Washington County offers several destinations for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing in its regional and state parks. Some of them are among the best in the Twin Cities metro area.
New in 2021, Washington County no longer supports the Minnesota Ski Pass. Instead you’ll need the new Washington County Ski Pass.
A daily or annual Minnesota Ski Pass is still required to use any of the groomed ski trails in the two state parks in Washington County.
You’ll also need a vehicle permit for all of these Washington County parks, either a daily or annual (the permit allows you into Anoka County’s regional parks, too).
And you’ll need either a daily or annual permit for the state parks, which, of course, allow entrance into all of Minnesota’s state parks.
Afton State Park (Hastings)
Afton State Park grooms 12 miles of cross country ski trails. Most of them are best for intermediate and advanced skiers, but there’s a 2.5-mile beginner’s loop, too. The terrain is mostly hilly, and both wooded and through open prairie. There are some great views of the St. Croix River. No ski rental equipment is available in the park.
Snowshoers aren’t allowed on the groomed ski trails, but no worries—there are another 12 miles of trails for snowshoeing and winter hiking. And of course there’s plenty of off-trail ground to cover, too. Snowshoe equipment is available for rent at the Park Contact Station. Here’s the Afton winter trails map.
Afton is one of the few campgrounds in the metro area that stays open all winter. Plan a camp-and-ski or camp-and-snowshoe adventure there sometime! Try backpack-in tent camping or opt for a little less rustic at one of the cabins or yurts.
Belwin Conservancy (Afton)
Belwin Conservancy is a non-profit organization that owns 1,500 acres of rolling prairie and forest in the St. Croix Valley. They have about 5 miles of ungroomed winter trails ideal for cross country skiing and snowshoeing in their Stagecoach Prairie section. Easy to moderate difficulty. No rentals available and no fee to use.
Big Marine Park Reserve (Marine on St. Croix)
1.5 miles of cross country ski trails are maintained in Big Marine, great for a quick jaunt or for beginners. Snowshoers aren’t allowed on the ski trails, but there’s some off-trail ground in the park, including the ponds and marshes once the ice is thick enough. No rentals are available on-site. Here’s the Big Marine winter map.
Brown’s Creek State Trail (Grant to Stillwater)
6-mile Brown’s Creek trail isn’t groomed for winter use, but snowshoers and winter hikers are welcome to use it. You could start from either end for a lovely out-and-back trip for whatever distance you like. There’s no fee and no rental equipment available. Here’s the map.
Carver Lake Park (Woodbury)
Carver Lake Park is a Woodbury city park with 5 miles of singletrack (mountain bike) trails that are also open to winter hikers and snowshoers. There are a few different trailhead options to choose from. Here’s the Carver Lake Park map.
Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park (Cottage Grove)
Cottage Grove Ravine has 8 kilometers of groomed cross country ski trails, from beginning to advanced. There are lots of hills here! (“ravine” in the name is a clue, haha)
There’s a 1.7 mile snowshoe loop that has a couple good hills on it, too. Plus there’s plenty of off-trail snowshoeing available throughout the park. Please no snowshoeing on the groomed ski trails. Here’s Ravine’s winter map.
Gateway State Trail
Saint Paul to Stillwater • Snowshoeing
The western portion of this paved trail from Saint Paul to Jamaca Avenue in Grant is plowed during the winter. But the rest of the trail—the Washington County portion—is ungroomed and open to snowshoeing, all the way to its east trailhead in Pine Point Regional Park. Here’s the Gateway year-round map.
Lake Elmo Park Reserve (Lake Elmo)
Lake Elmo Park Reserve is a wonderful destination for cross country skiers. It has 15 miles of groomed trails for both classic and skate of various difficulty. 5+ miles of those are lighted for night skiing. There are hills, some steep, which the map shows clearly.
Ski rentals at the Nordic Center are for something called “Nordic Rocks” skis and poles. The skis only come in two lengths (one for adults and another for children) and strap on to your winter boots. They’re probably best for beginners and kids.
There are other multi-use trails skiers can use as well as snowshoers and others, adding another 7 miles. Snowshoers aren’t allowed on the ski-only trails, but they’re welcome on the multi-use trails and anywhere else off-trail in the park reserve. Here’s the Lake Elmo winter map.
Pine Point Regional Park (Stillwater)
Pine Point has both groomed cross country ski trails and ungroomed multi-use trails for winter use. The 4 miles of groomed trails are for skiers only. There’s another 4 miles of multi-use trails open to snowshoers, as well as plenty of off-trail options. Here’s the Pine Point winter map.
Sunfish Lake Park (Lake Elmo)
Sunfish Lake Park is what Lake Elmo calls their “crown jewel” of a park. The city maintains 9 miles of ski trails for both classic and skate skiing. No ski pass is needed. Snowshoers are welcome off-trail. Go to this page and scroll down to see a map.
St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park (Hastings)
St. Croix Bluffs sits next to, as its name implies, the St. Croix River. There are over 6 miles of groomed cross country ski trails, from easy to difficult. Only skiers are allowed on the trails. There are no separate trails for snowshoeing here, but with 579 total acres you’re bound to find some good off-trail snowshoeing. Here’s the winter map.
William O’Brien State Park (Marine on St. Croix)
William O’Brien has great, if challenging, cross country skiing. There are both easy loops and more advanced loops in the 12 miles of groomed trails. The scenic terrain covers woods, rolling prairie and frozen wetlands. No ski rentals are available on-site.
Snowshoeing is also an option at O’Brien. While you can’t snowshoe on the ski trails, there are designated trails for winter hiking you can use as well as plenty of off-trail opportunities. Here’s William O’Brien’s winter map.
Check Ski Trail Conditions
- Washington County updates theirs on their Twitter page.
- The state parks update theirs here.
- You can also check SkinnySki.com for trail reports.
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.