Ski or snowshoe by candlelight

On a cold winter's night, follow the twinkling lights.

The Luminary Loppet in Minneapolis.
A forest of glowing pyramids lights the way at Minneapolis' Luminary Loppet.

If you do only one thing outdoors in winter, do it by candlelight.

Nothing is more magical than a forest full of flickering lights. I got hooked when I skied in Minnesota's Mille Lacs Kathio State Park.

A fat blue moon hung in the sky, sparkling hoarfrost made twigs as nubby as reindeer antlers and more than 400 glowing bags gave the forest a fairy-tale aura.

That was especially memorable, but so was every other time: on the Red Cedar State Trail from Menomonie, past the cascading ice of the Blue Wall; on Chequamegon Bay, with fireworks bursting ahead; along the shore of Lake Bemidji, with city lights twinkling on the horizon.

But all of the events are lovely, and all end with hot drinks and bonhomie around the bonfire. They're all put on with the help of volunteers - a gift to anyone who wants to venture out on a cold winter's night.

Many parks line only their groomed ski trails with lights, but some also light trails for snowshoeing and hiking.

Most will hold a candlelight walk if there's not enough snow, but always check for cancellations , especially if it's been very cold or a storm is expected.

More and more nature centers are holding smaller events.

And you can always make your own luminary course with friends; see How to make ice luminaries.

If you want to ski with even more light, look for an event close to the full moons. In 2022 , they line up with holiday weekends: Jan. 17, Feb. 16 and March 18 .

Some ski trails are lighted with electricity daily or on weekends. For more, see For skiers, lighted trails.

Candlelight skiing in Michigan.
State parks offer dozens of candlelight ski, snowshoe and hike nights.

Some parks rent skis and/or snowshoes. For a really special evening, rent a camper cabin or yurt and ski right up to your door when you're finished (reserve far in advance). Most events are held 6-9 p.m., but check for details.

Beginners can try candlelight events on bicycle trails, which are flat. The event on the Red Cedar State Trail from Menomonie, Wis., is a particularly good one.

If you need to know how to get started in the sport, see Cross-country skiing 101.

For more, see our Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing sections.

Here are the candlelight nights in 2022 .

MINNESOTA

Dec. 31 , Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Skiers relax by the bonfire.
After a candlelight ski in Michigan, skiers relax by the bonfire.

Jan. 7, Luce Line State Trail from Plymouth, walk.

Jan. 8, Minnesota state parks : Itasca, lantern-lit snowshoe.

Jan. 14 , Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Jan. 14, Thompson County Park in West St. Paul, ski or hike, $8.

Jan. 15, Minnesota state parks : Forestville-Mystery Cave near Preston, hike. Lac Qui Parle near Montevideo, hike. Minneopa near Mankato, walk.

Jan. 28 , Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Jan. 28 , Spring Lake Park Reserve near Hastings, ski or hike, $8.

Jan. 28 , Gateway State Trail in Mahtomedi, Minn., walk.

Jan. 28 , Baylor Regional Park near Norwood Young America, ski or dog sled.

Jan. 29 , Mora Lantern Loppet at the Vasaloppet Ski Area, 15 miles north of Mora,  and 10 miles east of Isle, a town on the southeast corner of Lake Mille Lacs, ski.

Feb. 5, City of Lakes Luminary Loppet in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood, ski or snowshoe on Lake of the Isles, past magical ice ruins, pillars and a twinkling island. Reserve early for the time slot you want.

Feb. 5, Minnesota state parks : Itasca, lantern-lit snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 11, Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Feb. 11, Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, ski, snowshoe or hike, $8.

Candlelight skiing in a state park.
Ice candles illuminate a state-park trail in Minnesota.

Feb. 12 , Minnesota state parks : Mille Lacs Kathio near Onamia, ski or snowshoe.

Feb. 12 , Ney Nature Center in Henderson, ski or snowshoe.

Feb. 19, Sugarbush Trail from Oberg Mountain trailhead near Tofte, ski and snowshoe.

*Feb. 26, Baylor Regional Park near Norwood Young America, ski or dog sled.

WISCONSIN

Dec. 31 , Trees for Tomorrow in Eagle River, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Jan. 1, Wisconsin state parks : Mirror Lake near Wisconsin Dells, ski, snowshoe or hike.

