low angle snowshoeAside from taking a winter walk or run, snowshoeing has to be one of the most accessible winter outdoor activities available. Neither dedicated trails nor admission tickets are required. Any place you can walk over snow, you can snowshoe.

This is my second winter of finding joy in snowshoeing. I am not an avid outdoor enthusiast (yet): I’ve only owned one pair of snowshoes – I don’t know their make or model number (they are just fine) – and I haven’t studied the kinesiology of snowshoeing versus other winter outdoor activities (never will), so treat this as a beginner’s guide to snowshoeing written by a beginner.

Snowshoeing has become my favorite outdoor activity – and if you have an inkling to give it a try, it could become yours, too.

SIX REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER SNOWSHOEING

Earning hygge

Snowshoeing will get you outdoors: It’s pretty easy to take hygge to an extreme, but know that cuddling into that blanket feels a whole lot better after you have filled your lungs with crisp, Minnesota winter air.

Snowshoeing lets you see things from a new perspective: This year, I have taken to trekking around area lakes. Chances are good you don’t live far from a lake with public access. This time of year, the ice is as safe as it can be, but to be extra safe, I stay around the perimeter, near the shoreline. Being on a lake in the summer requires a boat (or a friend with a boat), but in the winter, I see new things and ogle beautiful homes and piles of dockage stacked precariously on the banks.

Snowshoeing is a pandemic-safe way to catch up with a friend: Meet up with a friend, strap into a pair of snowshoes, keep some distance, and away you go. Early weekend morning treks across the ice of a frozen lake with a friend of mine is one of the few activities I look forward to these days. An hour of trekking, a good workout and some good conversation makes the world seem a bit more manageable.

Snowshoeing is fantastic exercise: I do not put a lot of stock into calorie counters, but enter snowshoeing into one and you will see that depending on pace and terrain you can burn a meal’s worth of calories in an hour.

Snowshoeing is accessible: As long as you can find a pair – which is tough this year because a lot of people are picking up the hobby – you can snowshoe anywhere with snow. City parks, soccer fields, public golf courses, across a lake, regional parks, state parks, literally any place with snow will work. I have taken to trailblazing my way through area city parks. Getting off of the beaten path is an ideal way to engage your mind and body. After all, you get to choose your own way through any outdoor space.

If you don’t have access to your own pair of shoes, many city, regional and state parks have rental programs.

Snowshoeing will help you enjoy a Minnesota winter: Before I picked up the hobby, I was pretty dang grumpy in the winter. Now I find myself wishing for three to four inches of snow each week. Just enough to cover the tracks I’ve laid in the nearby park, just enough to freshen up a landscape, just enough to whet my appetite to get out and see what I can see.

MY FAVORITE PLACES TO SNOWSHOE

This season, I set a goal for myself to snowshoe 100 miles. As I write this in early February, I am just under half-way there. To avoid doing a half-mile loop in my area park 200 times, I have ventured out into the metro area to find new places to trek. Here’s a quick list of my favorites, so far:

COMO GOLF COURSE: This public golf course offers wide open spaces to explore. Be mindful of the groomed ski trails, but do marvel in the number of people out enjoying a handful of different winter activities. Aside from Como, there are a handful of other public spaces in Ramsey County available for snowshoeing

WILLIAM O’BRIEN STATE PARK: Getting to the park is a bit of a haul – I generally like to stay closer to home – but this one is beautiful. The majority of the trails in the park are dedicated to cross-country skiers, but the St. Croix riverside trail open to hikers and snowshoers is among the most-scenic spots within an hour of Saint Paul. Afton and Fort Snelling State Parks also offer a whole lot of beauty.

LAKE JOHANNA: If you are a boat person, you likely long for a day when you can live on a lake. I’m not a boat person, but seeing the activities going on during a sunny January Saturday on Lake Johanna makes me think winter may be the better season to wish I lived on a lake. Ice anglers, skiers, skaters, walkers and fat-tire bicyclists simultaneously enjoying the fresh air was a great sight. If lakes make you nervous, Tony Schmidt Regional Park is right there, and offers some great trekking opportunities, too.

LAKE GERVAIS CHAIN: Lake Gervais leads into Keller Lake, and these two bodies of water in Little Canada and Maplewood provide a lot of shoreline to explore. The trek also allows passage under Highway 36 which is a novel experience.

I’m serious when I say you can snowshoe anywhere. If you have a favorite outdoor space to explore in the spring, summer or fall, know that it will make a great canvas for  snowshoeing, too.

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This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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Speaking of giving new winter activities a whirl, Twin Cities PBS Producer Luke Heikkila recently dusted off his bike and went for a ride on the Gateway Trail, only a dusting of snow beneath his tires. Sure, he’d rather be showshoeing – but when Minnesota serves up a brown December, he gets creative. Check out his Ode to Winter Biking.

“I’m 45 years old. If I haven’t yet learned to climb rocks, do parkour or ride really fast on a bike down a wooded path, it’s safe to assume it’s not going to happen. Though I firmly believe this is a time when I should be getting outside and into some wide open spaces more often, I also believe this is definitely a time where I shouldn’t be taking up valuable medical space or attention nursing a broken ankle, snapped ACL or concussion. I’m not a risk-taker. Never have been, never will be. I like to keep things slow and steady.” So Twin Cities Producer Luke Heikkila decided to try a little something called “forest bathing.” His experience is your reward.

Writer Julie Censullo hails from Washington State, and since moving to Minnesota, let’s just say she’s had some feelings living in a landscape without mountains. Until she discovered Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve, that is. In a single afternoon, she found the hills she’d been searching for – and an outdoor playground that beckons with adventure.