Hennepin County has wonderful cross country ski trail systems that are both urban and very non-urban. Snowshoeing options are many, as well. You certainly have no excuse to stay inside during our coldest months—assuming we have enough snow!
The parks that are part of Three Rivers Park District require their cross country ski pass, either daily or annual. They can be purchased online or at some of the parks themselves. The Minnesota Ski Pass isn’t valid in these parks. There are no fees to enter the parks or for snowshoeing.
The parks that are within the city of Minneapolis are maintained by the Loppet Foundation. The Minnesota Ski Pass isn’t valid here either. You’ll need a Loppet Ski Pass for those. Here’s info on that.
Snowshoeing, for the most part, isn’t allowed on the groomed ski trails. The exception are the Minneapolis parks maintained by the Loppet Foundation.
Baker Park Reserve (Maple Plain)
Baker maintains 9 miles of groomed cross country ski trails for both skate and classic skiing. There are also over 5 miles of designated trails for snowshoeing and multi-use. You can go off-trail at Baker Campground, too. This is a huge park—2,700 acres.
Rental equipment for both is available at Baker National Clubhouse. Here’s the Baker winter map. Three Rivers ski pass.
Columbia Golf Course (Minneapolis)
Crow-Hassan Park Reserve (Hanover)
The cross country skiing and snowshoeing experience at Crow-Hassan is unique in that the 2+ miles of trails are ungroomed and shared. The loop is accessed on the east side of the Reserve from Hassan Parkway. Here’s the Crow-Hassan winter map. Three Rivers ski pass.
Eagle Lake Regional Park (Plymouth)
Eagle Lake’s information is a bit confusing: The website talks about multi-use ski trails that include skijoring and fat biking. The winter map shows one multi-use trail but then also a classic ski-only trail. Another confusing item here: The website lists distances in miles but the map lists them in kilometers. (Apparently different people are handling these projects!)
Regardless, there are groomed cross country ski trails at Eagle Lake, as well as a designated snowshoe area that starts on a trail that leads to an off-trail meadow. Here’s the Eagle Lake winter map. Three Rivers ski pass.
Elm Creek Park Reserve (Maple Grove)
4,900-acre Elm Creek Park is one of the most popular cross country ski destinations in the metro area. The terrain varies from beginner to advanced, the scenery varies from open meadow to wooded, they make artificial snow to extend the season, and some of the trails are lit for night skiing. Three Rivers ski pass required for their 11+ miles of trails.
There are 6 miles of snowshoe trails here, too, both multi-use and snowshoe/winter hiking only. There are two winter maps available: The general winter map shows the entire Reserve. The ski trails map focuses on the south half where the ski trails and most of the snowshoe trails are (part of the multi-use loop is cut off).
Rentals for both skiing and snowshoeing are available.
Elm Creek hosts SnowSports Academy for all ages, teaching downhill (alpine) skiing and snowboarding. Check it out here…
Fish Lake Regional Park (Maple Grove)
There’s a 1.6 mile snowshoe/winter hiking trail on the west side of Fish Lake Regional Park, and you could easily go off-trail as well. No rentals or Visitor Center here, but probably lots of solitude. Here’s the Fish Lake winter map.
French Regional Park (Plymouth)
Another park that has lighted cross country ski trails for night skiing! There are 5+ miles of groomed trails total at French Park, with about 3 miles of lighted trails. Three Rivers ski pass. Ski equipment rentals available.
Snowshoeing is offered here, too, and this time not on trails, but in designated areas—8 acres in all. Go off-trail and explore the shores of Medicine Lake or further north to a frozen wetlands area. Here’s the French Park winter map.
Gale Woods Farm (Minnetrista)
There are about 4 miles of ungroomed snowshoe trails at Gale Woods Farm. The trails take you over rolling hills through fields and forest, and along the undeveloped lakeshore. Rentals are available. Here’s the Gale Woods Year-round map.
Hiawatha Golf Course (Minneapolis)
Hiawatha maintains 4 km of groomed cross country ski trails, both classic and skate. This is a great beginner course due to its low-key terrain. Snowshoeing is allowed here, too, as long as you stay off-track (the groomed classic tracks). Ski rental equipment is available on-site. Here’s the trail map.
