Winter enjoyment in state parks
A good way to handle the North Dakota winter is to take advantage of one of many healthy opportunities for enjoying our wintry outdoors. There are even great, remote lodging options, which can help make family events out of winter adventures.
The state parks in North Dakota are open 12 months a year, and that includes when snow covers park grounds and the thermometer reads in the single digits.
Cross Ranch State Park
Located about 15 miles south of Washburn, Cross Ranch State Park offers a variety of lodging and outdoor exploration options meant to enhance the winter outdoor experience. Located along seven miles of the last free-flowing, undeveloped stretches of the Missouri River, Cross Ranch State Park is rich in both cultural and natural history.
“It’s the remote setting of the park along the river – a calm and peaceful place to just get away and unwind, especially for the people that live in the city,” says Park Manager Eric Lang.
Lang says a key park feature is 12-15 miles of hikeable trails, with about that many miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, plus areas for snowshoeing. Lang says winter visitors to Cross Ranch State Park are likely to see plenty of wildlife, which use the park for wintering grounds.
To accommodate extended winter stays in the park, there are three cabins and four yurts available for rent, in the main campground. Setups in cabins and yurts range from primitive to “all the comforts of home.” Roughrider Electric Cooperative, Hazen/Dickinson, serves this state park.
Lang says an annual winter festival is conducted at Cross Ranch State Park. This year’s festival takes place on Saturday, Feb. 17. The public is invited to come, get cross country skiing or snowshoeing lessons/experiences, have snowman and craft projects, ride a horse drawn sleigh or wagon, and warm up with free chili, soup or hot beverages.
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park
Although enjoyment of Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park features summer programs focusing on the history of George Armstrong Custer and his ill-fated 7th cavalry, winter enjoyment is there for the taking.
“Even though our interpretive services are closed for the winter, our park remains open, and you can come out and cross country ski or snowshoe, or just walk, or take your dog for a walk along our paved trails, which we keep bladed and clear,” says Park Manager Dan Schelske.
Schelske said roads through the park are kept clear and open and do get used by campers who want to set up camp over a winter night, or by ice fishers, who try the adjacent Heart River, when it is frozen. He says electricity hookups are available in the winter. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is served by Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative, Flasher.
Campsites are available for $20 nightly (includes electricity) or $12 (no electricity).
Schelske says a monthly organized hike activity is sustained during winter months, and, as an incentive, an annual park pass is given to anyone who completes 12 months of consecutive hikes. ν
Park access, events:
For Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and Cross Ranch State Park – as with all N.D. state parks – a paid pass is required for park admission. An annual pass – good at all state parks – costs $35 and the daily pass into a park is $7. Campground, or cabin and yurt reservations at these state parks (along with overnight spot re