The candlelight ski at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Skiers and snowshoers gather around a bonfire during the popular candlelight event in Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Jan. 7, 14, 21 and 28 , Riveredge Nature Center in Saukville, lantern-lit ski, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Jan. 8, Wisconsin state parks : Wildcat Mountain near Ontario, ski, snowshoe or hike and star-gazing.

Jan. 9 , Rhinelander Community Trails in Rhinelander, ski.

Jan. 13, Monk Botanical Gardens in Wausau, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Jan. 14-15 , Woodland Dunes Nature Center in Two Rivers, ski, snowshoe or hike.

Jan. 14 and 28 and Feb. 25, Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton, ski, snowshoe or hike.

Jan. 15 , Minocqua Winter Park, ski or snowshoe.

Jan. 15, Aldo Leopold Nature Center/Woodland Park in Madison, snowshoe or hike.

Jan. 15 , Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha, $12 including snowshoes, hot cocoa and mug.

Jan. 21 , Navarino Wildlife Area near Appleton, snowshoe or ski, $5 or food donation.

Jan. 21 , Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve near Green Bay, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Jan. 22, Minooka Park in Waukesha, part of the Janboree festival, hike. Sign up in advance for starting slots.

Jan. 22 , Warner Park in Madison, snowshoe.

Jan. 28 , Red Cedar State Trail from Menomonie, ski or hike.

Jan. 29 , MECCA Trails near Mercer, ski, snowshoe or hike.

Jan. 29, Wisconsin state parks : Devil's Lake near Baraboo, snowshoe or hike. Whitefish Dunes near Sturgeon Bay, ski, snowshoe or hike. Kettle Moraine-Lapham Peak near Delafield, ski or hike.

Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25 , Riveredge Nature Center in Saukville, lantern-lit ski, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Candlelight ski on the Red Cedar Trail.
On the Red Cedar State Trail, an ice wall is lighted for the late-January candlelight ski.

Feb. 4 , MacKenzie Center near Poynette, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 4 , Navarino Wildlife Area near Appleton, snowshoe or ski, $5 or food donation.

Feb. 4 , Crex Meadows near Grantsburg, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 5, Wisconsin state parks : Mirror Lake near Wisconsin Dells, ski, snowshoe or hike. Black River Forest near Black River Falls, ski, snowshoe or hike. Flambeau River near Winter, ski, snowshoe or hike. Copper Falls near Mellen, ski, snowshoe or hike. Kettle Moraine State Forest-Northern Unit near Campbellsport, ski or hike. New Glarus Woods near New Glarus, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 5 , Stower Seven Lakes State Trail from Amery, ski, snowshoe or fat-bike.

Feb. 10 , Lake Mendota in Madison, snowshoe or hike, part of the Memorial Union's Winter Carnival.

Feb. 10-11 , Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve near Green Bay, snowshoe or hike, $5.

Feb. 11-12, Woodland Dunes Nature Center in Two Rivers, ski, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 11-12 , Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary near Sarona, hike.

Feb. 12 , Northland College in Ashland, ski.

Candlelight hike at St. Croix State Park.
Hikers follow a trail above the river at Minnesota's St. Croix State Park.

Feb. 12, Wisconsin state parks : Devil's Lake near Baraboo, snowshoe or hike. Wyalusing near Prairie du Chien, snowshoe or hike. Governor Thompson near Crivitz, ski or hike. Interstate, ski, snowshoe or hike. Richard Bong near Burlington, snowshoe or hike. Newport near Ellison Bay, ski, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 12 , Afterhours Ski Trail in Brule River State Forest near Superior, ski or snowshoe.

Feb. 14, Monk Botanical Gardens in Wausau, Valentine's walk, $10 with dessert.

Feb. 18 , Crossroads at Big Creek Nature Preserve in Sturgeon Bay, ski, snowshoe or hike, part of Fire & Ice Weekend.

Feb. 18 , Navarino Wildlife Area near Appleton, snowshoe or ski, $5 or food donation.

Feb. 18 , Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center near Coon Valley, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 19 , Awassa Trails near St. German, ski, snowshoe or fat bike.

Feb. 19 , Minocqua Winter Park, ski or snowshoe.

