More than 30 candlelight events scheduled this winter at Wisconsin state parks, forests and trails

MADISON – Now that cold temperatures have finally arrived in Wisconsin, all that is needed are some good snowfalls to get trails ready for the more than 30 candlelight events scheduled for this winter at Wisconsin state park, forest, recreation area and trail properties.

“Winter candlelight events have become some of the most popular activities at Wisconsin State Park System properties,” said Paul Holtan, communications specialist for the state parks program. “We have had candlelight skis and hikes in the last few winters that have attracted hundreds and even over a thousand visitors.”

Hundreds of luminaries are placed out along trails for candlelight events.  These are in ice buckets at the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine. - Photo Credit: DNR by Ed Culhane
Hundreds of luminaries are placed out along trails for candlelight events. These are in ice buckets at the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine.
Photo Credit: DNR by Ed Culhane

This winter’s candlelight events kick off December 31 with a New Year’s Eve Candlelight Hike at Amnicon Falls State Park about 7 miles east of the Superior city limits in Douglas County. Then on January 6 Blue Mound and Mirror Lake state parks will hold events. The largest number of events will be held January 27, February 3 and February 10.

Skiing, snowshoeing and hiking by candlelight has been attracting more visitors to properties each winter. Events at Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center attract so many visitors that all of the available parking fills. Horicon now offers shuttles from other locations and parking vouchers are required prior to arrival at the Lapham Peak event.

“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 we will use our Twitter social media platform to alert people when an event has reached capacity or has been cancelled due to inclement weather,” 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.

Most events offer a combination of skiing, hiking or snowshoeing but some are ski only and some are hike only.  Be sure to check listings for details. - Photo Credit: DNR
Most events offer a combination of skiing, hiking or snowshoeing but some are ski only and some are hike only. Be sure to check listings for details.
Photo Credit: DNR

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.

2018 Wisconsin State Park Winter Candlelight Events

December 31, 2017

  • Amnicon Falls State Park – New Year’s Eve Candlelight Hike: Get outdoors at Amnicon Falls on the last day of 2017! About 1.5 miles of trail will be illuminated with candles, including the island and Horton bridge where you can see three of the four park waterfalls. New for this year, visitors can check out the new contact station and visitor center. There will also be hot cider, hot chocolate, a bonfire, and materials for making s’mores! Sponsored by the Friends of Amnicon and Pattison state parks.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

  • Blue Mound State Park – Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe: Spend a night with family and friends at Blue Mound as we 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 will be available for hikers, snowshoers and leashed pets. Warm up with free hot drinks inside the heated shelter. Hot refreshments, baked goods and shirts will be available 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.
  • Mirror Lake State Park – Candlelight Ski, Hike, and Snowshoe: Join us for our 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. Sponsored by the Friends of Mirror Lake State Park.
Many events also feature bonfires, like this one at Blue Mound. - Photo Credit: DNR by Joe Warren
Many events also feature bonfires, like this one at Blue Mound.
Photo Credit: DNR by Joe Warren

Saturday, January 13, 2018

  • Lake Kegonsa State Park – Candlelight Ski: Enjoy 2 miles of groomed ski trails 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 Friends of Lake Kegonsa State Park. This event is a ski only. Hiking, pets and snowshoeing are not permitted on groomed cross-country ski trails. This event is weather dependent, if snow or weather conditions do not permit, a back-up date is scheduled for Saturday, February 10, 2018.
  • Wildcat Mountain State – Candlelight Ski/Hike and Winter Stargazing: Join us for our annual winter hiking, skiing and snowshoeing event. Enjoy the torch-lit trail as it winds through the old orchard on the ridge. There will be bonfires and refreshments available to warm you up. Enjoy star gazing in the crisp winter air. Telescopes and astronomy information will be presented by the Astro Educators provided by our neighbors at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. All activities will start near the park maintenance shop. Sponsored by the Friends of Wildcat Mountain State Park. A park sticker is required and can be purchased at the park entrance.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

