5 great places to hike or snowshoe in Minnesota this winter

Snowshoeing on Blueberry Lake in Bear Head Lake State Park, all photos by Holly Scherer

Minnesota’s arrowhead region is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. Every season is filled with its own magic. Whether it’s the raging spring waterfalls, summer wildflowers, fall colors, or fresh winter snow, there’s always an abundance of beauty to behold. There’s something extra special about the northeast Minnesota winter. This popular outdoor travel destination becomes quieter as the air gets crisp, lakes freeze over, and the forest is covered in snow.

Driving through the region or renting a cabin in the woods will fill you with a profound sense of peace. But to really experience the magic of Minnesota winter, you need to get out in it. Hiking and snowshoeing are wonderful ways to get exercise, enjoy the fresh air, and marvel at magical world-class scenic vistas.

But with hundreds of miles of trails throughout the three-million-acre Superior National Forest, Voyageurs National Park, and 10 state parks, it’s hard to know where to start. Many of these trails are challenging with plenty of rocks, roots, and elevation changes in perfect conditions. Add a layer of ice or snow and they become a bit more dangerous during the long Minnesota winter.

I want you to enjoy Minnesota winter as much as I do by making it easy for you to find the perfect trail to hike or snowshoe. I’ve hiked a portion of nearly every trail in the region and I’ve narrowed it down to the top five must-see trials in northeast Minnesota.

Hike or snowshoe?

Should you hike or snowshoe? I enjoy both activities during winter in Minnesota. I like the ease and simplicity of hiking. I can maintain a quicker pace and there’s less gear to thaw out and dry when I’m finished. But breaking trail in snowshoes after a fresh snow is crazy fun and a really great workout.

Whenever I head to northeast Minnesota in the winter, I bring both my snowshoes and winter hiking boots with traction devices. If it’s been a while since a fresh snow and the trail is nice and packed, I’ll take the easy route and hike. But if there’s fresh snow and the trail is lightly used, I’m delighted to put on a pair of snowshoes.

If you’re new to the outdoors and don’t have all the gear yet, don’t worry. The trails I’m recommending are popular so you’re sure to find one that’s been packed down. There’s also the option to rent snowshoes from a state park or local outfitter. You just might find a new winter obsession.

Note that many of the trails are shared by skiers and snowshoers. Take extra care to stay off of the ski trails to ensure everyone can enjoy the Minnesota winter trails.

Now, in no particular order, here are my picks for the five best places to hike or snowshoe in Minnesota this winter.

Snowshoeing Bear Head Lake State Park

5 must-see Minnesota winter trails

Bear Head Lake State Park

Bear Head Lake is one of my favorite Minnesota state parks and the place I fell in love with camping. Trying to get a campsite on a weekend during the height of summer can be difficult here. But in the winter, you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself. The 3.5-mile Norberg Lake trail is stunning and not very challenging, even for beginners. If you’re more experienced and up for a challenge, the Becky and Blueberry Lake trails may leave you feeling like you have the entire park all to yourself. Don’t forget to pack water and snacks.

Learn more about Bear Head Lake State Park’s trails and amenities here >

Winter Hiking at Oberg Mountain
Winter Hiking at Oberg Mountain

Oberg Mountain

Probably the most popular fall colors hike in Minnesota, Oberg Mountain sees a lot of traffic. During a visit this past fall, I saw cars parked on both sides of the road, leaving only a single lane for traffic. But hike Oberg Mountain in the winter and there’s a good chance you’ll have the trail to yourself. The short 2.5-mile trail offers an abundance of scenic vistas overlooking inland lakes, the Superior National Forest, and Lake Superior. You won’t be disappointed when you decided to visit Oberg Mountain this Minnesota winter.

Learn more about Oberg Mountain here >

Icy shore on Lake Superior at Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park

Another favorite Minnesota State Park, Tettegouche has more than 20 miles of trails throughout more than 9,000 acres. Many of these trails are difficult in perfect conditions, making them treacherous during some Minnesota winters. But at just over 1.5 miles, the trail out to shovel point is easy and well-packed. This hike is especially wonderful on days when big winter storms cross the big lake. There are countless overlooks to stop and marvel at the enormous crashing waves. Just be sure and keep a safe distance or you’ll have to hike back cold and wet.

Learn more about Tettegouche State Park here >

George Washington Pines

This trail is so beautiful in the winter that I wrote an entire article about this one trail that you can read here. Along with Bear Head Lake State Park, it’s my favorite place to snowshoe in the state. The narrow trail is relatively flat and winds through towering pines, snow-covered firs, and cedars. At just over two miles, you’ll have plenty of time to take it slow and enjoy the magic of Minnesota winter.

Learn more and download a map of George Washington Pines here >

Snowshoeing George Washington Pines

Grand Portage State Park

The last Minnesota winter hike takes us to the international border and the beautiful pigeon river. From the modern wayside rest and visitor’s center, it’s a two-mile round-trip hike to the High Falls of the Pigeon River. Northeast Minnesota’s majestic waterfalls are spectacular in the winter but many can be challenging to get to. But the hike to the High Falls is mostly flat and well-used. Don’t forget your camera.

Learn more and prepare for your trip to Grand Portage State Park here >

Winter in Minnesota is an enchanting experience. You’ll enjoy dramatic landscapes and savor peace and quiet like you’ve never experienced. Be sure and visit these five trails to enjoy the best winter hiking and snowshoeing in the state.

Holly Scherer is a Minnesota-based writer, photographer, outdoorswoman, and guide. She’s most at home in the great outdoors; camping, hiking, paddling, cycling, and gardening. When she’s not on an adventure, she and her husband live in the Twin Cities where they’re fond of saying, “home is where we store our outdoor gear.”

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