MADISON – Early snowfall that has covered all of Wisconsin, combined with cold temperatures in the forecast to keep the snow around, should create good conditions for the 30 candlelight events planned this winter at Wisconsin state parks, forests, recreation areas and trails.
More than 30 DNR properties will hold candlelight events this winter. This image is from a candlelight ski last year at the Pike Lake Unit of the Kettle Morain State Forest.
Photo Credit: DNR
“Most properties are reporting that they are already packing ski trails, and with a bit more snow most will also be able to set tracks for cross-country skiing,” said Paul Holtan, communications specialist for the state parks program.
This winter’s candlelight events kick off January 7 at Blue Mound State Park west of Madison, Mirror Lake State Park southeast of Lake Delton and Wildcat Mountain State Park near Ontario, and run on weekends through February 18.
Skiing, snowshoeing and hiking by candlelight have become some of the most popular winter events at Department of Natural Resources properties, with some events attracting more than a thousand visitors. Last year a candlelight event at the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest attracted so many visitors that all of the available parking at the property filled and entrance gates to the property had to be closed, causing backups and traffic problems.
A candlelight event at Horicon Marsh has become so popular that the Friends of Horicon Marsh Visitor and Education Center has set up shuttle busses running from Mayville and Horicon between 4:30-9:30 p.m. and is encouraging visitors to use them as parking at the facility is limited.
“We encourage people to plan ahead and to consider attending a candlelight event at a property they may not have visited in the past. Also this year we plan to use the DNR Twitter social media platform to provide current information about specific events,” Holtan said.
Some properties offer skiing, snowshoeing and hiking, while others offer just skiing or just snowshoeing and hiking. Most events begin around sunset and run until 8:30 or 9 p.m.
Many of the events include additional activities such as bonfires, and hot chocolate and other refreshments may be available for sale. Some events offer grills for cooking food or roasting marshmallows. Some properties have warming shelters that are open for the events. Many of the events are organized by the friends groups of the parks, which provide much of the volunteer labor for the events.
People can check on the details of each event by going to the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching keyword “candlelight.” For more information on park or forest properties and locations, search for keywords “find a park.” Regular park and trail fees apply for the events unless otherwise noted.
While most events will not be cancelled due to lack of snow, they still could be cancelled if conditions are icy, extremely cold or have severe wind chills, so people are encouraged to check the website, follow the DNR Twitter feed, or call properties directly to confirm the event will be held if threatening weather is in the forecast.
2017 Wisconsin State Park Winter Candlelight Events
Saturday, January 7, 2017
- Blue Mound State Park. Spend a night with family and friends at Blue Mound State Park and welcome in the New Year with a candlelight ski, hike, and snowshoe event hosted by the Friends of Blue Mound State Park. A 1- and 2-mile candlelit wooded loop will be available to ski, and a separate 0.75-mile candlelit wooded trail for hikers, snowshoers, and leashed pets. Warm up with free hot drinks inside the heated Friends Shelter, and enjoy some hot food, baked goods and commemorative shirts for sale. Enjoy the bonfire and free marshmallows for roasting. Guided hikes through the illuminated woods with the park Naturalist will be held at 6 and 7 p.m. The only cost for this fun-filled family event is a daily or annual park sticker, which may be purchased upon entry to the park. 5:30-8:30 p.m.
- Mirror Lake State Park. Torch Lit Ski, Hike, and Snowshoe. There will be bonfires, hot chocolate and hot cider and of course, sweet treats all for a good will donation. 6-9 p.m.
- Wildcat Mountain State. Ski or hike (pending weather conditions) a 1.5-mile torch lit trail. Warm up by the bonfire after enjoying the trail. Sorry, no pets please. A park sticker is required and can be purchased at the park entrance. Wildcat Mountain State Park is located 3 miles east of Ontario on State Hwy 33. 5-9 p.m.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
- Lake Kegonsa State Park. Enjoy a beautiful evening of candlelight skiing. Approximately 2 miles of trail will be lit with hundreds of glowing luminaries. When you are finished, warm up by the bonfire and enjoy hot cocoa and baked goods sold by the Lake Kegonsa State Park Friends Group. This is a ski event only. Hikers, snowshoers and pets are prohibited on groomed cross-country ski trails. This event is weather and snow conditions permitting; if snow or weather conditions do not permit, a back-up date is Saturday, February 11. 6-9 p.m.
