Candlelight events begin at Minnesota state parks and trails

Care to see winter soften before your very eyes? Candlelight has that effect. Each year staff at Minnesota state parks and trails place lanterns, candles and other luminaries along short trails and invite the public in for a candle-lit walk.

In some cases, visitors can also snowshoe or cross-country ski over a trail glowing with soft light. The evening wraps up with a steaming cup of cocoa or cider near a crackling bonfire.

More than 30 candlelight events are scheduled at Minnesota state parks and trails this winter, starting on Saturday, Dec. 30, at Zippel Bay State Park on the Canadian border and continuing through the end of February. The three candlelight events taking place closest to the Twin Cities include:

4-8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve) at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul.
5-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, at Afton State Park in Hastings.
4:30-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, at William O’Brien State Park near Stillwater.

Other candlelight events are scattered throughout the state, offering a variety of terrain and scenery. For the complete schedule—including dates, times and other details—visit

“Candlelight brings out winter’s soft side,” said Erika Rivers, director of the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division. “The flickering light against snow creates an unforgettable experience. An evening walk becomes so much more on a candle-lit trail aided by light from stars and a full moon.”

Snowshoes and skis can be rented or checked out at some parks. Call in advance to confirm the availability of equipment and to reserve what you will need.

The candlelight events are free, but a vehicle permit is required to enter a state park ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit). Those who don’t already have a vehicle permit can purchase one at the park on the night of the event, but getting one online in advance will save time.

Skiers age 16 and older also need the Great Minnesota Ski Pass to participate in the candle-lit ski events. The ski pass ($6/one-day pass, $20/single-season pass, and $55/three-season pass) allows access to hundreds of miles of trails in state parks, state forests, city parks and other public lands throughout Minnesota (visit for a complete list and map).

Note that events may be changed or canceled due to weather. For information on cancellations, call the park office phone number listed on the park website or send an email to

For more ideas on what to do at state parks this winter, pick up a copy of the new winter Programs and Events brochure at the nearest state park or request one from the DNR Information Center.

Online resources include the “Winter Activities Guide” page at and the calendar of events at

For more information, email or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.