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Cold and candles combine in Minnesota state parks

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has released an extensive calendar that features outdoor events at Minnesota state parks and trails that will be lit by lanterns or luminaries.

The Associated Press reports a total of 30 events are scheduled. Highlights include the popular New Year's Eve candlelight walk at Fort Snelling State Park, an annual event that has drawn 1,500 participants in past years. An all-new candlelight walk on Jan. 3 along the Luce Line State Trail in Plymouth is also scheduled. There are several candlelight events on Valentine's Day weekend, including a Feb. 15 candlelight ski-snowshoe-walk at Wild River State Park along the St. Croix.

The family-friendly events feature ski, snowshoe and hiking events and many parks also provide refreshments for participants to enjoy while they warm up by a fire. People can rent or check out equipment at some parks.

The Minnesota Trails website notes that candlelit trails are typically short and flat, suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Rental equipment is available at some parks, but the DNR advises calling ahead to check availability. Skiers need a Minnesota Ski Pass if they are 16 or older. They're available at most state parks and vendors that sell fishing and hunting licenses, as well as online from the DNR.

The website for the Wisconsin State Parks System also lists a number of evening events for families who want to hike, snowshoe, or ski along a trail lit by the flickering flames of candles or tiki torches.

Earlier this year, the Department of Natural Resources reported that traffic at Minnesota's state parks declined in the first half of 2013 due to a late, wet spring.

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