Sand Dunes State Forest
By Hans Erdman
October 28, 2003
Often overlooked among the multitude of cross country ski
trails near the Twin Cities area, Sand Dunes State Forest
near Zimmerman is an undiscovered gem for skiers and snowshoers
looking for the quietness of a rural setting, and serenity
of the forest trail system that sees infrequent use, and often
has snow when other trails do not.
In 2002, the Minnesota DNR shifted management of state forest
recreation areas to the state parks. The Bob Dunn Recreation
Area at Sand Dunes is now managed by Lake Maria State Park
in nearby Monticello, which has a long-standing reputation
for excellent trails and skiing. Over the past summer the
forest recreation staff and volunteers have worked on extending
that reputation to the trails at Sand Dunes. New, easier to
follow trail markers are being installed, along with new maps
at major trail intersections, and over two kilometers of trail
that had not been groomed in recent years will return to the
system when the snow falls.
Over the years the Sand Dunes trails have had numerous types
of marking systems and signs, and remnants of each type used
in the past could still be found at one place or another on
the trails. Rangers also realized that some signs pointed
in the wrong direction, or were unreadable, while others has
been vandalized or shot by target shooters. Over the past
few weeks rangers, volunteers and the Sherburne County STS
Crew have removed all the old, non-conforming signs and markers
(except where blaze removal might damage a tree) and installed
all wood, matching sign posts and carsonite trail markers.
Trail surfaces in sandy areas have been smoothed out, and
the 1.4 mile long loop road through the Lake Ann Campground
will be marked and groomed for skiing, returning that section
to the other five loops in the trail system. This will bring
the total groomed trail distance to 7.7 km (4.6 miles) which
will be groomed for classical skiing only. Skiers who are
interested in trying out winter camping may use any of the
36 sites in the campground without charge, but are requested
to practice "Leave No Trace" camping ethics, and
pack out whatever they pack in for camping.
There will be a Sand Dunes Moonlight Ski on Friday, February
6, 2004, at 7:00PM at the North Trailhead, located at the
intersection of Sherburne County Rd. 4 and 168th St., approximately
4 miles west of Zimmerman, MN. There will be a bonfire and
refreshments, hosted by the Backcountry Trail Patrol Association.
Skiers of all abilities are welcomed, and there will be patrollers
and rangers on the trail to assist participants if needed.
Volunteers from the Backcountry Trail Patrol will be patrolling
the Sand Dunes trails on a regular basis, as the snow conditions
permit, to provide first aid, information and assistance if
needed, throughout the winter. They are currently seeking
ski patrol volunteers (see their web site).
Skiers who skiing on the Sand Dunes State Forest Ski Trails
are reminded that they must have a valid Great Minnesota Ski
Pass to ski on these trails. Hiking and dogs are not allowed
on the groomed ski trails, however separate routes for snowshoers
may be set up if there is sufficient interest. Snowmobiles,
horses, hunting and shooting are also illegal in the recreation
area and on the ski trails.
Further information can be found at www.trailpatrol.org after
November 1, 2003, or by calling the Lake Maria State Park
office at 763 878-2325 Trail conditions will be posted to
www.skinnyski.com on a regular basis, and updated as needed.
About the author...
Hans Erdman is a member of the Backcountry Trail
Patrol. The Backcountry Trail Patrol has become an active
winter ski/snowshoe trail patrol, and National Mountain
Bike Patrol unit and is recognized as a source for quality
backcountry and wilderness education and training .