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  • Writer's pictureJustin Eberhardt

My Picks for Top 5 Cross Country Ski Trails in MN and WI

Cross-country skiers have many great trails to choose from in Minnesota and Wisconsin. If you are visiting, new to the area, or just looking for something different, here are five trails you need to try (plus a few others because it is tough to pick just five).

Birkie Trail - Cable to Hayward, WI

The wide trails, excellent grooming, and challenging hills make the Birkie Trail a great destination. My favorite route is to start at the OO trailhead and go north past High Point before turning around to come back to OO. The trail just south of OO also offers some great skiing with less elevation, and Birkie Ridge is also worth a stop. It is fun to ski the trail on race day with thousands of racers and spectators, but it is also a great place to visit on a random weekday when you will likely have the trail to yourself.

The Birkie trail runs 50km from Cable to Hayward, WI

Giants Ridge - Biwabik, MN

With over 60km of trails across a variety of terrain, Giant’s Ridge is Minnesota’s answer to the Birkie Trail. Located in the scenic Arrowhead region of Minnesota, the resort receives an average of over 60” of natural snow each year and tends to have a long season. I like the 10km moderately difficult Silver trail with its steep hills, fast downhills and rolling terrain, but all the trails have something different to offer and are worth skiing. It’s easy to see how this place has served as a training site for US Olympic skiers.

New Snow at the Giants Ridge Cross-Country Ski Trails

Spidahl Ski Gaard - Erhard, MN

The Spidahl’s own and operate 25km of cross-country trails that wind through the rolling wooded hills outside Fergus Falls, MN. The rural setting, fun trails, and welcoming owners make this one of Minnesota’s most authentic cross-country ski experiences. Pick up a trail map and sign in at the small ski shop, then head out on the trails. My favorite trails are Speedy’s and (if I’m looking for a real work out) Skidahlen. Emma’s Woods is a favorite for newer skiers or those who are looking for fewer hills. When you need a break, come back to the shop to warm up by the wood stove and visit with local skiers.

Spidahl Ski Gaard

Maplelag Resort - Callaway, MN

The atmosphere at Maplelag ski resort is tough to beat. As soon as you turn down the driveway, you are immersed in a world of old train cars, rustic cabins, and miles of ski trails through the rolling maple forest. The artsy, historic vibe continues inside the main lodge with antiques, local art by Charlie Beck, and a bottomless cookie jar. While Maplelag has some nice skate trails, my favorite trails are the dedicated classic trails that venture further away from the main lodge.

A Cold Day at Maplelag

Elm Creek Park - Maple Grove, MN

Elm Creek rounds out my list of the top ski trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin for its reliably good conditions, thanks in large part to its robust snowmaking operations. Early in the season, when good snow is hard to find in other parts of the state, Elm creek is almost certain to have 2km of well-groomed ski trails. Once the natural snow falls, the outer loops are also a lot of fun to ski.

On the cross-country ski trail at Elm Creek Park in Maple Grove, MN.

And, here are a few others trails that I really enjoy.

Glendalough Ski Trail near Battle Lake, MN

The trail runs along a creek that stays open year-round. Classic only, and often ungroomed, but the natural beauty more than makes up for it.

You may catch a view of the swans at Glendalough State Park in winter.

Andes Tower Hills near Alexandria, MN

The main 8k loop is always well-groomed and features a couple of good hills. Optional segments venture further into the woods.

Vasaloppet Trails in Mora, MN

Great warming house. PistenBully groomed trails. Lit for night skiing.

Theodore Wirth in Minneapolis, MN

Another great snowmaking option in the Twin Cities. A fun place to ski at night with the lights of downtown Minneapolis in the distance.

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