Well the weather forecast looks like we are finally going to get a decent amount of snow tomorrow! That means it's a good time for snow activities.
One of my favorite activities to do BEFORE we moved to South Dakota was hiking in the Smokey Mnts. When we moved to Sioux Falls I was a bit concerned as to what limitations there may be on my favorite activity. There are no mountains and winter lasts half the year (so I thought). Then I was introduced to SNOWSHOEING!!!!
This is basically a way to hike in snow. It is also a wonderful way to get some fresh air during the winter months!
Each time my husband, Trevor, and I have gone it has fed my soul. As I mentioned, hiking is my favorite activity. So to be able to do a hike when it is still outside and everything is covered in a blanket of snow is awesome. Seeing animal tracks is so a really fun way to learn about the animals in the area. Last year we were able to identify fox (or perhaps coyote, I can't fully remember) prints that were tracking a rabbit. There were even a few tracks that we had to look up to determine what animal left them.
So where can you get FREE rentals? Our good ole South Dakota State Parks! Specifically, you are able to use them at BIG SIOUX RECREATION AREA in Brandon, SD which is just outside of Sioux Falls. This is a nice big area with several different hiking paths that could take you down by the river, up on a massive hill overlooking the area, or through the wooded areas.
Conditions: We do need to have about 5" of snow on the ground in order to rent out the snowshoes, otherwise it can damage them. Also, they will need the weight and height of each person renting snowshoes to know what size to give you.
They will arrange to have the snowshoes there for you for a specific time slot that you choose.
CALL AT LEAST TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE: 605-594-3824 - Now, this number is actually for Palisades State Park (in Garretson, SD), but is the correct number to call in order to get rentals arranged for BIG SIOUX RECREATION AREA. Seems confusing but they aren't able to fully staff both locations 24/7. For the past 3 years a man named John has been the one to sort out logistics with me and it has been great.
Don't wear boots that are too heavy duty. My massive sorrels that I love so much for ice fishing and shoveling snow are TOO BIG for the snowshoes. You also need to consider the weight of your boots and that you will naturally be picking up your feet higher than normal on this winter wonderland hike. In this situation, you do want boots that come up high...definitely over your ankles.
Wear waterproof pants as an outer layer. If you have snow pants, they would be ideal to wear for snowshoeing. If not, you could wear rain pants over some other layers. Snow will get kicked up and you may want to sit in the snow for a rest. If you don't have anything like this, layer up and be prepared with a dry pair of pants in the car for your ride back home.
Don't over-dress! Remember you essentially will be hiking. So even though it is cold outside, your body will be moving and you likely will break a sweat at some point. It is a good idea to layer and carry a backpack to adjust your clothing as needed.
Bring water and snacks! Your body needs water hiking in the winter just as much as if you were hiking in the middle of summer. Don't forget to pack water!
Have a BLAST!!! This is one of the unique activities that I could never do back in Tennessee and am so happy to live in the Midwest and able to enjoy it each year!
If you are looking for options in town, check out The Outdoor Campus and The Great Outdoor Store.
The Outdoor Campus is a great resource to follow on Facebook. They have snowshoes and will have events created for the public depending on weather conditions. They do have a few small trails on their property to take advantage of! ...and they are literally right in town.
The Great Outdoor Store has snowshoe rentals that you do pay for. That means the snowshoes are probably nicer and you will get some expert advice from their staff when you pick up your rental. You also have more options of where you can take the snowshoes! They offer 1/2 day, Full day and Weekend rentals. Be sure to check them out!