Winter Light From Above And Below

By Deborah Locke, Information Officer, Minnesota DNR


At night not too many decades into the past, Minnesotans lit the farmland and countryside only with the use of lanterns. The image of a soft light when it falls on new snow, combined with lights from the moon and stars, is a sight to behold.

Move ahead to the winter of 2019 and you can witness the same image in a natural setting. Each year many of Minnesota’s state park staff line the perimeters of short trails with lanterns, candles and other luminaries, and invite the public in for a candlelit walk. Depending on snow depth, visitors may choose to snowshoe or cross-country ski, depending on the park, trail location and snow amount. Following an evening walk, hot cocoa or hot cider will be available near a bonfire where your insides and outside will warm up simultaneously.

“Few things transform a winter evening like soft light on snow,” said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota State Parks and Trails. “Lit candles and lanterns help to create an unforgettable experience, especially beneath the light from a starry sky and full moon.”

More than 30 candlelight events are scheduled at Minnesota state parks and trails this winter. They started on December 31 and will continue through early March, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A complete listing of events can be found at A few events include these:

5:30-8 p.m. Friday, February 2 at Lake Maria State Park, Monticello

6-8 p.m. Friday, February 16 Whitewater State Park, Altura

Some parks rent snowshoes and skis; fees are usually $6 per day. Call the park in advance to see if the equipment is available and reserve what you will need. Many parks offer programs on how to snowshoe. For information on those programs and many others, get a copy of the winter Programs and Events brochure at the nearest state park, or you can get one through the DNR Information Center (651-296-6157). The full park and trail events calendar may be found at

Most programs including the candlelight events are free, but you will need a vehicle permit to enter the park ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit). You can buy a permit at the park the day of the event, but you can save time by getting one online ahead of time, so you don’t have to wait in line.

Events may be postponed or canceled because of severe weather. For information on the program you plan to attend, look for the “visitor alert” section on the park’s website, or send an email to You could also call the Info Center at the phone number (listed above).