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Photo Credit: Three Rivers Park District

Hit the Slopes! 6 Ways to Start Your Winter Adventure at Elm Creek Park Reserve

Elm Creek Park Reserve is the biggest park in Three Rivers Park District, and is home to 4,900 acres of hiking and biking trails, along with some of the best scenery in Minnesota. Elm Creek is a popular destination any time of year (in fact, it was named the 15th most visited attraction in Minnesota, with more than 1.3 million visitors in 2017!), but from December through March, the Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area turns the reserve into a fascinating winter wonderland. Grab your mittens and scarf and get ready to explore! Here are some of the most popular ways to spend a winter break at Elm Creek Park Reserve.

1. Skiing and Snowboarding

- Photo Courtesy of Three Rivers Park District

Strap on your skis or snowboard and get ready for a day of downhill adventures. The Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area at Elm Creek Park Reserve offers acres of trails and rails for every type of skier and snowboarder. Choose between the beginner downhill ski slope or Terrain Park, where you can carve and shred up the slopes while testing new tricks on the jumps and chutes. The recreation area also features more than 18 kilometers of perfectly groomed cross-country ski trails, so you can explore the best of Elm Creek while enjoying a peaceful day on the snow. The park includes a fully lit 5.8K trail and a 2.5K path for a fun night skiing.

Take advantage of the Elm Creek's SnowSports Academy. Whether you’re just figuring out how to clip on your skis or you’re an expert looking to take your skills to the next level, the academy’s instructors are here to help. Choose from public, private and semi-private lessons, including classes for kids, adults and families.

If you don’t have your own equipment, don’t worry. You can rent what you need at Elm Creek Chalet. You can also take advantage of specially priced multi-visit tickets or buy a season pass to enjoy this winter wonderland for the whole season.  


2. Tubing and Sledding

- Photo Courtesy of Three Rivers Park District

Not a skier or snowboarder? No worries. At the Elm Creek Winter Recreation Area, you don’t need special equipment or expertise to enjoy a day gliding down the slopes. Experience a different downhill adventure on the tubing and sledding hills, where everyone in the family will have a blast creating memories together.

On Elm Creek’s tubing hill, hop on the moving snow sidewalk to effortlessly climb a 10-story ascent. Once at the top, grab one of the specially designed inner tubes to soar down the hillside. Start on one of the easier chutes to warm up, then venture down one of the thrilling expert lanes. The tubing hills are fully lit, so you can make the most of your time at the park. If you want a break from tubing, you can also go sledding in the nearby reserved space. There’s nothing better than feeling the wind in your hair as you speed down a snow-covered hill.


3. Fat Biking

The mountain biking trails at Elm Creek are some of the best in the Midwest. But just because snow is on the ground doesn’t mean you can’t get your shred on! The recreation area offers fat biking routes where you can burn serious calories while exploring miles of tree-lined trails that cater to beginners and experts alike.

4. Special Events at Eastman Nature Center

Eastman Nature Center in Elm Creek Park Reserve provides families and friends with fun activities tothat keep everyone celebrate winter throughout the snow-covered season. Kick off the new year with a New Year's Day Snoeshow and Bonfire; take a fun trek through the woods and roast marshmallow over a fire.

On Jan. 24 and 25, the park celebrates the season with - what else? - a beach party! The Winter Beach Party is your chance to enjoy your favorite summertime activity in the middle of winter. The nature center comes alive with sand sculpture competitions, beach games and minnow races. Truly embrace the beach theme and wear your swimsuit for the chance to win a prize!

Then, have some Groundhog Day Fun on Feb. 2! Kids can look at groundhog artifacts and play with shadows; then out your heads together for a fun, self-guided groundhog scavenger hunt. Check our Events page for the latest and greatest area winter events. 


5. Ice Skating at the Central Park Ice Skating Loop

Located just a few miles from Elm Creek's tubing hills and ski trails is the one-of-a-kind Central Park Ice Skating Loop. This unique ice skating trail is one of only a handful in the entire country and features more than 800 feet of perfectly maintained ice. The loop, which is 25 percent longer than a lap around a traditional hockey rink, is refrigerated and kept in tip-top shape by the park’s Zamboni. This means perfect conditions for you to practice your jumps and spins and live out your Olympic ice skating fantasies. Need some inspiration? Don’t miss the Wonders of Winter event in February as professional skaters take to the ice to dazzle and wow the audience with their thrilling performances.


6. Eat, Drink and Be Merry

After a day of hitting the slopes and gliding on the ice, head to the rustic-inspired Elm Creek Chalet to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa in front of a crackling fireplace. You’ll also love all the other restaurants and bars nearby that offer a truly Minneapolis Northwest experience.

Enjoy handcrafted seasonal lattes at Daily Dose Café and Espresso, an independent, locally owned coffee shop and cafe with locations in Brooklyn Park and Maple Grove. Relax with a warm cup of one of its seasonal lattes or flavorful loose-leaf teas. Find all your favorite comfort foods at 3 Squares Restaurant on Maple Grove’s Main Street, like delicious chicken and waffles, fish and chips, hearty soups, and tuna melts. The restaurant also serves breakfast all day and features a special brunch menu on weekends.

Other cozy spots nearby include the award-winning Patrick's Bakery & Café, where you can devour homemade bread, made fresh every morning. Prefer something a little stronger after a day on the slopes? Brick & Bourbon delivers. Sip on one of its smoked cocktails! The drinks are made with ice cubes infused with smoke to bring out the whiskey’s savory flavor.

Winter is also a great time to bask in the warmth of the indoors!  Find inspiration with our guide to the coziest ways to enjoy Minneapolis Northwest when you Embrace the Hygge Trend (a Norwegian and Danish term used to describe a mood of coziness), or start your indoor adventure with our guide to indoor fun for the whole family.

Let us know what your favorite winter activities are by commenting on our FacebookTwitter or Instagram pages with the hashtag #WeLoveMNW. You may even be featured on our website!

About the Author
  • Minneapolis Northwest CVB

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