  • Copper Culture State Park – Candlelight Hike/Snowshoe: Join us for an evening hike/snowshoe at Copper Culture. A scenic trail will be lit with luminaries through the woods and along the Oconto River. The trail starts at the shelter building. A warming fire and hot chocolate is provided. The event is free but donations are appreciated. Well behaved, leashed pets are welcome on the hike. For more information contact the Oconto Park’s Department at 920-834-7706.
  • Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center – Candlelight Hike: Hiking by candlelight, a roaring bonfire, roasted marshmallows and warm refreshments await everyone at the 8th annual Horicon Marsh Candlelight Hike. There are two trails available. One trail is 1.5 miles and another “Family Loop” is only 0.36 miles. The Education Center will be open for people to warm up, view the 20 minute “Horicon Marsh Story.” 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. Friends of Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center will line the trails with candle-powered luminaries to welcome and guide hikers. Volunteers will be on hand for assistance and information. Admission to the event is free; however, please consider bringing a non-perishable food item or hats/gloves/mittens for our food drive and mitten campaign to be donated to local schools and food pantries. Parking is limited at the education center so please consider using the shuttles. Free shuttles will be available from Mayville and Horicon from 4:30-9:30pm. The Mayville Shuttle will be located at Theiler Park. The address is N8282 County Road TW, Mayville, WI 53050. The Horicon Shuttle will be located in the Bethesda parking lot at 620 Washington St, Horicon. For more information visit: www.horiconmarsh.org.
  • Governor Dodge State Park – 19th Annual Governor Dodge State Park Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe: Ski, hike, or snowshoe 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 will determine trail location. Sponsored by the Friends of Governor Dodge. Sorry, no pets please. Vehicle admission stickers are required and will be available for purchase at the event.
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit – Candlelight Ski and Hike: Ski or hike the 1.6-mile purple loop of the Nordic Trails through the woods that will be illuminated by 450 candles! No hills-no spills! There will be a bonfire to roast marshmallows or cookout. Food will be available for purchase, provided by the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association. The trail will be groomed for classic skiing – no skate skiing or skijoring. Pets are allowed on the ski trail – for this event only. All vehicles will need a vehicle admission sticker. The Nordic Trail is located on Hwy H – about 4 miles south of Palmyra and 1.5 miles north of LaGrange.

Friday, January 26, 2018

  • Red Cedar State Trail – Annual Candlelight Ski and Hike: 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 Red Cedar State Trail Depot, Highway 29 West. Enjoy free hot chocolate and door prizes provided by the Friends of the Red Cedar State Trail/Hoffman Hills [exit DNR]. There will be a bonfire will keep you warm and the 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 use for free, snowshoes are generously provided by the Mayo Clinic Health System.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

