Mother Nature may be throwing a wrench into snow-based winter activities in Wisconsin, but most state park, forest, trail and recreation properties are adapting and planning to go ahead with the more than 30 candlelight events this winter even if there isn't snow for skiing or snowshoeing.
'Almost all of our properties are reporting that if there is not snow for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, they plan to hold the events as winter hikes,' said Paul Holtan, communications specialist for the state parks program.
This winter's candlelight events kick off January 2 at Blue Mound State Park west of Madison and Mirror Lake State Park southeast of Lake Delton and run on weekends through February 20.
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. This year the 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.
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.
People can check on the details of each event by going to the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, and searching keywords 'get outdoors' and clicking on the 'type' button and then checking only the 'candlelight' box under listed activities. 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 and call properties directly to confirm the event will be held if threatening weather is in the forecast.
Saturday, January 9
· Kohler-Andrae State Park Candlelight ski, snowshoe and hike. Join us to hike, ski or snowshoe the 2 mile, torch lit trail. Warm up with refreshments at the park shelter building. No sleds or pets allowed. 6-9 p.m. Phone: 920-451-4080.
· Lake Kegonsa State Park Candlelight ski. Join us for a beautiful night of cross country skiing. 2 miles of trail will be lit with hundreds of glowing luminaries. When you are finished, warm up by the bonfire and enjoy cocoa and refreshments sold by the Lake Kegonsa State Park Friends Group. Sorry, pets, hiking and snowshoeing are not allowed on groomed cross country ski trails. If snow conditions do not permit for this event, there is a back-up date of February 13. If we end up having the event in January, we will not have an event on February 13. No event will be held if there is not enough snow for skiing. 6-9 p.m.
Saturday, January 16
· Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center 6th Annual candlelight hike and snowshoe. Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center will line the trails with candle-powered luminaries. There are two trails available. One trail is 1.5-miles and another 'Family Loop' is only .36-miles. Hiking and snowshoeing are free to the public. Don't have your own snowshoes? Snowshoes will be available to the public on a first come first serve basis at no charge. There is no guarantee; however, that they will be available when you arrive. There must be at least six to eight inches of snow on the ground to loan out snowshoes. Leashed pets are allowed on the trails but not in the building. Shuttles from Mayville and Horicon will be available from 4:30-9:30 p.m. Please visit the Friends website or Facebook page for shuttle locations and more information. The Northern Cross Science Foundation astronomers will be on site to help you view the night sky through telescopes or to talk about the stars if it is cloudy. Members of the Horicon Marsh Bird Club will be on the trail conducting short owl talks and calling for owlsFor more information, call 920-387-7893. The center is located at N7725 Hwy 28, Horicon, between Horicon and Mayville. www.horiconmarsh.org [exit DNR] 5-9 p.m. Phone: 920-387-7893.
· Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit Candlelight ski and hike. Come explore 1.6 miles of mixed majestic pines and scenic views of the purple loop at the Nordic Trailhead. Cozy up by the bonfire or warm up inside the warming shelter with chili and snacks for a small fee. This event is not dependent on the weather. 6-9 p.m. Phone: 262-594-6200.
Saturday, January 23
· Governor Dodge State Park 17th annual candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe. Ski, hike or snowshoe a trail on Cox Hollow Lake lit with glowing candlelight. Warm up by the bonfire after enjoying the trail. Hot beverages available. If the lake is not frozen, we will ski on the Lakeview Trail (no hike or snowshoe will be available in these conditions). If there is no snow, we will have candlelight hiking on the Lakeview Trail. Meet at the Cox Hollow Beach Picnic Area. Park stickers required and will be available for purchase at the event. Please, no pets. 6-9 p.m. Phone: 608-935-2315.
Friday, January 29
· Red Cedar State Trail Annual candlelight ski and hike. Trail fee is waived for Friday Night Ski, warming fire, prize drawing and hot chocolate available. Activities start at Depot Visitor Center area, off highway 29, west side of Menomonie, WI 54751. 6-9 p.m. Phone: 715-232-1242.
Saturday, January 30
· Whitefish Dunes State Park - Winter candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe. A mile and a half 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 mile and a half 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. A park sticker is required and can be purchased upon arrival. 5-8 p.m. Phone: 920-823-2400.
· Hartman Creek State Park Candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe. Come out and ski, hike or snowshoe by candlelight. Start at the shelter by Hartman Lake, where fires and snacks will be waiting, and go around the lake and woods. Sponsored by the Friends of Hartman Creek State Park. 5-8 p.m. Phone: 715-258-2372.
· Point Beach State Forest Candlelight hike and ski. Enjoy candlelit trails for cross-country skiing or hiking. Come in the lodge and enjoy the warmth of the fireplace and entertainment. This program will be determined by the weather (amount of snow and temperature). Please call ahead to see if it is still going on as planned. 5-9:30 p.m. Phone: 920-794-7480.
