For skiers, lighted trails

Night is still prime time for everything under the stars - skiing, snowshoeing and walking.

Candlelight skiing in a state park.
On lighted trails, first admire the sunset and then the stars.

Every year, candlelight ski and snowshoe treks get a little more popular.

But snow, it turns out, isn't the important part. There wasn't enough for snowshoeing earlier this month at Horicon Marsh in southeast Wisconsin, but more than 2,000 people showed up anyway for a candlelight hike.

People just like to be outside, following a trail of lights under a starry sky.

In Wisconsin, candlelight events are so popular that the state parks schedule them year-round, including an August beach walk at Whitefish Dunes near Sturgeon Bay.

As popular as the candlelight events are, you don't need them to ski or hike at night. Many trails around the region are lighted every night in winter: by kerosene lanterns, solar lights, twinkle lights and even airport runway lights.

The lights allow skiers to extend the short winter days. On Minnesota's Gunflint Trail, Golden Eagle Resort lights a loop near the lodge with kerosene lanterns. Across the lake, Bearskin Lodge lines a loop with twinkle lights.

Most of the trails are either flat or gently rolling. Once, while staying at a cabin near Gooseberry Falls State Park on Minnesota's North Shore, I took my two young children to ski on the lighted trail in Two Harbors. It was either that or watch a DVD-and who needs that on a perfect winter night?

Here's a list of lighted ski trails in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois.

Some charge fees, some ask for donations and many require the Great Minnesota Ski Pass or Wisconsin Trail Pass.

For a list of candlelight or lantern-light events, see Ski or snowshoe by candlelight.


Elver Park in Madison . In the southwest corner of the city, the 6 kilometers of trails on the west side of the park are lighted.

Kettle Moraine State Forest-Lapham Peak near Delafield . In this park near Milwaukee, 2½ miles of ski trails are lighted until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The park also has snow-making equipment. For snow conditions, call the hotline, 262-646-4421.

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

Greenbush Trail near Greenbush . This trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit has more than 2 kilometers of trail that's lighted until 9:30 p.m.

Nine Mile County Forest near Wausau . There's a 6.3 kilometer loop lighted daily until 9 p.m.

American Birkebeiner Ski Trail between Hayward and Seeley . There are 3½ lighted kilometers on three loops at the Hatchery Park trailhead off Wisconsin 77 east of Hayward and 5 kilometers at the County Road OO trailhead east of Seeley.

Barron Nordic Trails in Barron . South of the high school football field, there are 3 kilometers of lighted trail.

Balsam Branch Ski Trails near Amery . These trails between St. Croix Falls and Amery, just south of U.S. 8, include 4 kilometers that are lighted.

Timberland Hills Trail north of Cumberland . There are 2.5 kilometers of lighted trail at Timberland West, 1½ miles south of the main trails on County Road H.

Tower Ridge Ski Trails near Eau Claire. This ski area on the east edge of town include 3 kilometers of lighted trail.


Wirth Park Winter Recreation Area in Minneapolis . Next to the chalet, the 3.5 km Hap Lutter Trail is lighted and also has snow-making capabilities.

Four Three Rivers Park District reserves in the suburbs of Minneapolis have trails that are lighted until 10 p.m., some with man-made snow:

Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove . The Northern Lights Trail has 3.3 kilometers, and the Valley Trail 2.5 kilometers with man-made snow.

Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington . The Lake Trail has 3.3 kilometers, and 5 kilometers of the Star Loop and other trails also have man-made snow.

French Regional Park in Plymouth . The Lagoon, Lakeview and Skyline trails have 3.9 kilometers.

Cleary Lake Regional Park in Prior Lake . The Poplar Creek and Lakeside trails have 4.6 kilometers.

Battle Creek Regional Park in St. Paul . The western section of this county park on the southeast edge of town has 4 kilometers of lighted trail.

The lantern-lit trail at Golden Eagle.
On the Gunflint Trail, Golden Eagle Lodge lights a loop with lanterns.

Lake Elmo Park Reserve in Lake Elmo . This county park east of St. Paul has three loops with 10 kilometers of lighted trails.

Quarry Park & Nature Preserve in Waite Park. These former granite quarries  on the southwest edge of St. Cloud include 4.2 miles of trails lighted until 10 p.m.

Pine Valley Ski Trails in Cloquet . These trails on the west edge of town include 2.5 kilometers that are lighted until 9:30 p.m.

Lester-Amity Ski Trail in Duluth . In Lester Park, the trails include 5 kilometers that are lighted. It's off East Superior Street at 61st Avenue, on the east edge of town. There's also a chalet operated by the Duluth XC Ski Club.

Snowflake Nordic Ski Center in Duluth. High in the hills above town, this private ski center includes 5 kilometers of lighted trail.

Erkki Harju Ski Trail in Two Harbors . A 3 kilometer loop on the east edge of town, next to the golf course, is lighted. From Minnesota 61, turn onto County Road 2; it's less than a mile.

Central Gunflint Trail . At the halfway mark on the Gunflint Trail, Golden Eagle and Bearskin resorts have 1.5 kilometer loops lighted at night. Golden Eagle lights its loop by by kerosene lantern on weekends and twinkle lights weeknights.  Across the lake, Bearskin Lodge lights its loop by twinkle lights.

Pincushion Trails in Grand Marais . These trails, just up the Gunflint Trail from town, include 1.6 kilometers that are lighted.

Giants Ridge near Biwabik . The three-kilometer Northern Lights loop is lighted on weekends.

Legion Park Trail in Grand Rapids . These wooded trails on the northwest edge of town include 2.8 kilometers that are lighted.

Paul Bunyan Arboretum in Baxter-Brainerd . The trails at the arboretum, behind Westgate Mall, include 5 kilometers that are lighted until 10 p.m.

Montebello Trail in Bemidji . This trail in Bemidji City Park, on the northwest end of town, includes 2 kilometers that are lighted until 10 p.m.


Michigan Tech trails in Houghton . The university has 7.5 kilometers of trails lighted until 9 p.m.

Swedetown Trails in Calumet .  From the chalet, 4.5 kilometers of trails are lighted.

Blueberry Ridge Pathway south of Marquette. These trails, managed by Van Riper State Park, include 1.7 miles that are lighted until 10 p.m.

Algonquin Ski Trail in Sault Ste. Marie . These trails on the west edge of town, managed by Brimley State Park, include 2 miles that are lighted.


McHenry County Conservation District has installed solar lights on trails in two of its parks. From November through early March, they're on until 9 p.m.

Pleasant Valley near Woodstock . There's a half-mile loop.

Hickory Grove Highlands near Cary . There's a one-mile loop.

Last updated on December 21, 2019

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