Cross Country Ski & Snowshoe Trails in the Twin Cities

Take advantage of our famous winters and get out on the hundreds of miles of cross country ski and snowshoe trails in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul metro area.

Contrary to widely held belief, we do NOT need to hibernate inside through our Minnesota winters! We have loads of great places here in the Twin Cities to get outside and be active in the winter.

We can enjoy the crisp air, the beautiful snow and the bug-less environment thoroughly.

The key to loving outdoor winter activity—besides the right mindset—is the right gear (more on that later).

Cross country skiing (also called Nordic skiing) and snowshoeing are two of the very best exercises we can do. Why? Because we have to work hard (especially when hills and/or deep snow are involved), they work all the major muscle groups (assuming you’re on some hills and use poles), and they’re low-impact.

If you’ve never tried cross country skiing, you’re missing out! It’s a fraction of the cost of its alpine cousin, much more peaceful, far fewer people and super exercise. And if you need the thrill of big hills, there are plenty of them to be found, too.

Snowshoeing is almost as easy as walking. There’s really no skill required—just a pair of snowshoes and some snow. 

Traditional and modern snowshoes both work!

Either of these fun snow activities is a great way to take advantage of our long winters—and even look forward to them!

When you get to the individual county pages, there are links to get the latest trail conditions. Keep in mind these aren’t always updated over the weekends, even when we’ve had fresh snow.

Ski/shoe guide

Twin Cities Ski & Shoe Guide

Published in 2021, our 55-page digital Ski & Shoe Guide is the easiest way to find cross country ski and snowshoe trails in all seven counties of the Twin Cities metro area.

Click here for the details…

NOTE: Cross country ski trails are traditionally measured in kilometers (km) rather than miles for some reason. However, some of the parks use miles instead. So be sure you check which is which on the maps before you head out!

You don’t want to end up going twice as far as you thought…or only half the distance you planned for. (A kilometer is roughly .6 of a mile)

Also, most of the trails are for classic skiers, although we have resources for skate skiers too (more below).

woman cross country skiing on a groomed trail next to the Mississippi River

From this page we’ll point you to places in your county where you can cross-country ski and snowshoe…

Anoka County (North)

Three of Anoka County’s 18 parks and reserves maintain groomed cross country ski trails during the winter months. The City of Anoka also maintains trails at one of its golf courses. Bunker Hills Regional Park has the largest and best trail system in the county. And starting in 2022, no cross-country ski pass is required to use the trails.

While there aren’t official snowshoe trails anywhere in Anoka County, snowshoeing is allowed practically everywhere in the parks except on the ski trails. 

Rental equipment for both sports is available on the weekends at some of the parks.

Head to Skiing & Snowshoeing in Anoka County

Carver County (Southwest)

Carver County has two regional parks that maintain groomed trails, plus Carver Park Reserve, which is maintained by the Three Rivers Park District. There are several more miles of ski trails there. 

Generally snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the parks except on the ski trails, although there are a few miles of designated trails in the county, too.

Head to Skiing & Snowshoeing in Carver County

Dakota County (South-Southeast)

Three of Dakota County’s parks groom cross country ski trails for the winter months. Lebanon Hills Regional Park has the most trail mileage for both skiing and snowshoeing. Plenty of other parks also offer several miles of trails for both skiers and snowshoers.

They, plus two more, also offer snowshoeing and winter hiking trails.

Head to Skiing & Snowshoeing in Dakota County

looking down at snowshoes and poles in deep snow
A few inches of fresh snow means a great snowshoe workout

Hennepin County (West-Central…includes Minneapolis)

15 of Hennepin County’s parks maintain cross country ski trails. Three of them make artificial snow when necessary, and so are open even when there isn’t enough natural snow for grooming elsewhere. Theodore Wirth Park, Elm Creek Park Reserve, Columbia Golf Course and Hiawatha Golf Course are some popular places for skiers in the county.

