All new in 2022

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

parks and rec
Icons representing different winter outdoor recreation. Text in the center reads "Trailblazer."

December 2022

2022 highlights

Man on adaptive bike enjoying a ride on an accessible multi-use trail.

We're making our system more accessible, increasing connectivity, and expanding opportunities for overnight visitors. 

Minnesota State Parks and Trails continues its work to connect people to the outdoors and conserve and manage the state's natural resources. When you buy a state park permit or license plate, ski or horse passes, or anything from our Nature Store, you support this recreation and conservation work.

Here are some highlights of this year's work improving access for more Minnesotans, increasing trail connectivity, and adding overnight options that you will enjoy for years to come. Plan your visit for the next year!

We thank you for your continued support and look forward to seeing you in 2023.

Section header in green reads "Destinations." Icon shows the outline of the state of Minnesota.

New trail section takes you farther on the North Shore

The Gitchi-Gami State Trail runs along the shore of Lake Superior. It's named after the Ojibwe word for Lake Superior, which means "great sea." 

Gitchi Gami State Trail with rainbow over Lake Superior.

You can enjoy the ADA-compliant, paved trail with breathtaking views of the lake... and if you're lucky, a rainbow!

A new segment of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail opened to the public last spring, connecting Cascade River State Park to Cut Face Creek State Wayside and Grand Marais. A timber arch bridge above the Fall River gorge offers dramatic views of the geologic features characteristic of Minnesota’s North Shore.

The Gitchi-Gami State Trail now offers 33 miles for cyclists, wheelchair users and hikers to experience the shores of Lake Superior from a new perspective. One trail segment connects Gooseberry Falls State Park to Silver Bay, passing Split Rock Lighthouse State Park along the way. Two other segments will take you through Temperance River State Park and to the scenic Ray Berglund Wayside

More accessible miles of trails in Central Minnesota

New paved trails at Sibley State Park are the beginning of an expansion to connect the park to Glacial Lakes State Trail.

The Glacial Lakes State Trail runs on a former Burlington Northern Railroad grade, and is generally level and accessible. It's paved for 22 miles between Willmar, Spicer, New London, Hawick, and the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line. An additional 7.5 miles from Roscoe in Stearns County to Cold Spring are also paved. Enjoy the trail on a wheelchair or with a walker, or hiking, biking, rollerblading or horseback riding. In the winter, portions of the trail are open to snowmobiles.

Accessible trails are important not only for those in the disability community, but their friends and family members who can enjoy time with them outdoors. Trails don’t just connect places, they connect the people who use them. 

Don't let the next snowstorm catch you off-guard. Get your ski pass.

Groomed ski trails

We sold 15,187 ski passes last season (2021-22), contributing almost $265,000 to 39 ski clubs for the grooming and maintenance of ski trails across the state. 

... and over 22K miles of snowmobile trails

For the 2021-2022 snowmobile season, we registered over 80,000 snowmobiles, including new and renewed registrations, allowing snowmobilers to enjoy over 22,000 miles of grant-in-aid and state-maintained trails.

Bike more at Sagamore

Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, home of world-class mountain biking, now has adaptive trails and a nearly 60-mile long trail system with purpose-built mountain bike routes. 

Man on adaptive bike on a dirt trail through the woods.

The trail is wider than typical mountain biking trails, and can accommodate three-wheeled bikes, used by many adaptive cyclists.

The Sagamore Unit, part of Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, now has a new trailhead and is the first mountain biking trail in the state park system for riders with disabilities. Its characteristics also make this new trail ideal for young children and their grown-ups, as well as beginner mountain bikers. The new trailhead includes a picnic shelter, bike washing facilities, map and registration kiosks, and area lighting for use in the winter. Have you tried winter fat biking?

"Give the gift of Minnesota's natural world" with image of gift card

Secluded island cabin now open

Rent a cabin on an island on Lake Vermilion for your next getaway ... and some solitude.

Cabin with metal roof and a deck.

The Blue Heron Island cabin is available seasonally from the end of May through the end of September. Call Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground State Park to reserve! 218-300-7017

This heated, rustic cabin was designed by Duluth-based architect David Salmela. It accommodates up to six people in three bedrooms. There's a kitchen, outhouse, and beautiful lake views from the deck.

Visitors need their own transportation to get to the island from one of the public water access points at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park. Motorized boats are recommended, but experienced paddlers could travel by canoe or kayak. 

Accessible, drive-in campsites on the North Shore

Two tents set up at accessible campsite.

The new Shipwreck Creek campground at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park has accessible, drive-in electric sites, an accessible bathroom and shower building and direct access to Lake County’s Split Rock Wilds mountain bike trail system and the paved, accessible Gitchi-Gami State Trail.

New exhibit tells history of resilience

The St. Croix State Park visitor center reopened in May to reveal larger-than-life sculptures, wall art, audiovisual digital media, and bronze tactile features. 

Tall column with interpretive signs and logs on the base.

The overall theme of the new multi-sensory, interactive and accessible exhibit at St. Croix State Park is the importance of flexibility and survival in an ever-changing river habitat. Listening devices allow visitors to tour the space with the assistance of audio descriptions. Whether you want to learn about the resilience of plants, animals or people, you’ll find stories about each.

