Snowshoeing the Metro: Seven Favorites
Story and photos by Alyssa Schauer
There’s nothing quite as enchanting as that first, big dump of snow each winter. Vast, untouched fields are blanketed in sparkling powder and forests of bare trees hang heavy under fresh snow as if dipped in delicious almond bark. This is what gets me out of bed early in the morning. Dressed for a frosty adventure and wearing my favorite wool socks, I trudge into the snowy expanse, the path ahead lit by the pink sunrise.
I’ve found several locations around me that offer abundant opportunities to spot wildlife and go deep into the woods to find peace in the winter wild.
Lake Rebecca Park Reserve, Rockford
There are several places to tromp around on snowshoes here. The Deerwood Trail is a 1.3-mile loop that’s great for beginners, with few hills and diverse habitats that provide many opportunities to see wildlife. I often notice deer prancing along the trail, no matter what time I’m out there and I’ve been graced with several sightings of barred owls on this trail.
You can also venture onto the 13-mile singletrack that offers multiple loops of varying difficulty and some of the most photo-worthy spots to snap a winter pic. Near the trailhead, the path winds through a tunnel of fir trees where it feels like you’re entering the secret, magical winter wonderland of Narnia. It’s a must after a fresh snowfall.
There’s also the chance to forge your own trail across the frozen lake and explore shoreline from a new perspective. I like watching the trumpeter swans in the open water near the aeration system, honking noisily and sounding like a middle school band tuning up before a concert.
Lowry Nature Center, Victoria
This trail system provides plenty of options for choosing your own snowshoeing adventure. Take a short jaunt along the 1.1-mile Aspen Trail through forested hills and get views of Stone Lake at the overlook. Or make it a longer trek by adding the Oak Trail (.6 mi) and the Maple Trail (1.4 mi) for a total of just over three miles. Experience the lovely stillness of a thick winter woods under giant, muscular maples and cross through frozen wetlands on the boardwalk. Watch for cheerful chickadees flitting about and listen for barred owls.
Crow-Hassan Park Reserve, Hanover.
Bask in a quiet prairie landscape at this spectacular place. There are a whopping 16 miles of trails for snowshoeing, with hills of endless prairie. You can find shelter in pockets of forest that provide reprieve from a biting winter breeze. When I last trekked through Crow-Hassan, it was late afternoon and my snowshoeing adventure ended just in time to catch the golden glow of a January sunset and lavender hues of twilight.
Baker Park Reserve, Maple Plain
My favorite place to snowshoe at Baker is through the campground where you can blaze your own path under magnificent towering pines. From there, you can also access vast Lake Independence to get that wide open spaces kind of feeling. The Evergreen Trail (1.2 mi) in the winter recreation area is another good choice, especially for novice snowshoers. The mostly flat trail offers sweeping views of the rolling countryside, and you can grab a cup of hot cocoa from the nearby chalet. Extra marshmallows, please!
Fish Lake Regional Park, Maple Grove
The big forests of this little park caught me by surprise the first time I visited. Nestled in the heart of a busy suburb, it’s the perfect spot to catch a break from the noise and submerse yourself into the wild. The 1.62-mile snowshoeing trail meanders along a forest edge and around scenic Fish Lake. On my last visit, a pink sunrise illuminated the glittering, frozen lake as if I was looking at the world through rose-tinted sunglasses.
Eastman Nature Center, Dayton
There are lots of options to snowshoe here, too, but the Meadowlark Trail (1.5 mi) is my favorite. I love how it meanders through woodlands and follows along a forested ridge where you can rest on a wooden bench at the overlook and take in the expanse that is Elm Creek Park Reserve. It’s also a great spot for birdwatching. Look for cardinals, red-bellied woodpeckers and nuthatches. If you’re lucky, you may spot wild turkeys running through the woods, too.
French Regional Park, Plymouth
This place is an oasis in the middle of a bustling city. My preferred spot for snowshoeing is the 30-acre nature exploration area near the sledding hill. It never fails to surprise me just how wooded this park is. Hike up steep, forested hills and get up close to dormant cattails as you venture through frozen wetlands.
About the Author
Alyssa Schauer enjoys lollygagging in the great outdoors whether she’s in hiking boots, on snowshoes, pitching a tent or paddling in her orange kayak. She’s a certified Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer and is always excited to learn more about the mysteries of the natural world, especially when it comes to owls, spiders, ferns and mosses. Writing poems and stories, taking photos and dabbling in watercolors is how she best takes in the details and beauty of life around her.
When she’s not dawdling in the woods, she works at Lowry Nature Center where she gets to meet and greet park guests and share her enthusiasm for all things nature.
Alyssa lives in Rockford, MN with her husband, Josh, and four sassy cats who enjoy bird watching as much as she does. You can keep up with her adventures on Instagram @travelingcouchpotato