- Rib Mountain State Park. The Friends of Rib Mountain State Park invite everyone to explore the park trails on snowshoes. Meet at the newly constructed Friends Shelter located just past the park entrance. Plan to bring snowshoes; limited pairs will be available to borrow. Also bring flashlights or headlamps. Enjoy hot chocolate and snacks afterwards. Parking is limited and carpooling is recommended. This event is free and donations are welcome to help cover costs. An annual or daily state park vehicle admission sticker is required. 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 21, 2017
- Governor Dodge State Park. 18th Annual Governor Dodge State Park Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe. Ski, hike or snowshoe (pending weather conditions) on a trail lit with glowing candlelight. Warm up by the bonfire after enjoying the trail. Snacks and hot beverages will be available for purchase. Weather and snow conditions determine trail location. Sponsored by the Friends of Governor Dodge. Sorry, no pets please. Park stickers required and will be available for purchase at the event. 6-9 p.m.
- Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center. 7th Annual Horicon Marsh Candlelight Hike/Snowshoe. The Education Center will be open for people to warm up, view the 20-minute “Horicon Marsh Story,” visit the gift shop or have the kids do a fun craft to bring home! There are also snacks available for purchase and the Flyway Gift Shop is open for shopping. The Horicon Marsh Explorium will also be open for people to learn about Horicon Marsh through these new interactive displays (fee). The event is sponsored and hosted by the Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center and the Wisconsin DNR. 5-9 p.m.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit .Come explore 1.6 miles of mixed majestic pines and scenic views of the purple loop at the Nordic Trailhead. Ski, hike or snowshoe. Cozy up by the bonfire or warm up inside the warming shelter with chili and snacks for a small fee. Supplies for s’mores will also be available for purchase with roasting sticks available on site. This event is not dependent on the weather. Dogs are allowed on the ski trail-at this event only. They must be leashed at all times. State Park stickers and day passes will be available for purchase when you arrive. No skate skiing and no skijoring. 6-9 p.m.
Friday, January 27, 2017
- Red Cedar State Trail. Cross-Country Ski the candlelit Red Cedar State Trail from the Depot to the lit ice wall. Snowshoe the candlelit trail in Riverside Park. Hike the candlelit Junction City Trail. All activities start at the Depot of the Red Cedar State Trail, Highway 29 West. Enjoy free hot chocolate provided by ConAgra/Swiss Miss. Door prizes provided by the Friends of the Red Cedar State Trail/Hoffman Hills. Bonfire will keep you warm. Depot will be open. Skis are required for the Red Cedar State Trail. Bring your own skis, or a limited number are available for rental at Stout Adventures- 715-232-5625. Bring your own snowshoes or a limited number of snowshoes are available for free use generously provided by the Mayo Clinic Health System. 6-9 p.m.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
- Black River State Forest. Candlelight ski and snowshoe. Join the Black River State Forest and the Black River Forest Trail Foundation for a night of skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and fun. A 1.5-mile ski trail and a 1-mile snowshoe/hiking trail will be lit with candle luminaries. Warm up around a large bonfire or in the heated shelter. Hot chocolate and hot dogs will be available for purchase. Meet at the Smrekar shelter located 4 miles east of Millston off County Road O. This event will still be held as a hike/snowshoe if there is not enough snow for skiing. 6-9 p.m.
- Hartman Creek State Park. Candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe. Come out and ski, hike or snowshoe by candlelight around Hartman Creek State Park! Start at the shelter by Hartman Lake, where fires and snacks will be waiting, and go around the lake and woods. A vehicle admission sticker is required. This event is sponsored by the Friends of Hartman Creek State Park. 5-8 p.m.
- Point Beach State Forest. Candlelight Ski and Hike. The Friends of Point Beach State Forest will be hosting the annual Candlelight Ski and Hike. One mile of wooded trail will be lit with candles for skiers and hikers to enjoy. Be sure to stop at the lodge building where the fireplace will be going and the Friends group will be selling food and refreshments. 5-9 p.m.
- Stower Seven Lakes State Trail. Candlelight Ski, Snowshoe and Hike. Come and enjoy a winter night ski, snowshoe or walk in the brilliance of a luminary-lit, nearly 2-mile trail. This event will be held on the trail in Amery at Soo Line Park. After some good exercise you can enjoy some hot chocolate or hot apple cider furnished by the Friends of the Stower Seven Lakes State Trail. 5-7 p.m.
