When it comes to cheap winter fun, few activities match the thrill of gliding down a good hill. All that is needed? A sled, decent snow, and the stamina to keep climbing back to the top. Any parent or grandparent can vouch it’s a worthy workout — especially when towing toddlers and preschoolers.
So where are the best hills? All over. That’s a good thing. If snow is scant in your corner of the Twin Cities, try the other side.
“What’s in your backyard isn’t the best gauge,” said Jill Caffee, park operations supervisor for the Three Rivers Park District. “There can be a big difference in conditions.”
If the season is waning or snow is thin, another tip is to seek out north-facing hills that are the last to melt. Or choose a south-facing hill for additional warmth and brighter photos midseason.
Cities such as St. Paul list more than a dozen hills and whether they’re steep and fast for thrill-seekers or gentle for young children. Three Rivers Park District posts hill conditions online (posted under cross-country ski trail conditions). It does close hills if conditions get icy or if they’re being groomed.
A pair of Three Rivers parks, Baker Park Reserve and Carver Park Reserve, rent plastic toboggan sleds for two to three people or foam-core individual sleds for $1. Read on for a look at some of the best hills for a metro sledding tour.
Three Rivers Park District
No skis or snowboards or jumps are allowed on these sledding hills, and no park fee is required to go sledding. Most are near a chalet or nature center for warming up, restrooms and weekend concessions such as cocoa. French Regional Park is lit at night, but the rest close at sunset (threeriversparks.org/activities/sledding).
• Carver Park Reserve, Victoria: The sledding hill faces north and is usually the last to close at the end of winter. It also boasts the longest run.
• French Regional Park, Plymouth: For thrill factor, the steep south-facing hill rules. There’s also a paved path for walking back uphill. Lights stay on until 10 p.m.
• Elm Creek Park, Maple Grove: The southwest-facing sledding hill isn’t groomed at this park (the district’s largest at 4,900 acres), but Elm Creek also offers tubing, skiing and boarding at its winter recreation area.
• Baker Park Reserve, Medina: This northwest-facing hill at Baker National Golf Course also has good staying power for end-of-the-winter fun.
The city has close to 15 public sledding hills. (list at bit.ly/sledhll). The top picks include:
• Como Park: Like Elm Creek, this is a blended site with a winter sports complex that includes a ski hill and terrain park, ski and snowboard rental, and a tow rope. A nearby sledding hill (no tow rope) works for younger kids and families who want easy fun. All sports can access a chalet with warm beverages.
• Highland Park: This scenic setting near the neighborhood’s historic water tower offers medium thrills with nicely rolling, tiered hills near the 15th hole of the golf course.
Sunset Hill in Valley View Park is located a half-mile north of Theodore Wirth Winter Recreation Area. Columbia Golf Club has one of the steepest hills in the northeast part of the city. (minneapolisparks.org)
Lisa Meyers McClintick of St. Cloud writes about travel and the outdoors. (lisamcclintick.com)