Hyland Lake Park Reserve (Bloomington)
Hyland Lake Park Reserve is a great cross country ski destination for those living in the Cities. It’s one of two in Hennepin County that makes artificial snow on 3 miles of its 9.5 miles of groomed trails (the other is Elm Creek). Three River ski pass required and rental equipment is available at the Visitor Center.
Hyland Park hosts the Twin Cities Orthopedics Ski Rennet in January each year, a major event in partnership with LL Bean. They run a bunch of ski races over the two days including juniors and skijoring races.
Hyland also has 5 miles of snowshoe trails near the Nature Center, where snowshoe rental equipment is available. This winter map covers both skiing and snowshoeing, and this Nature Center map is snowshoe-specific.
Lake Rebecca Park Reserve (Rockford)
Lake Rebecca Park Reserve has over 30 miles of multi-use ungroomed trails for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking. Off the beaten path for Hennepin County, you’ll have lots of space to explore, and no Three Rivers ski pass is needed here. Of course that means no rental equipment is available either! But for those with your own skis or shoes, this scenic Park is waiting for you. Here’s the Lake Rebecca winter map.
Minneapolis Chain of Lakes Regional Park (Minneapolis)
1,555-acre Minneapolis Chain of Lakes is in the the heart of Minneapolis, just southeast of the downtown area. The sprawling park maintains groomed cross country ski during the snowy months that includes:
- Cedar Lake Park—3 km
- Cedar Lake and West Cedar Lake—3 km
- Kenilworth Channel—2 km
- Lake of the Isles—3.5 km
- Lake Calhoun—5 km
It’s generally flat terrain with lots of trees, near several lakes and with great views of downtown. If you’re ambitious you can ski the entire route with just a couple road crossings.
NOTE: A Loppet Ski Pass is required on the Minneapolis trail system, including here. Click here for details. There are separate maps for different sections of the trails. Find your map here. Rental equipment is available at Wirth Chalet (Theodore Wirth) and Hiawatha Golf Course.
Snowshoers are welcome on all the trails, too, provided you move with traffic and stay on the non-tracked part of the trails. Snowshoe rentals are available at Wirth Chalet.
Mississippi Gateway Regional Park (Brooklyn Center)
This used to be called Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park, which understandably made it confusing with Anoka County’s Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park. It’s been renamed to Mississippi Gateway, but the maps still say Coon Rapids Dam. So…try not to be confused!
According to the website there are 1.5 miles of snowshoe trails here—they generally follow the unpaved trails displayed on the Year-round map. The Park borders the west bank of the Mississippi River, and is very scenic. Three Rivers ski pass.
Theodore Wirth Regional Park (Minneapolis)
While Theodore Wirth offers little for summer hiking, it’s a winter wonderland with lots to offer for cross country skiing and snowshoeing (when we get enough snow!). The Park includes 700 acres of forest and wetlands within the city limits of Minneapolis.
There are two ski trail systems at Wirth:
- North Wirth Park—13 km of beginning, intermediate and advanced trails, including premium trails with snowmaking capabilities. Here are the North trail maps.
- South Wirth Park—another 10 km of trails, all natural snow, and also for all levels of skiers. Here are the South trail maps.
Equipment rentals for both skiing and snowshoeing are available at the Wirth Chalet. Snowshoers are welcome on the trails too, but please stay off the groomed classic tracks.
The Loppet Ski Pass is required here. If you’re going to ski on the snowmaking trails in North Wirth, you’ll need the Premium Ski Pass. Ski pass details here.
There are designated skijoring trails at Wirth, too, if your dog is itching to get out with you. More info here.
Wood Lake Nature Center (Richfield)
Wood Lake maintains 2+ miles of groomed cross country ski trails. They wind through the 150 acres of frozen cattail marsh, forest and prairie. Here’s a map, although it’s not winter-specific. No ski pass is necessary and no rentals are available.
Minneapolis Park System winter map
This map not only shows spots for cross country skiing and snowshoeing in Minneapolis proper, but other outdoor winter rec activities like sledding, ice skating and hockey—both on man-made rinks and pond hockey.
Check Ski Trail Conditions
Be sure and check on the ski trail conditions before you head out:
- Three Rivers Park District parks
- Chain of Lakes
The Loppet Foundation
The Loppet Foundation partners with Minneapolis Parks & Rec to care for the winter trails, especially. They depend on lots of volunteers, so if you’re an urbanite looking for an outdoor volunteer opportunity, check them out!