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Ask a Conservation Officer: Different types of snowmobile trails

Q: I see snowmobile trails labeled as either a "State Trail" or a "Grant-in-Aid trail." What is the difference?

A: Minnesota has a wonderful system of snowmobile trails totaling more than 22,000 miles of rideable trail. Most of these trails are established through agreements with landowners and maintained by clubs and volunteers. These are known as "Grant-in-Aid" (GIA) trails, a network of trails formed through local initiative with financial assistance from the state.

These trails cross some public lands — state, federal or county; they also cross a large volume of private land. These landowners have entered into easement agreements with managing entities to allow the existence of the snowmobile trails from Dec. 1 to April 1 each year. GIA trails exist because of these landowner agreements, making respectful use of these trails all the more important.

Minnesota state trails are permanent trails established for multiple uses year-round, on land either owned by the state or established through easement. Snowmobiling is allowed on most of these trails, as are biking, hiking, camping and other uses.

Both types of trails exist and are maintained and patrolled using money from snowmobile registrations and the state trail sticker. For Minnesota residents, the trail sticker fee has been combined with registration fees. Out-of-state visitors must purchase a trail sticker for their out-of-state sleds to ride on the established trails.

Ride respectfully and ride safely this winter!

Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit. Send your questions to