Snowshoers will find groomed trails for them at several of the county’s park reserves like Elm Creek, Baker and Hyland Lake. Plus there are hundreds of non-groomed snowshoe-able acres throughout the county.

So whether in downtown Minneapolis or on the outskirts of the metro area, you’ll find many miles of trails for winter fun.

Head to Skiing & Snowshoeing in Hennepin County

Ramsey County (East-Central…includes St. Paul)

Ramsey County hosts many miles of trails for cross country skiing in nine of its regional and county parks plus Fort Snelling State Park. Pike Island, between the Mississippi River and Minnesota River, is one of local skiers favorite trails. Battle Creek West is another popular spot, especially for intermediate and advanced skiers.

There aren’t as many designated trails for snowshoeing, but you’ll find a few spots here, too, plus plenty of off-trail options.

Head to Skiing & Snowshoeing in Ramsey County

Scott County (South-Southwest)

Two of Scott County’s three regional parks groom trails for cross country skiing. While only two, there are many miles here for a good workout. Advanced skiers will love Murphy-Hanrehan’s hills!

Snowshoe trails are in the County for you, too, as well as lots of ungroomed acreage.

Head to Skiing & Snowshoeing in Scott County

Washington County (East)

Washington County has some of the best skiing in the metro area with two state parks (Afton and William O’Brien) and six regional parks and reserves. Lake Elmo Park Reserve has the most groomed ski trails in the county system. If you’re an advanced or adventurous skier, some of the best and biggest hills can be found in these parks. 

Snowshoeing is widely available there, too, with some designated as multi-use trails and plenty of off-the-beaten-path snowshoeing.

Head to Skiing & Snowshoeing in Washington County

Ski/shoe guide

Twin Cities Ski & Shoe Guide

Published in 2021, our 55-page digital Ski & Shoe Guide is the easiest way to find cross country ski and snowshoe trails in all seven counties of the Twin Cities metro area.

Click here for the details…

More Skiing Information

Cold Weather Gear Suggestions—If you’re new to getting outside in a Minnesota winter for these sports, we have some gear and apparel suggestions for you. Read Cold Weather Gear That’ll Get You Outside More This Winter and How to Dress for Below-Zero Weather. You can also check out How to Choose Snowshoes.

Ski Passes for Each County—Each Twin Cities county has its own guidelines for daily and annual passes. And Hennepin County requires one pass for the Minneapolis trails and another for its parks outside the downtown area. Then Minnesota has its own Great Minnesota Ski Pass (for the state parks). For more, go to Which Ski Pass Do You Need Where?

Skate Skiing—Skate skiers can find trail systems here: Skate Skiing in the Twin Cities.

Waxing Your No-Wax Skis—Why they call them “no-wax” or “waxless” skis we don’t know, but it’s best to still wax them! Read You Still Need to Wax Your Waxless Skis.

Skijoring: Ski with Your Dog—If the idea of Nordic skiing with your dog is intriguing, read How to Get Started Skijoring. The post includes skijoring trails in the Twin Cities area.

Find Trail Conditions—Most parks won’t start to maintain groomed ski trails without a minimum of 4-6 inches of snow as its base. Golf courses want even more so the groomers don’t harm their carefully manicured grass.

Each county’s page includes a link to find current trail conditions.

yellow ski tips and a double-tracked ski trail surrounded by trees
What a great view!

Find Others to Ski and Shoe WithOutdoors Clubs & Groups in the Twin Cities is our resource that lists several options for getting with others who also love to ski and snowshoe. Joining one or more of these helps you learn and keeps you motivated!

Our digital Ski & Shoe Guide has even more info like: snowshoe in mountain bike parks, where you can get a ski lesson, which parks have rental skis and snowshoes, lighted night skiing, where you can ski without a pass. See the details.

Other Resources is a private website dedicated to the cross country ski world in the Upper Midwest. You’ll find all kinds of info from gear to races to snow reports. Bruce Adelsman of New Brighton runs the show with help from lots of volunteer contributors.