By Amanda N. Wegner
Need a new way to enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors in the winter? A number of Wisconsin’s state parks, forests, trails and natural areas offer candlelight skiing, hiking and snowshoeing events in January and February. Pull on some heavy wool socks, throw your gear in the car and hit trails lit by candles, luminaries or, at one park, just the light of the moon.
After the New Year’s confetti has settled, this winter put your resolutions into action at Wildcat Mountain State Park with an evening of candlelight skiing. Ski 1.5 miles of cross-country trails lighted by torches with a break halfway for a bonfire. At trails end, grab a cup of hot chocolate or peer deep into the night sky with telescopes provided on site. (Three miles east of Ontario)
Trade candlelight for moonlight and skis for snowshoes at the Chippewa Moraine Ice Age State Recreation Area near New Auburn. Get a little education while enjoying a one- or two-hour hike through the reserve on select winter weekend dates. Don’t have snowshoes? Call ahead to reserve a pair; there’s no charge, but donations are accepted. Afterwards, enjoy cocoa and a hot fire. (New Auburn.)
Ski by candlelight along the beautiful Red Cedar River south of Menomonie. There’ll be free hot chocolate for skiers and hikers near the warming fire at the trailhead for the Red Cedar State Trail. Interpretive and outdoor educational exhibits will be displayed throughout the evening at the Depot Visitor Center. Register for prize drawings. (Trail pass fees are waived for this event.)
Celebrate Valentine’s Day in February when you bring your sweetie to Interstate State Park for their annual candlelight event. Skiers, snowshoers and hikers are all welcome, with separate trails for all lit by candle luminaries. A limited number of snowshoes are available free of charge. Enjoy a bonfire and refreshments at the end of the trail. (St. Croix Falls.)
For those in the near-opposite corner of the state, head to Richard Bong State Recreation Area and warm your loved one’s heart with their February event. Enjoy a candlelit walk, bonfire, live music, fine desserts and warm drinks. Registration required. (Kansasville.)
A park sticker, daily pass or trail pass is needed for admission (except as noted).
Amanda N. Wegner is a freelance writer based in Madison. Content produced in cooperation with Wisconsin Trails, www.Wisconsintrails.com.