- Whitefish Dunes State Park. Join the Friends of Whitefish Dunes and Park Staff for the annual winter candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe. A 1.5-mile path will be lit with luminaires for the ski trail portion, and run along a segment of the Red Trail. The hiking/snowshoe portion will take place on a 1.5-mile section of the Black Trail. Pets and sleds are not allowed on the ski trail portion of this event. If snow conditions are not favorable for skiing on the trails, a candlelit hike will still take place. Refreshments will be available at the shelter building, as well as Friends merchandise at the nature center. A park sticker is required and can be purchased upon arrival. 5-8 p.m.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
- Big Foot Beach State Park. Candlelight Hike. The Friends of Big Foot Beach State Park are presenting a candlelight hike at the park shelter. There will be a naturalist program starting at 6 p.m. under the shelter. So come and enjoy an evening hike, then warm yourself by the bonfire while enjoying hot chocolate, apple cider and s’mores. Fun for all ages! A daily or annual park admission sticker will be required to enter the park. 6-8 p.m.
- Blue Mound State Park. Candlelight Ski/Hike/Snowshoe. Spend a night with family and friends at Blue Mound State Park with a candlelight ski, hike, and snowshoe event hosted by the Friends of Blue Mound State Park. A 1- and 2-mile candlelit wooded loop will be available to ski, and a separate 0.75-mile candlelit wooded trail for hikers, snowshoers and leashed pets. Warm up with free hot drinks inside the heated Friends Shelter, and enjoy some hot food, baked goods and commemorative shirts for sale. Enjoy the bonfire and free marshmallows for roasting. Guided hikes through the illuminated woods with the parks Naturalist will be held at 6 and 7 p.m. The only cost for this fun-filled family event is a daily or annual park sticker, which may be purchased upon entry to the park.
- Flambeau River State Forest. 25th Annual Flambeau River State Forest Candlelight Ski. Cross-country skiing at night by candlelight will be offered for the 25th year at the Flambeau River State Forest at the Flambeau Hills Trailhead. A 1.8-kilometer trail loop will be groomed, tracked and lit with more than 600 candles. The trail is for skiers or hikers and winds through the heart of the forest. The trail is wide enough for diagonal striders and skate skiers. Hiking and snowshoeing are also permitted during this event. Picnic tables and a large barbecue grill will be available near the trail head for persons who wish to cook their food, and hot dogs, chili and spiced tea will be provided. Large warming fires will also be built and maintained throughout the night. This as a casual family-type outing for families and friends to spend the evening together. The candles should provide a luminescent atmosphere for all to enjoy. Starting at 5 p.m. all day-use fees at the trailhead will be waived. The Flambeau Hills Trailhead is located on County Highway W, 21 miles west of Phillips and 15 miles east of Winter. Note: This event will take place regardless of snow conditions. If there is no snow, take a candlelight walk. 6-9 p.m.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit. Cross-country ski or hike in the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Northern Unit by candlelight. At the bonfire join fellow hikers and skiers for hot drinks and snacks provided by the Friends of the Kettle Moraine. The trail is perfect for novice skiers with no steep hills or sharp turns. The Zillmer shelter building will be lit and heated. Meet at the Zillmer Trail Area (located off County Road SS between County Road G and Hwy 67 near New Prospect). Zillmer Trails. A winter stargazing event will also be held on Feb. 4 from at the Ice Age Visitor Center. 5:30-8:30 p.m.
- Lake Wissota State Park, Candlelit ski, snowshoe & walking trails. At your leisure, enjoy the candlelit trails through woods and prairie. Campfires, hot chocolate and hot cider are available. Bring your own provisions and hot dogs to cook over the fire. Don’t forget the marshmallows! Snowshoes available on a first-come, first served basis. This event is sponsored by the Friends of Lake Wissota State Park. 5-8 p.m.
- Peninsula State Park. Enjoy a 1-mile loop with hundreds of lit candles lining the trail. Following the ski or hike participants can enjoy a bonfire and cookies and cider in the warming shelter. Event will be cancelled if there is inclement weather. Co-sponsored by the Friends of Peninsula State Park. Pets are not allowed at the event. 5:30-8 p.m.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
- Mirror Lake State Park. Torch Lit Ski, Hike, and Snowshoe. Join the Friends of Mirror Lake for the annual winter hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing event. There will be bonfires, hot chocolate and hot cider and of course, sweet treats all for a good will donation.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
- Brule River State Forest. Candlelight ski and snowshoe. Candles will light 5 kilometers of the After Hours Ski Trails including a part of the snow shoe trail. Grills, picnic tables, and a bonfire will be provided. Trail passes not required for this event, which is sponsored by the Brule River State Forest with volunteer assistance from the Brule Valley Ski Club. Go to www.brulexcski.com for more information. 5-9 p.m.
