Theodore Wirth Regional Park: Winter quiet, recreation amid the city

Date: Thursday, December 28, 2017

If you love having fun outside in the snow, you can’t do much better than Theodore Wirth Regional Park. The 759-acre park straddles Golden Valley and Minneapolis.

One of the oldest parks in the regional parks network — the first parcels date to 1889 — Wirth Park also is the largest park operated by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. It boasts a long list of year-around activities for every interest.

Cross country skiers on trailIt’s an especially attractive destination during winter. Take your pick of cross-country skiing, sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, skijoring, and snowboarding — not to mention a chalet that offers hot chocolate!

And then there is the incredibly popular “City of Lakes Loppet” that will draw thousands of participants in four major skiing and biking events Jan. 27-Feb.4, 2018. Read more about The Loppet.

“One thing that makes Theodore Wirth Regional Park so special is that due to its size, you can be totally immersed in nature and forget that you are in the middle of a major metropolitan area,” said Robin Smothers, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff.

“Almost anywhere you go you can encounter deer, foxes, wild turkeys, and all other kinds of wildlife, in addition to enjoying the great outdoors.”

Winter highlights: cross-country skiing, sledding, tubing

Theodore Wirth Regional Park is especially known for its extensive and diverse network of cross country ski trails — including trail options for all levels, equipment rentals, and lessons, which make it a favorite for families.

A sledding hill also is popular, as are off-road fat tire bike trails and snowshoe trails.

Spectacular new visitor center, The Trailhead, will open in spring

“We’re excited about opening The Trailhead in spring 2018,” Smothers said. “It’s a 14,000 sq. ft. facility that will be a year-round home for skiers, bikers, hikers, runners, snowboarders, golfers alike.” Read more about The Trailhead.

The Trailhead is a joint effort between the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and its partner, The Loppet Foundation. For more than 13 years, the two organizations have worked together to teach upwards of 10,000 youth to ski, mountain bike, trail run, and paddle, including nearly 8,500 from North Minneapolis.

Mountain bikers on snowy trail in the woods“We’ve improved snowmaking and lights at Wirth Regional Park and helped to rejuvenate the forest by planting more than 350 young trees in the park,” Smothers said. “Together we have expanded the trail network, creating more than 30 kilometers of ski trail and 13 miles of running and hiking trails.”

Alora Jones of The Loppet Foundation said in addition to The Trailhead construction, other planned developments include new mountain bike trails to accommodate both fat tire cyclists and snowshoers. Even more expanded winter recreation services are planned for the 2018-2019 season.

A year-round destination

As exciting as winter is, Jones said Theodore Wirth Regional Park is a lot more than that.

Summer activities offer golf, disc golf, archery, soccer, tennis, picnic areas, playgrounds, fishing, biking, the Eloise Butler Wildlife Garden, tons of activities and summer camps, and more.

“Theodore Wirth Park doesn't just belong to skiers and golfers. This park is a place for everyone,” Jones said.

Posted In: Communities, Parks