Winter Hiking at Fort Snelling State Park

Winter Hiking at Fort Snelling State Park

Fort Snelling State Park is one of the most popular parks of all the Minnesota State Parks, primarily because it’s in Minneapolis/St Paul borders. Even with its close proximity to us, this has been one of the hardest Hiking Club Passwords to get.

Timing, weather, and the stars haven’t aligned. One thing we found out, winter hiking at Fort Snelling State Park is just as popular as the summertime.

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The Hiking Club Password Attempts at Fort Snelling State Park

To explain just how hard it has been to get the password, let me break it down for you:

Attempt 1: Got to the park, but the island was flooded. We were able to hike along the paved bike trail. From now one, we started to check the park conditions on the webpage before doing any hiking.

Attempt 2: No flood, but the kids were struggling with the hike so we turned back early. The Hiking Club Trail on Pike Island makes this very easy, with multiple shortcuts on the loop. They promised to go back with me and complete it later.

Attempt 3: Not an official attempt but I had been keeping my eyes on the park conditions all of 2019. They were flooded starting in spring and didn’t re-open access to the island until Fall. At this point, we had too much going on to make it out there.

Attempt 4: Winter! I completed the hike! Except it was the alternative hike during winter, either didn’t include the password sign or I missed it completely. I think it was the later based on the way the trail was set up.

Downed Tree on the Winter Hiking Trail

Winter Hiking Converted Trails at MN State Parks

We learned at William Obrien State Park that sometimes the state parks offer an alternative to the hiking club trail. During winter, they transform the hiking club trails into cross-country ski trails. This leaves the hikers to either take a hiatus or look for alternative trails. This isn’t the case at all parks.

Nerstrand, for example, has a packed trail. The hiking club trail is in full use. Other times they cross over to snowshoe trails. That’s why you should always look at the state parks’ maps to see if they have alternative winter trails.

Fort Snelling State Park has an alternative winter map. The Hiking Club Trail is now a cross country ski trail. The hikers can use an inside loop.

According to the map, it was marked as a Hiking Club trail and should be 2.7 miles. The cross-country ski/summer hiking club trail is 3 miles. The reality is something completely different.

Fort Snelling Summer vs Winter Map
Winter vs Summer trail maps. The highlighted route is the Hiking Club Trail

What we found was something completely different. The path didn’t seem to follow the map. The trail was packed and had ‘Winter Hiking’ signs.

It was not marked as ‘Hiking Club’ as listed on the map. The other things that differed were that we ended up crossing the ski trail on more than one occasion.

As with the lack of hiking club signs, we also didn’t have any hiking club passwords. Lastly, instead of doing 2.7 miles, we ended at just over 3 miles. This was probably because of the deviations.

Winter Walking Trail Signs at Fort Snelling

The Winter Hiking Trail at Fort Snelling

The hiking club trail as I mentioned changed during the winter. Instead of going on the outside of the island, the trail made a number four path.

The first part of the four, is mostly wooded, giving us more variety and a few hills. They were more dips than hills. The terrain was mostly flat otherwise. Because of the recent warming we had, any hill was a little slippery. Ice cleats were not needed.

Trail signs clearly marked where to go. The only time there wasn’t a clear sign was in the very beginning. The map shows a clearing with three trails, there were four.

From the left, take the third pathway. The second one leads to a dead end. Otherwise, there was no map once you were on the trail.

Groomed packed hiking trials

On the return loop, it followed the powerlines. The trees were all off on the distance. It was even ground and went a lot fast because there were no twists and turns.

This is where we ran into deer. Not just one, but we saw them almost the whole length of the island. In the two years, I’ve been on these trails, this was the first time we saw wildlife like this.

And it was in the city park of all places. Maybe the country deer are more skittish.

Deer in the forest at Fort Snelling State Park

What Other Things Can You Do in Winter at Fort Snelling State Park?

Fort Snelling State Park has a ton of other activities and people were doing it all today. Ice Fishing on the pond. There are also snowshoeing trails too.

People were snowshoeing on the Hiking Club Trail but with how packed the trail was, it wouldn’t be that much fun. Stick to the snowshoeing trails if you want a better experience.

Having fun on a hike

Winter Hiking and Other Tips

As far as winter hiking, there isn’t much different about hiking styles. Most of it is having the proper gear and staying motivated.

One thing I notice myself doing more in the wintertime is watching my footing a lot more. I have to remind myself to look up.

Also, if you have younger kids with you, remember to have a little fun. Winter should never be a reason to hang up those boots. You can do this year-round.

Winter Hiking at Fort Snelling State Park

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Winter Hiking at Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota

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