Explore the parks after dark: Candlelight trails, bonfires, and more

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Explore the parks after dark: Candlelight trails, bonfires, and more

You’ve done all the holiday shopping and planning and cooking and cleaning and wrapping and well, I could go on…  But I think what it comes down to is that we could all use a bit of a break and let someone else plan the next fun festivities and activities.

And happy to oblige, this is when our lovely state parks step in and say “I got this”.

Throughout January and the cold winter months to come, Minnesota state parks will be holding nighttime events perfect for a special date night, for a family outing, or for your own solo adventure. With few exceptions, these park events are completely free and provide you with all the equipment and gear.

Nature at Night: Explore our parks after dark

All you need to do is show up.

So whether you pick one or go to all of the events, you’ll get to fully explore and experience the beauty of Minnesota at night and have a truly magical and memorable winter.

New Year’s at Fort Snelling State Park

Skip the confetti and the drunken antics and head out to Fort Snelling State Park for a romantic evening or a family-friendly celebration. You’ll stroll along miles-worth of candlelit trails and illuminated pathways. And not to worry if it’s a cold night. You can stop and warm up alongside bonfires where you’ll be able to toast marshmallows and more. The event runs from 4pm—8pm so, just in case, you will still have plenty of time if you’d like to ring in the new year with maybe a few drunken shenanigans.

Date: December 31 from 4pm—8pm.

Luce Line State Trailhead Candlelight Walk

Located right in the heart of the metro, come out for one of the most popular events of the season. The Luce Line Candlelight Walk brings a little magic and enchantment to the cold Minnesota night with beautiful candle lanterns lighting the paths. The trail will be lit starting at the trailhead in Plymouth (Vicksburg Lane) all the way to Hwy 101 (Wayzata Public School District Office). So grab your friends or your sweetheart for a guaranteed magical night.

Date: January 4 from 5pm—8pm.

Jay Cooke State Park Art in the Dark

Get out of the cities and head to Jay Cooke State Park for an evening of exploring the park after dark. In the darkness, you’ll don snowshoes and wander the park’s paths as you delve into the the night through poetry, storytelling, and art. Discover the wonders of the nighttime, the beauty of the park, and of the nature that surrounds you in the darkness. Be sure to register ahead to reserve snowshoes in adult or kid sizes.

Date: January 5 from 6:30pm—8pm.

Minneopa State Park Winter Fest

Not too far from the metro (in actuality it’s probably the equivalent of your daily work commute) Minneopa State Park is hosting their fun-filled Winter Fest at the Minneopa Group Campground. This event will happen no matter the weather or whether or not there’s snow on the ground so don’t worry about cancellations.

They will have two candlelit illuminated trails marked for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and walkers with one trail leading through a floodplain forest and the other guiding you to the junction of Minneopa Creek and the Minnesota River. Afterwards, relax by the roaring bonfire and sip on some hot chocolate. They will provide roasting sticks so be sure to bring along your best s’mores supplies.

Date: January 19 from 5pm—8pm.

St. Croix State Park Candlelight Event

You’ll trek out on your own for this self-guided candlelight trail experience. Depending on the snow conditions, you’ll either walk, snowshoe, or ski this beautiful glowing path. The candlelit trail is over a mile winding through the forest and you’re welcome to explore and traverse the trail as many times as you like for an unforgettable wonder-filled winter adventure.  

Date: January 19 from 5pm—7pm.

Read this next: Take the kids on these holiday adventures and you’ll be their absolute favorite