Important: As of December 29, 2022, trails at St. Croix State Park are still closed and have limited accessibility as a result of heavy wet snow. This is the case for several Minnesota state parks. Crews are working hard to get things ready for you! Give them some time before you visit, and make sure to check updates on the park webpage first. 

Section header reads "how-to", icon shows a tent and pine trees.

All-terrain track chairs are ready to roll

Visitors with mobility disabilities can check out track chairs at seven state parks.

Woman on all-terrain track chair on a trail in the woods.

Track chairs are all-terrain, electric powered chairs that can be used on designated trails within state parks. They've been a huge success, as they're helping visitors explore areas in new ways, often on trails that are not suitable for regular wheelchairs. 

Cold temperatures can impact the life of battery-operated equipment such as these chairs, so in state parks they're only available in warmer seasons. Users have been enjoying the extended access track chairs at CamdenCrow Wing, Lake BemidjiMaplewood and Myre-Big Island state parks. Attention beach-goers: McCarthy Beach State Park offers a beach chair for you to make the most of your summer visit. Call the park to reserve.

Read about a user's experience trying the track chair for the first time on the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine.

Snowy landscape and Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine cover. Text: "This holiday, give Minnesota's best nature magazine. Donate today!"

Pro tips

Get your vehicle park permit, good for 12 months

The 2023 state park vehicle features Turquoise Lake, a highlight for visitors touring Mystery Cave.

Image of the 2023 Minnesota state park permit with a photo of a cave lake, and a border with months.

Renew your state park permit before your next visit from the comfort of your home!

A teal ceramic mug with an image representing the 2023 Minnesota state park vehicle permit.

Check the permit on your windshield, and if the current month is punched, your permit will expire at the end of that month. You can order online and we'll mail you the beautiful permit shown above. For only $35 you'll gain 365 days of access to 75 state parks and recreation areas.

Visit a state park Nature Store to get the limited edition, hand thrown commemorative permit mug, made in Minnesota, of course.

Section header in green reads "Out & about." Icon shows a person with a walking stick and a backpack.

The faces and stories of our visitors and staff.

College roommates in 1968; hiking friends in 2022

A global pandemic meant that Robin Stegner and Nancy Davis had to cancel their planned hike to Camino de Santiago in Spain. Instead, the two friends came together for many long walks and talks in Minnesota. #FriendshipGoals

A selfie of two very happy, smiling female hikers posting with map sign for Temperance River State Park.

Robin Stegner, left, lives in Redwood Falls, Minn., and her friend Nancy Davis lives in St. Louis Park. For a little over a year, they met at state parks all around Minnesota to go hiking.

With grown children and a husband who enjoys work too much to retire, long-time friends Nancy Davis and Robin Stegner found they had more time to get together. And that time was spent completing the Minnesota state parks Hiking Club challenge.

While there were many highlights during their 68 hikes, seeing wildlife always stands out. Particularly memorable was the porcupine sighting on the trail at Jay Cooke State Park. They have special appreciation for all the work and buildings from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps. (CCC), two programs that were in place from the early 1930s to mid-40s to create work for the unemployed.

While on their quest to visit all Minnesota state parks, Stegner and Davis stayed at camper cabins, or hotels when no cabin was available, so they could hike at more than one park on one trip. Using Wild River State Park as "base camp," they visited Banning, St. Croix and William O'Brien state parks over several days. While staying at Glendalough State Park, they hiked at Lake Carlos and Maplewood state parks.

The friends were particularly excited to discover the northwest quadrant of the state, and used the long drive to shop at towns along the way. They covered the whole area on a single trip, staying at camper cabins at Big Bog State Recreation Area and Hayes Lake, and hotels in Warroad (to visit Zippel Bay and Franz Jevne state parks) and Grand Forks, ND (for their hikes at Red River State Recreation Area and Buffalo River State Park.)

What's next? Davis wants to introduce her grandchildren to Minnesota’s beautiful state parks. Stegner plans to take her husband to the parks she liked best.

Section header in blue reads "From the MCV." Icon shows an open magazine.

Green space for all

Alex Junge holds an American highbush cranberry plant in the native garden he maintains at his home in St. Paul.

By planting native gardens, a young adult with autism brings joy to his group home and broader community. Full story.

PHOTO: Alex Junge holds an American highbush cranberry plant in the native garden he maintains at his home in St. Paul. Credit: Deb Rose, Minnesota DNR.

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer

Minnesota Conservation Volunteer is a print magazine dedicated to Minnesota’s wild places and creatures. For more stories, visit or subscribe.

First Day Hikes (January 1)

Start the new year off with the right foot. And then the left. Join a naturalist for a First Day Hike or go on your own.

Escape Room (through March 2023)

A cherished historical object has gone missing at Lake Bemidji State Park. Solve puzzles and look for clues to complete the escape room challenge in 60 minutes or less. 

Minimum group size is 4 and the maximum group size is 6. Ages 12+. Program is free, but you need to preregister by calling 218-308-2300.