  • 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.
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest – Lapham Peak Unit – Friends of Lapham Peak Annual Candlelight Ski/Hike: The Friends of Lapham Peak will host the park’s annual Candlelight Ski/Hike at the Homestead Hollow Picnic Area. Ski, snowshoe or hike by candlelight on a 1-mile trail! Afterwards, join us by the campfire where a large grill will be available for use, and hot beverages and treats will be available for a small donation in the Trecker Lodge. Parking inside of the property is limited to approximately 450 vehicles. Parking for cars and pickup trucks only – no trailer, bus or RV parking. There is no roadside parking. A 2018 Wisconsin State Park annual vehicle admission sticker or a $5 Special Event daily vehicle admission fee is required per car. In addition to the vehicle admission, a ticket voucher is required for each vehicle that wishes to attend the event. Vouchers are available first-come, first-served. Limit one per person at time of pickup. Park staff encourages people wishing to participate in the candlelight hike to pick up a voucher at the Lapham Peak office prior to 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in order to ensure access to the event. Carpooling is encouraged. Please call ahead at 262-646-3025 to ensure vouchers are still available.
    Ticket vouchers will specify the admission time and will need to be printed by the entrant and presented at the gate for access. Entrants should arrive during the time frame specified. Ticket voucher time frames: 6 to 7 p.m., Max 250 cars with reservation: 7 to 8 p.m., Max 150 cars with reservation; 8 to 8:30 p.m., Entrance gate discretion (Late skiers must start by 8:45 p.m.) For more information, visit the Friends of Lapham Peak website [exit DNR] or call the Lapham Peak office at 262-646-3025.
  • Lake Wissota State Park – Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe: Come out to Lake Wissota State Park to ski, hike or snowshoe on beautiful candlelit trails. Campfires will be provided, but please bring your own provisions for hotdogs or s’mores. Hot chocolate and hot cider will be available. Snowshoes will also be available to borrow with a suggested donation. Parking will be in the boat landing parking lot. A vehicle admission sticker is required and may be purchased at the park. Sponsored by Friends of Lake Wissota State Park.
  • Point Beach State Forest – Candlelight Ski and Hike: The Friends of Point Beach State Forest will again be sponsoring the annual candlelight ski/hike on Saturday, January 27 from 5 to 9 p.m. Ski or hike a 1-mile candlelit trail through the forest. Afterwards, enjoy the warm fire in the Lodge where food and refreshments will be available for sale.
  • Some events allow pets on a leash, like the snowshoe hike at Rib Mountain, but others do not.  Pets are generally not allowed on groomed cross-country ski trails. - Photo Credit: DNR
    Some events allow pets on a leash, like the snowshoe hike at Rib Mountain, but others do not. Pets are generally not allowed on groomed cross-country ski trails.
    Photo Credit: DNR
  • Rib Mountain State Park – Candlelight Snowshoe Hike: Start your hike at the new Friends Gathering Space, just past the Park office. Some snowshoes are available to borrow but suggest you bring your own snowshoes if you have them (flashlights and headlamps suggested). There will be hot chocolate, hot cider, and special goodies, as well as marshmallows to roast around the campfire. Donations to cover costs are welcome. An annual or daily park admission sticker is required. Parking is limited, so please consider carpooling. Sponsored by the Friends of Rib Mountain State Park.
  • Whitefish Dunes State Park – Candlelight Ski and Hike: Join the Friends of Whitefish Dunes and Park Staff for the Whitefish Dunes State Park annual winter candlelight event. Trails will be lit with hundreds of luminaires for both skiing and hiking/snowshoeing. 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. A park sticker is required and can be purchased upon arrival.

Friday, February 2, 2018

  • Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area – Crex Candlelight Snowshoe Hike: Enjoy a peaceful evening walking or snowshoeing on the 1.25 mile trail behind the Visitor 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-served basis, or bring your own. Even with little to no snow, we will still have the event. Flashlights/headlamps suggested. Sponsored by the Friends of Crex Meadows.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

  • Big Foot Beach State Park – Candlelight Hike: The Friends of Big Foot Beach State Park are hosting a candlelight hike at the park shelter. Enjoy an evening hike, then warm yourself by the bonfire while enjoying hot chocolate and s’mores. Fun for all ages! A daily or annual park admission sticker will be required.
  • 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 1.0-mile snowshoe/hike 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.
  • Blue Mound State Park – Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe: Spend a night with family and friends at Blue Mound as we 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 will be available for hikers, snowshoers and leashed pets. Warm up with free hot drinks inside the heated shelter. Hot refreshments, baked goods and shirts will be available 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.
  • Flambeau River State Forest – 26th Annual Flambeau River Candlelight Ski and Hike: Get outside this winter and enjoy lighted trails at the Flambeau River State Forest. A 1.8 kilometer loop of the Flambeau Hills Trail will be groomed, tracked and lit with more than 600 candles. The trail winds through the heart of the forest and is wide enough for diagonal striders and skate skiers. Hiking and snowshoeing are also permitted on the trail during this event. Picnic tables and a large grill will be available, with refreshments/snacks provided. There will also be large warming fires maintained throughout the night. Trail pass fees are waived during the event. This event will take place regardless of snow conditions – if there is no snow, take a candlelight walk. The Flambeau Hills Trailhead is located on County Highway W, about 21 miles west of Phillips and 15 miles east of Winter.
  • At many events friends groups set up tents and sell or offer hot refreshments, like this event at the Flambeau River State Forest. - Photo Credit: Jim Kuchlerm Friend of the Flambeau River State Forest.
    At many events friends groups sell or offer hot refreshments, like this event at the Flambeau River State Forest.
    Photo Credit: Jim Kuchler, Friends of the Flambeau River State Forest.
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit – Candlelight Ski/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 trail is perfect for novice skiers with no steep hills or sharp turns. The Zillmer shelter building will be open, lit, and heated. A Wisconsin State Park vehicle admission sticker is required. Meet at the Zillmer Trail Area (located off County Road SS between County Road G and Hwy 67 near New Prospect A winter stargazing event will also be held on Feb. 3 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ice Age Visitor Center
  • Mirror Lake State Park – Candlelight Ski, Hike, and Snowshoe: Join us for our 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. Sponsored by the Friends of Mirror Lake State Park.
  • Peninsula State Park – Candlelight Ski and Hike: Enjoy a 1-mile loop through forest and meadow with hundreds of candles lining the trail. Following the ski or hike, participants can enjoy a bonfire with refreshments in the warming shelter. Co-sponsored by the Friends of Peninsula State Park. Pets are not allowed at the event. Event will be cancelled if weather is severe. A state park vehicle admission sticker is required and can be purchased at the park headquarters or self-registration station. A trail pass is not required for this event. Enter at Highland Rd., one mile north of Fish Creek at Hwy 42 and Co Rd A. Park in Lot 5.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

