Brainard: Step into winter’s shimmering beauty at area candlelight event

LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER The bridge and Historic Forestville last winter. Imagine it in the glowing beauty of luminaries. Or better yet, see it for yourself during the candlelight snowshoe event at the park Saturday, Feb. 8. Check the column for details on this and a candlelight ski at Whalan Feb. 1.
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You’ve gotten used to winter by now. It’s a fine time to get out and embrace the recreational opportunities that come with the season here in the upper Midwest.

I think most recreation entities have figured this out. This is the time of year, for example, that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) trots out a full schedule of candlelight cross-country ski, snowshoe and hiking events.

DNR invites you

If candlelight events are not already an annual tradition for you, let this be the season where you get out and experience winter adventure in a whole new light!

Snowy trails, luminaries, and a gentle candlelight glow are all waiting for you at one of the DNR’s winter candlelight events. They feature short, easy trails lit with lanterns or luminaries. Enjoy their glow as you ski, snowshoe, or walk the trails. Go as far as you like and warm up with refreshments and a fire when you’re done. These events are free, family friendly, and perfect for anyone looking to spend a fun evening in Minnesota state parks!

For the full list across the state, visit Let’s take a look at what’s available locally.


On Saturday, Feb. 1, Whalan will be host its 28th annual candlelight ski from 5-9 p.m. Cross-country skiers will enjoy the mile-and-a-half round trip on the illuminated Root River State Trail. There will be a bonfire at each end of the route to let skiers warm up and enjoy some friendly conversation. A soup supper begins at 5 p.m. in Whalan’s City Hall before you head out on the trail. I’ve attended more than once, and the selections are always tasty.

Even if you don’t ski, you’re still certainly welcome to enjoy the meal and walk the route. Here I should ask that you walk beside the groomed ski tracks, so they stay in good shape for the skiers. A DNR ski pass is required if you ski. It can be purchased on the DNR website.

The event is sponsored by the Minnesota DNR and the Whalan Legion Ladies Auxiliary. The soup supper is priced ala-carte. City Hall is located at 224 2nd Ave. in Whalan. Event details are at


A new event – a candlelight snowshoe hike – will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8, from 6-9 p.m., at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, located between Preston, Wykoff and Spring Valley.

Snowshoe or hike on trails lit by luminaries across the historic bridge. See Historic Forestville by full moon and hike a candlelit one-mile trail. Warm up by the fire afterwards with some hot cocoa, cookies, and roasted marshmallows in the picnic shelter. Stop in anytime during this ongoing event. Snowshoes available to borrow at the picnic shelter. The trail starts at the park’s picnic shelter, which had renovation work done last fall.

Take note: volunteers are needed for this event. If interested – and it would be a great, fun experience – please call the park at 507-937-3251. Help is needed with set-up and take-down, as well as assistance during event itself.

Event details are at

Before you go

Anyone age 16 or older must carry a signed ski pass when using groomed cross-country ski trails in state parks or state forests, or on state trails or grant-in-aid trails. See

Many parks offer rentals. See a list of cross-country ski rentals at or snowshoe rentals at

Be safe and smart in cold weather. Also, know that restrooms and vault toilets are open daily at all Minnesota state parks throughout the year.

Before you go, find out the snow conditions at

Please note: Occasionally, due to extreme weather or poor snow conditions, an event may need to be canceled or changed. Generally, a candlelight event will go on even when there's no snow; it just becomes a candlelight hike, rather than snowshoe or ski! When in doubt, call the park.

Purchase a vehicle permit today and get a year of unlimited visits to all of Minnesota's state parks and recreation areas. See

Lisa Brainard still enjoys lifelong pursuits of the outdoors, history and travel as able following a serious accident and stroke in September 2012. She’s written this Journey vs. Destination column weekly for over 15 years.