

Go to Midewest Mountaineering’s Programs, Classes and Events page

Minneapolis Running

Minneapolis Running is a very well-done online resource center for runners loaded with how-to’s, gear reviews, local route suggestions, advice, training schedules and more. Whether you’re a wanna-be or an elite runner, you’ll find great content here.

There are some unique maps MR offers:

  • Where to find a runner-friendly bathroom (truly!)
  • Twin Cities Hills Map (brilliant idea if you’re training for a race with hills)
  • Twin Cities Indoor Running Map (if you really don’t like running outside during our cold snaps)

Go to Minneapolis Running

Minnesota Youth Ski League

Competitive cross country skiing in the schools doesn’t start until high school. Why wait until they’re teens before getting them into skiing?

Minnesota Youth Ski League is a non school-based cross country ski club for kids that meets eight times a winter at various locations. A super way to get your kids involved in this amazing lifelong snow sport.

A fun bit of trivia: this is where Jessie Diggins (2018 Olympic gold medalist) got her start in organized skiing!

Go to Minnesota Youth Ski League

Over the Hill Outdoors

Natalie Griffith offers the ultimate in personalized outdoor skills lessons to individuals and small groups in the Twin Cities metro. She is certified to teach:

  • Whitewater and recreational kayaking, up to Class II rapids
  • Archery
  • Cross country skiing

Read our interview with Natalie here. Go to Over the Hill Outdoors

Wilderness Inquiry

Wilderness Inquiry is a non-profit wilderness adventure travel organization based in Minneapolis. WI doesn’t have classes per se, but takes people of all ages and abilities on wilderness adventure trips. This is what’s known as experiential learning by full immersion!

Possible outdoor activities include canoeing, kayaking, camping and hiking. They take groups to outdoor destinations in the US and around the world.

Go to Wilderness Inquiry

Are there other organizations you know of we should include here? Let us know! Email: sharon@twincitiesoutdoors.com.