Not that many decades ago, Minnesotans lit the farmland and countryside only with the use of lanterns. This winter, people can get the same visual effect at the popular annual candlelight events at Minnesota state parks and trails.
Each year, many staff and volunteers line trails with lanterns, candles and other luminaries. Visitors can then walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski those trails, depending on the event and the amount of snow. After hitting the trails, they can warm up with hot cocoa or cider in the visitor center or around a bonfire.
More than 30 candlelight events are scheduled at Minnesota state parks and trails this winter, starting on December 31 and continuing through early March, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Whitewater State Park in Altura will host one on Saturday, February 16, from 6-8 p.m. For the complete schedule — including dates, times and other details — visit mndnr.gov/candlelight.
“Few things transform a winter evening like soft light on snow,” said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota state parks and trails. “Candles and lanterns help to create an unforgettable experience, especially beneath the light from a starry sky and full moon.”
Snowshoes and cross-country skis can be rented or checked out at some parks. Fees are typically $6 per person for snowshoes and $10 per person for skis, boots and poles. Call in advance to confirm the availability of equipment if needed.
The candlelight events are free, but a vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit). Permits can be purchased at the park, but visitors can avoid waiting in line by getting one in advance at mndnr.gov/reservations.
Skiers age 16 and older also need the Great Minnesota Ski Pass to participate in the candlelight ski events. The ski pass ($6/day or $20/season) allows access to hundreds of miles of trails in state parks, state forests, city parks and other public lands throughout Minnesota (visit mndnr.gov/skiing/skipass/list.html for a complete list and map).
For information on snow depth and trail conditions, visit mndnr.gov/snow_depth.
Note that events may be changed or canceled due to weather. For updates, call the park or the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367, from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Monday through Friday, or 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday.