Traveler - Let It Snow!

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parks and rec


A monthly e-newsletter to encourage “I Can!” program participants and other families to continue learning about the outdoors.

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December 2017

Park Highlight:  Glendalough State Park


child sledding


As the snow begins to fall across Minnesota, consider a winter retreat at a site like Glendalough State Park.  Nestled in the transition zone between prairie and hardwood forest, Glendalough State Park is located three hours northwest of the Twin Cities.  Wildlife abounds year-round, and there are many observation decks along the trails.  Cabins, yurts, and some campsites are open year-round.  In winter, trails are groomed for skiing and snowshoeing.  The park is one of a handful of parks that boasts a wonderful sledding hill for families to make lasting memories.  Summer highlights of this 2,761-acre park are a cart-in campground and the canoe-in campsites near the pristine shores of Annie Battle Lake where there is solitude from the traffic and noise of traditional drive-in camping.  Other warm season favorites are the paved bike trail loop and numerous hiking trails, including two interpretive trails. 


Family near Yurt

The List:  Parks with Yurts


Yurts are insulated canvas tents with wood floors and woodstoves, available year-round in Minnesota state parks. They're perfect for those who want a "camping out" experience but prefer not to sleep on the ground!

In addition to the wood burning stove, each yurt has operable windows, a domed roof with skylight, bunkbeds, and a table and chairs or stools. They range from 16 to 20 feet in diameter and sleep 3 to 7 people. Some are wheelchair accessible.

Glendalough State Park is one of three locations where you can rent a yurt.  Other sites include:

  • Afton State Park has two yurts in the southeast section near the camper cabins.

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Find more information about yurts at Minnesota state parks.

winter geocaching

Game Time:  Winter Geocaching


Geocaching is a high-tech sport that requires participants to use a handheld GPS receiver or a smart phone to locate hidden clues and a final cache outdoors.  Geocaching is a great way to get kids excited about going outside.

More than 28,000 geocaches are hidden around Minnesota, including hundreds in state parks. They are tucked along state trails, on county and municipal parklands, and in the margins of urban environments. Without a doubt, you’ve unknowingly passed by many caches.

Not just any cache can be placed anywhere. Rules vary depending on who manages the land. On state-owned land, most restrictions are aimed at preventing damage to natural resources and historical or archaeological sites.

Several state parks offer introductory-level programs to learn about the equipment and to get tips for enjoying the sport of geocaching.  These parks also loan out GPS units for free use within the park.

Find a location where you can check out geocaching equipment (GPS units).

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Learn more about geocaching.

woman birdwatching

Nature Sightings:  Snow Birds


When many retired residents from Minnesota head south for the winter, the real “snow birds” gather at bird feeders.  These small feathered fliers are strong enough to withstand the cold weather conditions that force many other species southward during the winter months.  Northern cardinals, blue jays, black-capped chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches are some of the common winter birds you may observe at your neighborhood feeders.

Winter is a great time for kids and other beginners to practice bird watching.  This time of year, the foliage is absent from the trees and the white snow creates a backdrop to accentuate the colors and patterns of feathers.  Birds may be easier to spot in winter, but they tend to be less vocal outside of the breeding season when they must work harder to find food and cover.

You can attract a variety of birds to your very own backyard by providing bird feeders.  Build your own simple feeders from recycled items or purchase more elaborate feeders at a local feed store.

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Explore winter bird feeding tips.

Snow Depth Map

Traveler Tip:  Snow Depth and Trails Reports


Did you know you can check snow conditions and access winter trails reports from your phone or computer?  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources maintains a snow depth map that is updated every Thursday throughout the winter.  In addition to snow depth information, you can find detailed reports on cross country ski trails and snowmobile trails around the state.

If you are planning a winter trip to explore outdoors, check the Snow Depth and Groomed Trail Conditions before you leave the house so you can plan accordingly.  Most parks won’t rent out skis or snowshoes unless there is adequate snow (6 inches or more).

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Check out the current snow depth map.

state parks gift card tag

Discover:  Holiday Shopping at State Parks


Most Minnesota state parks have a Nature Store where you can purchase camping supplies as well as souvenirs, candy and ice cream.  Many unique outdoor-themed items can be purchased to share as gifts including books, stationery, candles, and artwork by local craftsmen.  Purchases made at Nature Store locations help support our state parks.

You can also purchase gift cards either at a Nature Store or online.  Gift cards can be used for:

  • Camping and overnight getaways in rustic camper cabins, yurts, lodge rooms, modern suites, and more;
  • Minnesota State Parks entrance permits, tours, and golf;
  • Canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, cross-country ski, snowshoe, and snow tube rentals;
  • Minnesota State Parks and Trails apparel and more from Minnesota State Parks gift stores.
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Find a Nature Store location near you.

Candlelight skiers

 December Events


Make the best out of the short days this month by taking in some fun winter programs at Minnesota state parks, including:

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Check out more programs and events.

Find past issues of the Traveler.