Has cabin fever taken hold of your family? Are the kids getting restless? Is everyone feeling cooped up, now that we’re in the final stretch of winter? With an abundance of parks, trails, and winter recreation areas available in the St. Croix Valley, it’s time to embrace winter and enjoy the great outdoors! We’ve put together a list of great winter activities that the entire family can enjoy together.
Through the Trails
If you want to keep things simple, there’s nothing better than a brisk winter walk. Lake Elmo Park Reserve, William O’Brien State Park, Afton State Park and Willow River State Park all have winter trails that are available for multiple uses.
For something a bit more adventurous, there are other exciting ways to explore the trails than just using your feet. Both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are excellent ways to enjoy the snow.
If you don’t have equipment, 45 Degrees in downtown Stillwater offers snowshoe rentals for children as young as 3 years old, and cross-country skis for beginner and intermediate skiers.
Dylan Slivnik at 45 Degrees recommends snowshoeing as an excellent activity for younger children, since it’s a little bit easier to pick up than skiing.
In addition to the state parks, there are dedicated cross-country skiing trails at Brown’s Creek Nature Preserve and Trail and Pine Point Park.
If you’re looking for a getaway package that incorporates outdoor activity, try a day of snowshoeing with Wahoo Adventures. “With skiing, people look for groomed trails, but with snowshoeing, you can go anywhere—including on untouched snow,” says Kerri Kolstad, owner of Wahoo! Adventures.
Wahoo! Adventures has several snowshoeing events scheduled throughout the winter. They can also help you plan your own group adventure, such as a day of snowshoeing, a bonfire and a picnic lunch.
On the Ice
For many Minnesotans and Wisconsinites, ice fishing is practically a rite of passage. Luckily, the St. Croix River offers easy access to a variety of fish, including bass, crappie and pike. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in both Wisconsin and Minnesota offers a breakdown of the different fish you can catch, plus general information on ice fishing and resources and activities for young winter anglers.
The St. Croix Valley area also boasts some great outdoor skating rinks, including in Stillwater’s Lowell Park. If you have your own skates, you’re set to go. If you don’t, you can rent them from the St. Croix Recreation Center. The recreation center also offers skating lessons and programs for beginners, as well as open skating, special events and options for both kids and adults.
If you’re on the Wisconsin side of the river, Hudson has similar options with the Hudson Sports & Civic Center. While the center is often being used for hockey or other skating programs, they have open skating every Sunday evening and on certain Saturday nights.
If all that’s not enough, we’ll venture a guess that there’s a neighborhood pond or park nearby where you can get your skating in.
Down the Slopes
Whether tubing, skiing or snowboarding, you’re sure to find something everyone can enjoy at one of the downhill recreation areas around St. Croix Valley.
As a local Vail Resorts destinations, Afton Alps in Hastings offers a variety of skiing and snowboarding trails for beginners and experts, plus lessons and options for beginners. Their specialty is helping anyone enjoy skiing.
If tubing is your activity of choice, Badlands Sno-Park, Green Acres and Eko Backen all specialize in the family-friendly activity. Green Acres is family-owned and offers hills for various skill levels. They do require tubers be at least 42 inches tall to tube alone, but they also have a family hill that is fun for all ages. For the non-tubers of the group, there’s always snacks and hot chocolate in the chalet.
Badlands and Eko Backen also offer a variety of tubing runs that are great for all ages. Eko Backen also makes its own snow, allowing you to keep coming back even when we’re in a dry spell. Both parks are open weekends and offer options for group outings such as birthdays or school events.
Or consider heading to Trollhaugen Recreation Center. It’s further north, in Dresser, Wis., but it offers skiing (cross-country and downhill), snowboarding and tubing. The website features a snow report and trail maps. There are lessons ranging from beginner to ski racing programs in both private and group settings. The recreation center even offers a preschool ski program with lessons designed for kids as young as 4 years old.
(Annie Berthiaume and youngest daughter Frances play in the snow.)
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