Hennepin County has wonderful cross country ski trail systems in their parks 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! And even then, a couple Hennepin County parks make snow for their ski trails.
The parks that are part of Three Rivers Park District require their own cross country ski pass, either daily or annual. You can buy a ski pass online or at some of the parks themselves. The Minnesota Ski Pass isn’t valid in these parks. You won’t need a vehicle permit and there are no fees for snowshoeing.
The parks that are within the city limits of Minneapolis are maintained by the Loppet Foundation. The Minnesota Ski Pass isn’t valid there either. You’ll need a Loppet Ski Pass for those.
Snowshoeing isn’t allowed on the groomed ski trails except where they’re designated at multi-use. But you can snowshoe off-trail almost everywhere else.
Baker Park Reserve (Maple Plain)
Baker Park Reserve maintains 9 miles of groomed cross country ski trails for both skate and classic skiing. These trails are all on the north half of the park reserve, off Parkview Drive.
There are also more than 5 miles of designated trails for snowshoeing and multi-use. These are down in the south half, off Homestead Trail. And, of course, you have almost 2,700 acres of off-trail snowshoeing options, too.
Rental equipment for both is available at Baker National Clubhouse. Here’s the Baker winter map. Three Rivers ski pass needed.
Columbia Golf Course (Minneapolis)
3.5 km of cross country ski trails are groomed on Columbia Golf Course in northeast Minneapolis. You’ll need the Loppet Ski Pass. Snowshoers are also welcome anywhere except on the ski trails. Rentals are not available on-site. Here’s a trail map.
Crow-Hassan Park Reserve (Hanover)
Crow-Hassan Park Reserve is a snowshoers Mecca right in the Twin Cities metro with over 16 miles of multi-use trails plus off-trail. You’ll access the loop on the east side of the Reserve from Hassan Parkway. Cross country skiers are welcome, too, but the trails are ungroomed. There are a couple miles of the trails designated for skijoring as well.
For the interactive winter map, go to the Crow-Hassen park page and scroll down.
Eagle Lake Regional Park (Plymouth)
Eagle Lake Regional Park hosts 5 km of cross country ski trails for both classic and skate skiing, divided into two loops. The skate trail is multi-use except during races. These are well-suited for beginning skiers and and those who don’t like big hills.
There’s a small designated snowshoe trail and area in the park, too, in the same area as the ski trails. Or hike between Pike and Eagle Lakes on the pink trail and head into the north part of the park and go off-trail.
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). Then there’s the Singletrack map (click here and scroll down), its trails are open to snowshoers and winter hikers as well as fat bikes. You’ll park off West Hayden Road for those.
Both cross country ski and snowshoe rentals are available in the park, but you need to reserve them online ahead of time. You’ll pick up skis at Elm Creek Chalet and snowshoes at Eastman Nature Center.
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)
French Regional Park is another park that has lighted cross country ski trails for night skiing! There are 6 total miles of groomed trails, with about 3 miles of lighted trails. You’ll need the Three Rivers ski pass.
Snowshoeing is an option here, too, and this time not on trails but in designated areas—30 acres in all. You can also explore the frozen wetland and lagoon areas once the ice is thick. Snowshoers are welcome on the lighted Lagoon Trail loop, too. 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 Golf Course 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. You’ll need the Loppet Ski Pass.
Hyland Lake Park Reserve (Bloomington)
Hyland Lake Park Reserve is a great cross country ski destination with 9.5 miles of groomed trails for both classic and skate skiers. It’s one of two in Hennepin County that makes artificial snow on 3 miles of its trails (the other is Elm Creek).
The 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 in two separate sections, along with lots of off-trail options. There’s a winter map on this page that covers the entire park. That same map shows the snowshoe trails by Richardson Nature Center.
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 snowshoes, this scenic Park is waiting for you. Here’s the Lake Rebecca winter map.
There’s another 13ish miles of snowshoe options in the Singletrack park that you’ll share with fat tire bikers and winter hikers. To see the map, click here and scroll down the page.
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 at Chain of Lakes. 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. You don’t need a trail pass to snowshoe or hike the trails.
Mississippi Gateway Regional Park (Brooklyn Center)
There are 1.5 miles of snowshoe trails here at Mississippi Gateway. They generally follow the unpaved trails displayed on the Year-round map. You can also snowshoe off-trail anywhere in the park. There are no groomed ski trails.
Mississippi Gateway borders the west bank of the Mississippi River and so is very scenic. Be extremely cautious about snowshoeing on the river though, even if the ice appears safe. River ice can be very sketchy!
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 for all skiers. If you’re going to ski on the snowmaking trails in North Wirth, you’ll need the Premium Ski Pass. Ski pass details here. Snowshoers and winter hikers don’t need the trail pass.
There are designated skijoring trails at Wirth, too, if your dog is itching to get out with you. More info here. You’ll need the Loppett Ski Pass.
Wood Lake Nature Center (Richfield)
Wood Lake Nature Center maintains 2+ miles of groomed cross country ski trails. They wind through the 150 acres of frozen cattail marsh, forest and prairie. Here’s the year-round map. No ski pass is necessary and both ski and snowshoe rentals are available on-site for all ages.
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.
Minneapolis Park System winter map
This map of Minneapolis’ Winter Park System Highlights shows spots for cross country skiing and snowshoeing in Minneapolis proper. It also highlights 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:
The Loppet Foundation
The Loppet Foundation depends on lots of volunteers, so if you’re an urbanite looking for an outdoor volunteer opportunity, check them out!