Local and state parks offer many cold weather activities
1/2/2022 by Brian A. Lynch, M.D. and Cassandra Greenwood, M.P.H.
Winter is here. The colder weather and snowy landscapes bring the opportunity for a new season of outdoor activities. From sledding, to snowshoeing, to ice fishing and cabin camping — there is something for everyone.
Spending time outdoors, even in winter, benefits your physical and mental health. Southeast Minnesota offers a range of winter activities and amenities. Check out the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx Facebook page for more information on the health benefits of nature and upcoming outdoor activities.
Make the most of this winter by trying many different outdoor activities. Just remember that if you travel to a state park, a vehicle permit is required. You can purchase it online to save time.
Sledding is a favorite for many children. Trudging up the sledding hills before sliding down is also a great way to burn off extra energy.
Sledding hills in Southeast Minnesota include:
- Judd Park and Gamehaven Park in Rochester.
- Frontenac State Park in Frontenac, Minnesota. This park has a warming house.
Outdoor ice rinks: Ice skating, broomball and hockey
Lace up your ice skates and head to the many outdoor skating rinks in Rochester. These ice rinks are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in January and February.
All locations except Bear Creek Park have warming houses. Hours for warming houses are 4:30 to 9 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Hockey is allowed on all outdoor rinks, except the skating oval at Soldiers Field.
- Outdoor rinks
Check out Allendale Park, Bear Creek Park, Manor Park, Lincolnshire Park, Northern Heights Park, Soldiers Field Park, Viking Park, and Withers Sports Complex.
- Soldiers Field
Ice skate rentals are available on Saturdays and Sundays in January and February from noon to 5 p.m. at the East Warming House at Soldiers Field. Broomball goals and hockey goals are offered at Soldiers Field park rinks.
Trails: Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and skate skiing
Many groomed trails and rental options are available to traverse the snowy trails.
Rental options include:
- Oxbow Park
Snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals are available daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Oxbow Park.
- Quarry Hill
Snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals are available at Quarry Hill.
- State parks
Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park and Whitewater State Park offer snowshoe rental.
If you have your own equipment, check out these groomed trails for:
All Olmsted County parks are suitable for snowshoeing. In addition, Beaver Creek Valley State Park and Carley State Park are quiet, remote parks offering the experience for solitude with nice trails for snowshoeing.
- Cross-country skiing on groomed trails
Chester Woods and Oxbow parks in Olmsted County offer cross-country skiing on groomed trails, as do Quarry Hill Nature Center, Eastwood Golf Course, Gamehaven Park and Essex Park, which are part of Rochester Parks and Recreation. And don't forget state Parks trails, where a ski pass is required. For a map and information for all Minnesota Department of Natural Resources groomed trails, visit Ski Pass Trails Map.
- Skate skiing
Chester Woods Park in Olmsted County is ideal for skate skiing.
You don't have to take a trip to a park to enjoy winter. Making snow angels and building a snowman are perfect activities for families with small children.
Fat tire biking
Check out these ice fishing options:
- Chester Woods Park and Lake Zumbro Park in Olmsted County. Vehicles are not allowed on the ice at Chester Woods Park.
- Foster Arend Park in Rochester.
- Beaver Creek Valley State Park for year-round trout fishing.
Programs and events
For more on programs and events, check out these resources:
- Minnesota State Parks and trails
Discover more winter activities offered, including naturalist programs and events.
- Olmsted County Parks
Review upcoming winter events and programs.
Southeast Minnesota offers amazing winter outdoor opportunities. Take advantage of these seasonal offerings with your family. Your winter wonderland adventures await.
Brian A. Lynch, M.D., is a primary care pediatrician at Mayo Family Clinic Northwest in Rochester. He co-chairs the Primary Care Work Group of the Mayo Clinic Obesity Council and chairs the Primary Care Obesity Task Force. Dr. Lynch works closely with the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx Team to promote the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature with his patients and colleagues.
Cassandra Greenwood, M.P.H., is a community health specialist with Olmsted County Public Health Services. She works on chronic disease prevention initiatives, including Southeast Minnesota Park Rx.