Wondering how to get outside and enjoy the outdoors this winter? The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has some great no- and low-cost activities open to everyone.
“We know Minnesotans love being outdoors, and winter offers a whole different way to play outside,” said Ann Pierce, DNR parks and trails director.
The DNR offers several suggestions to make getting outdoors easy, fun and affordable for Minnesotans:
Get a vehicle permit
Vehicle permits are required to visit state parks and recreation areas. The cost is $7 per day or $35 for an annual permit. Permits can be purchased at a park office, or visitors can save time by purchasing online before heading to the park. Park permits can be purchased on the DNR website.
The DNR also offers free park permits through its library program. More than 100 libraries across Minnesota offer seven-day permits that people can check out at no cost.
“The library park pass program is a terrific way to access state parks for free,” Pierce said. “It’s one way we’re removing barriers to getting outdoors and enjoying the beauty of Minnesota’s state parks.”
A list of participating libraries is on the DNR website.
Try winter camping
Winter camping is offered at 25 state parks and recreation areas. For visitors looking for a warmer overnight stay, many state parks offer heated camper cabins with electricity and yurts with wood stoves that are open year-round. Camper cabins accommodate up to six people, while yurts hold three to seven people. Pets are not allowed inside camper cabins or yurts.
Find the winter camping guide on the DNR website, as well as information on staying in camper cabins or yurts.
Look into family-friendly events
Events and programs are scheduled at state parks throughout the winter season, offering a wide range of activities, including escape rooms, interpretive hikes, crafting, education about park wildlife, and more.
“Whether you want to learn, or be physically active, or both, you’re sure to find an event that fits you,” Pierce said. “State parks and trails events are suitable for beginners and all age groups.”
State park events are free, but a vehicle permit is required to enter the park. Find state park events on the DNR events calendar.
Rent snowshoeing or skiing equipment
Snowshoe rentals are available at 30 state parks and recreation areas, and five state parks offer cross-country ski rentals. Rental prices vary by location, and some state parks offer free rentals.
“Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are great activities to be active while beating cabin fever,” Pierce said. “If you need rental equipment, it’s a good idea to check the website for the park you’re planning to visit or call ahead to get details about the type of rental equipment offered at the park and to check for availability.”
For snowshoe rental information, visit the snowshoeing page of the DNR website and for cross-country ski rentals, visit the ski pass map on the DNR website.
Try ice fishing
It’s free to fish in many Minnesota state parks, and some parks have fishing kits for visitors to borrow.
“Ice fishing is a quintessential winter activity in Minnesota,” said Pierce. “If you’re new to ice fishing, don’t worry, we can help. State parks offer events and hands-on learning programs to teach you how to ice fish.”
Those interested in ice fishing in state parks can read tips, learn about ice safety, find a lake to fish on and more by visiting the state parks ice fishing guide. To find parks that have fishing kits available to borrow, see the DNR’s page about borrowing equipment.