· Kettle Moraine State Forest - Lapham Peak Unit Candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe. Ski, snowshoe or hike by candlelight on a one mile trail. Afterwards, enjoy a camp fire, large grill will be available for use, or enjoy hot cider, hot cocoa and treats in Trecker Lodge for the cost of a donation. All uses are welcome even if there is skiable snow. Without snow it will still be held as a hike. 5:30-9 p.m. Phone: 262-646-3025.
· Black River State Forest Candlelight ski and hike. 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/hike trail will be lit with candle luminaries. Meet at the Smrekar shelter located 4 miles east of Millston, WI 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. Phone: 715-284-4103.
Saturday, February 6
· Brule River State Forest Candlelight ski and snowshoe. Candles will light 2 miles of 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. Go to www.brulexcski.com for more information. 5-9 p.m. Phone: 715-372-5678.
· Peninsula State Park Candlelight ski and hike. 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. 5:30-8 p.m. Phone: 920-868-3258.
· Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit Candlelight ski and hike. 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 Zillmer shelter building will be open, lit and heated. Meet at the Zillmer Trail Area (located off County Road SS between County Road G and Hwy 67 near New Prospect). 5:30-8:30 p.m. Phone: 920-533-8322.
· Blue Mound State Park Candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe. Bonfire, free hot chocolate, cider and marshmallows. Brats, chili, hot dogs and baked goods will be for sale. The only cost is admission into the state park. Trail passes are waived for the evening. 5:30-8:30 p.m. Phone: 608-437-5711.
· Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area Annual Crex candlelight snowshoe hike. Enjoy a peaceful evening walking or snowshoeing on the 1.25-mile trail behind the Visitors Center. Luminaries will light your way through the woods. Warm up inside with hot chocolate and baked goods. Snowshoes available on a first come, first serve basis or bring your own. Flashlights/headlamps suggested. 6-8 p.m. Phone: 715-463-2739.
· Copper Culture State Park Candlelight snowshoe hike. Join us for a (snowshoe) hike through the woods and along the candlelit river. For more information please call the park office at 6-8 p.m. Phone: 715-757-3979.
· Mirror Lake State Park Candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe. Meet at the Winter Recreation Area (a.k.a. Beach/picnic area) at Mirror Lake State Park. Join us for a fun filled winter evening on the trails. We will have trails lit by torch light for skiers and hikers and snowshoers. 6-8 p.m. Phone: 608-254-2333.
· Harrington Beach State Park Candlelight ski and hike. Tiki torches will be lit around Quarry Lake for an evening hike/ski. The Friends will open the Welcome Center and have hot chili, beverages and treats. Donations appreciated. 6-9 p.m. Phone: 262-285-3015.
· Flambeau River State Forest Twenty-fourth annual candlelight ski. Cross-country skiing at night by candlelight will be offered for the twenty-fourth year at the Flambeau River State Forest at the Flambeau Hills Trailhead. A 1.8 kilometer loop of trail 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 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. Phone: 715-332-5271.
· Brunet Island State Park Candlelight ski, snowshoe and family sledding party. There will be skis and snowshoes available to check out, plus fires and refreshments in the pavilion. Located at the park pavilion with sledding down the beach hill. This event is weather dependent, so call the park office for updates if conditions are questionable. Sponsored by Cornell/Lake Holcombe Community Education, the Cornell Area Betterment Association, and Cornell Lions Club. 5 to 7 p.m. Phone: 715-239-6888.
Saturday, February 13
· Rib Mountain State Park Candlelight snowshoe hike. A candlelight snowshoe walk starting from the Friends' Concession Building. Flashlights and headlamps are suggested. Some snowshoes will be available to borrow but we suggest you bring your own or rented snowshoes; donations to cover costs are welcome. A park annual or daily admission sticker is required. 5-7 p.m. Phone: 715-842-2522.
· Kettle Moraine State Forest - Pike Lake Unit 27th Annual Pike Lake candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe. Experience over 300 luminaries that cover two .75 mile loops. Skiers, snowshoers and hikers will share the trails. There will be a huge bonfire! Refreshments will be available inside the shelter. The Northern Cross Science Foundation will be there with their telescopes for night viewing. Meet at the Beach Area's North Shelter If inclement weather is expected, the event will be canceled at least 48 hours ahead of time and re-scheduled for February 20. 6-9 p.m. Phone: 262-670-3400.
· Richard Bong State Recreation Area Return to Romance. Warm someone's heart this Valentine's Day with a visit to the park. Enjoy a candlelit walk, fine homemade desserts, warm drinks, a fire and live music. Adults only. Please call to pre-register. Fee is $6/person. Meet at the Visitor Center. Don't wait, this program fills quickly. 7-9 p.m. Phone: 262-878-5601.
Saturday, February 20
· Lake Wissota State Park Candlelight ski, snowshoe and hike. 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! To reserve snowshoes or for more information call 715-967-2800.
· Governor Thompson State Park Candlelight ski and hike. Join us at Governor Thompson State Park for a fun-filled evening of candlelit skiing and hiking. Meet at the Woods Lake Picnic Area. 6-9 p.m. Phone: 715 757-3979.