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State parks offer candlelight activities

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Thirty-two candlelight ski, snowshoe and hiking events are scheduled to take place at Minnesota state parks and trails this winter, including Lake Carlos State Park, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

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The family-friendly events are typically held on candlelit trails that are short and flat, which means they are suitable for all ages and abilities. Participants will find refreshments and a warm fire after exploring trails lined with lanterns or luminaries.

"If you haven't been to one of our popular candlelight events, start a new tradition this winter," said Courtland Nelson, director of Parks and Trails Division. "These events are a great way to make memories with friends and family. Imagine skiing or walking along a path lit by candles and then sipping hot chocolate by a warm fire under a star-filled sky. These events can be truly magical."

A vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks ($5 for one-day permit or $25 for year-round permit). There is no additional charge to participate in the candlelight events.

Families can rent or check out equipment at some parks (rental cost is typically $6 per-person per-day for snowshoes or $10 per-person per-day for cross-country skis, boots and poles). The DNR advises calling in advance to confirm availability and to reserve equipment.

Families are also encouraged to check out the Winter Activities Guide page at www.mndnr.gov/winterguide for many other ideas on what to do at Minnesota state parks and trails this winter, including where to go for the best winter hiking, wildlife watching and sledding. The Great Minnesota Ski Pass ($6 daily, $20 for single season, $55 for three seasons) allows skiers age 16 or older to access trails in state parks or forests (www.mndnr.gov/skiing). Skiers age 15 or younger can access trails for free. Those who don't already have a Minnesota state parks vehicle permit (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/permit.html) can purchase one at any of the parks.

2012-13 Candlelight Events at Minnesota State Park and Trails

Date/Park or Trail (City) Event, Time

Saturday, Dec. 29

Zippel Bay State Park (Williams) Candlelight ski, 5-8 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 31

Fort Snelling State Park (St. Paul) New Year's Eve candlelight walk/ice skate, 3-8 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 19

Itasca State Park (Park Rapids) Lantern-lit snowshoe, 5-7:30 p.m.

Lake Carlos State Park (Carlos) Candlelight ski and snowshoe, 6-9 p.m.

Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail (Preston) Candlelight ski and chili cook-off (888-845-2100), 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 26

Buffalo River State Park (Glyndon) Luminary night ski, 6-9 p.m.

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park (Onamia) Candlelight ski, 6-9:30 p.m.

Lake Bronson State Park (Lake Bronson) Candlelight ski, 6-9 p.m.

Minneopa State Park (Mankato) Candlelight ski, snowshoe, walk, 5-9 p.m.

Wild River State Park (Center City) Candlelight ski, snowshoe, walk, 6-9 p.m.

Sakatah Lake State Park (Waterville) Candlelight ski, 6-9 p.m.

Banning State Park (Sandstone) Candlelight ski, 5-8 p.m.

Zippel Bay State Park (Williams) Candlelight ski, 5-8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 2

Buffalo River State Park (Glyndon) Luminary night ski, 6-9 p.m.

Afton State Park (Hastings) Candlelight walk and snowshoe, 6-9 p.m.

Root River State Trail (Whalan) Candlelight ski (507-467-2696, candlelightski.org), 5-8 p.m.

Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park (Nerstrand) Candlelight ski, snowshoe, hike, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 8

Jay Cooke State Park (Carlton) Candlelight ski and snowshoe, 6-9 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 9

Lake Maria State Park (Monticello) Candlelight snowshoe, 6-9 p.m.

Gateway State Trail (Maplewood) Candlelight hike (651-231-6968),

Saturday, Feb. 16

Glendalough State Park (Battle Lake) Candlelight ski, 6-9 p.m.

Father Hennepin State Park (Isle) Candlelight ski, 6-9 p.m.

St. Croix State Park (Hinckley) Candlelight ski, 5-8 p.m.

Gooseberry Falls State Park (Two Harbors) Candlelight ski, snowshoe, walk, 6-8:30 p.m.

Glacial Lakes State Park (Starbuck) Candlelight ski and snowshoe, 6-9 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 23

Lake Bemidji State Park (Bemidji) Candlelight ski and snowshoe, 6-9 p.m.

Old Mill State Park (Argyle) Candlelight ski, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Itasca State Park (Park Rapids) Lantern-lit snowshoe, 6-8 p.m.

Maplewood State Park (Pelican Rapids) Candlelight ski and snowshoe, 5:30-8 p.m.

Lake Carlos State Park (Carlos) Candlelight ski and snowshoe, 6-9 p.m.

Zippel Bay State Park (Williams) Candlelight ski, 5-8 p.m.

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park (Two Harbors) Candlelight snowshoe and hike, 6-8:30 p.m.

Note that events may be changed or canceled due to weather. For more information, including weather updates, directions to parks and where to get a ski pass, visit www.mndnr.gov, email info.dnr@state.mn.us or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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