Feb. 19, Book Across the Bay benefit race/tour across Chequamegon Bay between Ashland and Washburn, 10-kilometer ski, snowshoe or walk.

Feb. 26, Three Bridges Park in Milwaukee, snowshoe or walk on the Hank Aaron State Trail.

Candlelight skiing in a state park.
A skier glides past candles in northern Minnesota's Lake Bemidji State Park.

Feb. 26, Wisconsin state parks : Hartman Creek near Waupaca, ski, snowshoe or hike.

March 4 , Howl Adventure Center in Bayfield, ski, snowshoe or fat bike, part of Winter Festival.

March 12, Wisconsin state parks : Devil's Lake near Baraboo, hike.

UP AND WEST MICHIGAN

Dec. 22 and 29 , Mount McSauba recreation are a in Charlevoix, ski, snowshoe or hike.

Dec. 26, Maasto Hiito trails in Hancock, ski, snowshoe or snow bike.

Dec. 31, Michigan state parks : Mitchell near Cadillac, snowshoe or hike.

Jan. 7, 14, 21 and 28 , Mount McSauba recreation are a in Charlevoix, ski, snowshoe or hike.

Book Across the Bay skiers.
Skiers head out from Ashland on Book Across the Bay.

Jan. 7, 14, 21 and 28, Michigan state parks : Mitchell near Cadillac, snowshoe or hike.

Jan. 8, Michigan state parks : Ludington, lantern-lit ski or snowshoe.

Jan. 8, Twilight Turtle Trek on Mackinac Island, lantern-lit ski or snowshoe.

Jan. 21, Michigan state parks : Van Riper west of Marquette, snowshoe or hike.

Jan. 22, Michigan state parks : Ludington, lantern-lit ski or snowshoe.

Jan. 29, Michigan state parks : Fayette Historic on the Garden Peninsula, lantern-lit, ski and snowshoe. Hartwick Pines near Grayling, lantern-lit snowshoe or hike. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park near Silver City, Mich., lantern-lit ski, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 4, 11, 18 and 25 , Mount McSauba recreation are a in Charlevoix, ski, snowshoe or hike.

Skiers on the Luminary Loppet.
Skiers glide from lake to lake in Minneapolis' Luminary Loppet.

Feb. 4, Michigan state parks : Van Riper west of Marquette, snowshoe or hike. Mitchell near Cadillac, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 5, Twilight Turtle Trek on Mackinac Island, lantern-lit ski or snowshoe.

Feb. 5, Michigan state parks : Tahquamenon Falls near Newberry, lantern-lit snowshoe. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness near Silver City, lantern-lit, ski and snowshoe (or hike unless trails are icy). Ludington, lantern-lit ski or snowshoe.

Feb. 11, 18 and 25, Mitchell State Park near Cadillac, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 12, Michigan state parks : Tahquamenon Falls near Newberry, lantern-lit snowshoe. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park near Silver City, lantern-lit ski, snowshoe or hike.

Feb. 19, Michigan state parks : Tahquamenon Falls near Newberry, lantern-lit snowshoe. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park near Silver City, lantern-lit ski, snowshoe or hike.

Candles light the Root River State Trail.
In southeast Minnesota, luminaries line the Root River State Trail for the annual candlelight ski from Whalan.

Feb. 26, Michigan state parks : Tahquamenon Falls near Newberry, lantern-lit snowshoe. Hartwick Pines near Grayling, lantern-lit, snowshoe or hike. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park near Silver City, lantern-lit ski, snowshoe or hike.

March 5, Twilight Turtle Trek on Mackinac Island, lantern-lit ski or snowshoe.

ILLINOIS

Jan. 14-15 , Harrison Benwell Conservation Area near Wonder Lake, ski or hike.

Feb. 11-12, Marengo Ridge Conservation Area in Marengo, ski or hike.

MORE EVENTS

For moonlight snowshoeing and other snowshoe events, check state parks in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin (check "candlelight" under "Type").

Though the park events are free, most state parks and park reserves require a vehicle permit for the evening. Events in Minnesota also require a state ski pass, $10 daily and $25 annual.

In Wisconsin , some events require a state trails pass, $5 daily or $25 annual; the pass also is good for bicycling trails.

Last updated on February 5, 2022

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