Each year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hosts a series of free park days, where visitors to Minnesota's state parks and recreation areas pay no vehicle permit fees.

It's the perfect opportunity to get outside and try winter outdoor recreation. Although the weather is going to get significantly colder this weekend, outdoor enthusiasts can bundle up and get a real taste of winter.

Visitors are encouraged to wear clothing appropriate for the weather and bring water and snacks. If trails could be icy, traction devices for footwear are useful.

The DNR notes there is a wide variety of popular winter activities to try, such as sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. For convenience, most parks offer snowshoe rentals, and select parks offer ski rentals.

Visitors looking for rental equipment or certain recreational opportunities can use the ParkFinder tool to find the best park for their trip.

The first "Free Park Day” is on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 15. This is one of four days this year on which the DNR waives the requirement for a vehicle permit at state parks and recreation areas. Entrance fee waiver for fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities like camping or equipment rentals.

The DNR plans so that there is one fee-free day for each season of the year, which gives Minnesotans a free-of-charge opportunity to experience the parks and recreation areas at different times of the year.

Minnesota's four free park days in 2024 are scheduled for:

  • Monday, January 15
  • Saturday, April 27
  • Saturday, June 8
  • Friday, November 29
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“Minnesota state parks and recreation areas are open 365 days per year but some visitors only visit in summer,” said Ann Pierce, director of the DNR Parks and Trails Division. “We hope having a free day in each season will encourage people to get out and visit a park at a time of year they might not normally visit.”

Park visitors are advised to check for updates in the visitor alert section of individual park web pages before leaving home. It's also a good idea to download free maps from park websites, which can be used in the free Avenza maps app, available in the Apple App Store or Google Play. There are also paper maps provided at the ranger station.

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