- Devil’s Lake State Park. Candlelight Snowshoe. Its winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! Cure your winter cabin fever and join the Friends of Devil’s Lake State Park for this winter adventure! Go on a self-guided snowshoe (depending on snow) or hike through the park. There will be a new and longer trail this year! Warm up by the campfire and make a s’more. Bring your snowshoes or borrow a pair from the Nature Center – there are sizes to fit everyone in the family. Make sure you dress appropriately; the event will happen rain, snow or shine. Meet outside the Rock Elm shelter on the park’s north shore. Sponsored by the Friends of Devil’s Lake State Park. 6-9 p.m.
- Interstate State Park. Candlelight night in the park. Experience a winter evening by candlelight as hundreds of candles are lit to guide skiers, snowshoers and hikers on separate trails. Both the ski and snowshoe trails begin at the Ice Age Center. There will be hiking opportunities no matter the snow conditions. Beginning at the Camp Interstate Shelter, hikers can enjoy a candlelit walk beside the St. Croix River. There will be warming fires at the trailheads. At the Ice Age Center enjoy food and refreshments served by the Friends of Interstate Park. 6-9 p.m.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake Unit. 28th Annual Ski / Hike. Hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski two 1 mile loops lit by more than 350 luminaries. Warm up at the North Shelter and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and chili and enjoy the bonfire outside. Northern Cross Astronomy will have their telescopes out to view the crystal clear winter ski. A vehicle sticker is required. Dogs on a leash are welcome. 6-9 p.m.
- New Glarus Woods State Park. Candlelit hike or snowshoe and campfire. Join the New Glarus Friends Group for a hike or snowshoe on a 2-mile luminary lit trail starting at the intersection of Highway H and Highway 69. Enjoy a toasty campfire and hot chocolate at the shelter building in the main picnic area after your candle lit adventure. A Wisconsin State Park admission sticker is required on all vehicles parking at the Woods.
- Newport State Park. Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe. Experience winter beauty at Newport State Park. Ski, hike or snowshoe this easy 1.2-mile candlelit trail. Bonfire and refreshments will greet participants at the end of the trail. Starts at Parking Lot 3. 5:30-8:30 p.m.
- Willow River State Park. Candlelight Ski and Hike. Join the fun at Willow River’s Nature Center for this annual candlelight event. Enjoy 2-3 miles of candlelit trails for skiing, hiking and snowshoeing. There will be two bonfires and refreshments will be available. No pets allowed. This event is sponsored by The Friends of Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks. 6-8:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
- Governor Thompson State. Candlelight Ski and Hike. Enjoy this fun-filled evening of candlelit skiing and hiking. Warming fires and hot chocolate provided! Meet at the Woods Lake Picnic Area. The park and trails will be lit by candle luminaries and accented with ice sculptures. Skiers can take an easy 1-mile loop candlelit trail groomed for both classic (diagonal striding) and skate skiing as it weaves through the woods. Non-skiers are welcome to hike another 1-mile candlelit trail with scenic views over Woods Lake. Hikers, snowshoers and pets are not allowed on the ski trail, but are welcome on the hiking trail. Warming fires and hot chocolate will be available for everyone in the Woods Lake Shelter. Vehicle admission (park sticker) is required and can be purchased at the park office. Trails start at the Woods Lake Picnic Area off of Paust Lane, 1.5 miles west of Parkway Road off Ranch Road.
- Rib Mountain State Park. Candlelight Snowshoe/Hike. The Friends of Rib Mountain State Park invite everyone to explore the park trails on snowshoes. Meet at the newly constructed Friends Shelter located just past the park entrance. Plan to bring snowshoes; limited pairs will be available to borrow. Also bring flashlights or headlamps. Enjoy hot chocolate and snacks afterwards. Parking is limited and carpooling is recommended. This event is free and donations are welcome to help cover costs. An annual or daily state park vehicle admission sticker is required.