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8 Best Cross Country Ski Trails in Minnesota

No matter how cold the temperatures get up north, that doesn’t stop many winter-loving, hearty Midwesterners from pulling out the cross-country skis and hitting the trails. Thankfully, our home state of Minnesota has some of the best cross-country ski trails in the country.

And, remember – with a private pilot’s license, you can gain the freedom to spend the day, weekend or the whole winter exploring best cross-country ski trails in the state of Minnesota. It’s as simple as tossing your gear into your plane’s hold, entering your coordinates and taking off towards your ideal spot.

Here are the eight best cross-country ski trails in the Land of 10,000 (frozen) Lakes. Let’s get started!

1) Gunflint Trail

Cook County, MN

Nearest Airport: Grand Marais Airport

Cook County Official Website

The Holy Grail of cross-country skiing in Minnesota is the Gunflint Trail. With three groomed and tracked cross-country trails over 130 miles, an average snowfall of 100 inches, and unbeatable winter scenery of the beautiful northern Minnesota wilderness, you can ski to your heart’s content. Skiers can glide through the Central Gunflint, Banadad, and the Upper Gunflint Ski systems, as they explore some of the most pristine cross-country ski areas—not only in the state—but in the entire country. Start your adventure by flying into Grand Marais, and you can head north up the Gunflint Trail, as far as into the Boundary Waters toward Canada.

2) Staring Lake Park

Eden Prairie, MN

Nearest Airport: Flying Cloud Airport

Staring Lake Park Official Website

Tucked away in the quiet southwestern Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie, Staring Lake Park provides skiers with a peaceful opportunity to explore the parks while getting a great, low-impact workout. The area serves as a beautiful place for cross-country skiing in the winter, with trails that are groomed by the local Eden Prairie High School after each significant snowfall. Plus, the park features a 700-foot sledding hill—one of the largest in the area—that’s perfect for all-around family fun in the snow while still conveniently located close to the Twin Cities.

3) Jay Cooke State Park

Carlton, MN

Nearest Airport: Cloquet/Carlton County Airport

Jay Cooke State Park Official Website

Jay Cooke State Park cross-country ski trails consist of rolling hills, rocky outcrops and a beautiful view of the St. Louis river gorge. The park trail also connects to the Willard Munger State Trail, providing even more opportunities to enjoy winter activities. Trail options range from easy to difficult and are known to become more challenging as you ski further away from the main parking location.

4) Maplelag Resort

Callaway, MN

Nearest Airport: Detroit Lakes Airport

Maplelag Resort Official Website

Maplelag Resort maintains a large section of wilderness that features over 40 miles of trails for cross-country skiing. Most of the trails are groomed double wide serving traditional style, but the area also has skating trails as well. This family-owned cross-country ski resort is just a 20-minute drive north of Detroit Lakes, making it easily accessible to those flying into western Minnesota. Plus, throughout the ski season, Maplelag is host to many Nordic ski camps and competitions that always draw an enthusiastic crowd.

5) Fort Snelling State Park

St. Paul, MN

Nearest Airport: Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport

Fort Snelling Official Website

Those looking for excellent cross-country skiing located right in St. Paul, Fort Snelling State Park provides quick and easy access to over 12 miles of groomed ski trails. From the Pike Island loop, skiers will have a great view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. If you’re looking for tough hills, the trail leading down into the park will provide a challenge even for advanced skiers.

6) Rydell National Wildlife Refuge

Erskine, MN

Nearest Airport: Fosston Municipal Airport

Rydell Refuge Official Website

Ski a pristine, rolling terrain along savannah, wetlands and maple-basswood forest at Rydell National Wildlife Refuge. With seven miles of trails spread across five trails, cross-country skiers are sure to enjoy this winter wonderland. Both Golden Pond and Round Lake trails are groomed for traditional skiers, while the others serve more advanced skate-skiers. In this area, you’re bound to see abundant wildlife as well, from white-tailed deer to a number of different birds.

7) Root River State Trail

Lanesboro, MN

Nearest Airport: Fillmore County Airport

Root River State Trail Official Website

More than 60 miles of cross-country ski trails catering to beginner and intermediate skiers, await you at the Root River State Trail system in southeastern Minnesota. Strap on your skinny skis and discover one of the best public cross-country ski trails in Minnesota. Here, you’ll find a variety of terrains that are sure to appeal to the whole family. Skiers will also get breathtaking views of tall bluffs and abundant wildlife in this pristine, secluded area.

8) Mt. Itasca

Grand Rapids, MN

Nearest Airport: Grand Rapids/Itasca County Airport-Gordon Newstrom Field

Mt. Itasca Official Website

With almost 150 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails that are maintained by the Northern Lights Nordic Ski Club, Mt. Itasca is a winter playground for those strapping on their cross-country skis. Because they have snow-making capabilities, Mt. Itasca often opens earlier in the winter and stays open later in the spring than other cross-country ski areas in the state. Here, you’ll enjoy a variety of terrain for the beginner, intermediate and expert – for both traditional and freestyle skiing types.

Do you want to explore the best cross-country ski trails in MN?

Whether you’re someone that wants to learn how to fly or are already a certified pilot who wants to boost their education, Inflight Pilot Training can help you gain the freedom to explore these pristine cross-country ski trails in Minnesota.

Ready to get started? Inflight Pilot Training is a leading flight instruction company serving Minneapolis, St. Paul and the surrounding areas. With a reputable training program and an extensive roster of highly skilled, certified flight instructors, we can give you the freedom to fly to the greatest destinations in the state of MN.

For additional information on Inflight training programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.