  • Brule River State Forest – Candlelight Ski and Snowshoe: Candles will light 5 kilometers of the After Hours Ski Trails including part of the snowshoe trail. Grills, picnic tables and a bonfire will be provided. Trail passes are not required for this event, which is sponsored by the Brule River State Forest with volunteer assistance from the Brule Valley Ski Club [exit DNR].
  • Copper Falls State Park – Candlelight Ski/Snowshoe: Get outside this winter and enjoy lighted trails at beautiful Copper Falls State Park! A 2.5-mile/1.6-km section of the ski trails, and a 1-mile snowshoe trail will be lit with hundreds of glowing luminaries. Afterwards warm up by the fire and enjoy refreshments provided by the Friends of Copper Falls State Park.
  • Devil’s Lake State Park – Candlelight Snowshoe: It’s winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! Cure your winter cabin fever and join us for this winter adventure! Go on a self-guided snowshoe (depending on snow) or hike through the park. Warm up by the campfire and make a s’more. Bring your snowshoes or borrow a pair of ours – we have lots of sizes to fit everyone in your family. Make sure you dress appropriately. Meet outside the Rock Elm shelter on the park’s north shore. Sponsored by the Friends of Devil’s Lake State Park.
  • Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake Unit – 29th Annual Pike Lake Candlelight Ski and 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 snacks at the bonfire outside. Northern Cross Astronomy will have their telescopes out to view the crystal clear winter sky. Dogs on a leash are welcome. A vehicle admission sticker is required.
  • 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.
  • Newport State Park – Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe: Experience winter beauty at Newport State Park! Ski, hike or snowshoe a 1.2-mile easy trail. The trail starts at the Picnic Area parking lot (Lot #3). There will be a shelter with refreshments and cookies, a lit fireplace and grill, and a bonfire to greet participants at the end of the trail. This event will be held with or without adequate snow for skiing.
  • 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 from Wilde Thyme. Please call to pre-register 262-878-5601. This program is for adults only and cost is $6/person. You will also need a state park admission sticker on your vehicle. Meet at the Visitor Center. Don’t wait, this program fills quickly.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

  • Governor Thompson State – Candlelight Ski and Hike: Join us at Gov. Thompson State Park for a 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. Hikers 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. 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.
  • Willow River State Park – Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe: Join the fun at Willow River’s Nature Center for our 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. Visit the Friend’s website [exit DNR] for more information.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

  • Rib Mountain State Park – Candlelight Snowshoe Hike: Start your hike at the new Friends Gathering Space, just past the Park office. Some snowshoes are available to borrow but suggest you bring your own snowshoes if you have them (flashlights and headlamps suggested). There will be hot chocolate, hot cider, and special goodies, as well as marshmallows to roast around the campfire. Donations to cover costs are welcome. An annual or daily park admission sticker is required. Parking is limited, so please consider carpooling. Sponsored by the Friends of Rib Mountain State Park.