Explore outdoor activities in our area

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Winter is upon us, and we are hoping spring is not too far behind. Hibernation mode is at an all-time high, giving us a plausible excuse not to exercise outside. As you sigh and remind me that we live in Minnesota, my answer is just that: We live in Minnesota!—home to over 13,000 lakes, numerous parks (county and state) and more trails than we know what to do with. We should rightfully stay inside when wind chills deem it necessary, but why are we afraid to go outside for the few gorgeous days that do present themselves (sun shining, blue skies and positive temperatures)?

Here’s my challenge to you: Stop making excuses and get outside for some fresh air, good cardio and new experiences! Another benefit to outdoor exercise: sunshine helps to produce vitamin D, which can help keep seasonal affective disorder and depression at bay; vitamin D also needs to be present for calcium to be absorbed. A good hat, sunglasses, warm jacket/gloves and solid boots will make this a memorable experience. Some quick tips and reminders for your new adventure:

Sunscreen should still be worn when outside due to the glare off the snow and ice. Keep in mind sunscreen will limit how much vitamin D is produced.
Layers of clothing are your best option. This will help to reduce overheating. Stay alert and pay attention to where you are walking. Often areas look safe but it is hard to tell, especially when around water (think ice fishing). If trying a new activity (e.g., snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, etc.), make sure to have the equipment checked and explained to you by a professional.  

Below is a list of locations that offer outdoor activities for free or for a nominal fee. So go ahead—step outside of your comfort zone and try something new or revisit an old favorite. Either way, you will be doing something good for your body and mind. 


Carver County Parks and Recreation

Website: http://www.co.carver.mn.us/parks

Activities: Hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, observatory, camping, etc.

Parks: Lake Minnewashta Regional Park, Baylor Regional Park, Lake Waconia Regional Park


Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Website: www.arboretum.umn.edu

Hours: November – March: Free Thursdays all day; April – October: Free every third Thursday of the month after 4:30 p.m.

Activities: Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing (rentals available)


Three Rivers Park District

Website: www.threeriversparks.org


  • Cross-country skiing
  • Downhill & telemark skiing
  • Skijoring & dog sledding
  • Sledding
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snowshoeing
  • Tubing


  • Baker Park Reserve
  • Bryant Lake Regional Park
  • Carver Park Reserve
  • Cedar Lake Farm Regional Park
  • Cleary Lake Regional Park
  • Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park
  • Crow-Hassan Park Reserve
  • Eagle Lake Regional Park
  • Elm Creek Park Reserve
  • Fish Lake Regional Park
  • French Regional Park
  • Gale Woods Farm
  • Glen Lake Golf & Practice Center
  • Hyland Lake Park Reserve
  • Lake Minnetonka Regional Park
  • Lake Rebecca Park Reserve
  • Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve
  • Noerenberg Gardens
  • North Mississippi Regional Park
  • Silverwood Park
  • Spring Lake Regional Park
  • The Landing


Other Areas to Consider:

  • Stearns County Parks
  • Anoka County Parks & Rec
  • Ramsey County Parks & Rec
  • Owasso County Park
  • Lake Ann (Chanhassen)
  • Humphrey-Arends Memorial County Park
  • High Island Creek County Park (Henderson)
  • Fort Ridgely State Park (County Park #4)
  • Swan Lake County Park (Silver Lake)
  • County Park #3 (Winsted)
  • Johnson County Park (Howard Lake)
  • Buffalo Creek County Park (Plato)
  • Noerenberg Memorial County Park (Orono)
  • Stahls Lake County Park (Hutchinson)
  • Spring Lake County Park (Dassel)
  • Lake Marion County Park (Brownton)


State Parks:

  • Fort Snelling State Park
  • Centennial Lakes Park
  • Ramsey County Parks and Recreation


Other Websites and Locations:


Como Park Zoo and Conservatory: www.comozooconservatory.org

There is a free indoor winter concert series in the conservatory through March 2
Admission to the zoo is free but a donation is suggested


Dog Parks:

  • www.bringfido.com (more to be found if you Google “Dog Parks”)
  • Carver Park Reserve Dog Park (Victoria)
  • Crestwood Park Hockey Rink Dog Park (Eden Prairie)
  • Starring Lake Park Off-Leash Area (Eden Prairie)


Looking for ideas? We’d love to hear from you. Contact Sandy Hanson at sandra.hanson@ridgeviewmedical.org.