Featured Image: Ted Massa, Laurel Hill State Park
When it gets cold, most people stay indoors which leaves Pennsylvania’s parks and forests a vacant playground of endless opportunities for those willing to brave the cold.
Many people look at winter as the opportunity to plan what they want to do outside when the weather warms up. They’ll make camping reservations, plan a park road trip and find waterfalls to explore when winter is over. Unfortunately, they miss some of the most beautiful sights and sounds Pennsylvania has to offer when they choose to stay inside.
Don’t do that. Don’t let winter slip through your fingers because you don’t want to be cold. Layer up and head outside! And to inspire you to visit parks and forests this winter here are some activities you could try that will get you out (while being warm) in the cold.
I don’t know what it is about ice fishing that makes it so cool, but it is.
As a kid, I remember watching Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau ice fish in “Grumpy Old Men.” They would set their lines through a hole in the ice, all the while being in a warm shack.
In Pennsylvania, there are plenty of opportunities to ice fish when temperatures freeze over lakes. In fact, most state parks and a number of state forests across Pennsylvania with lakes offer ice fishing opportunities.
You can catch largemouth bass, yellow perch, crappie, chain pickerel, northern pike, bluegill, and walleye through the ice in Pennsylvania.
I’ve found most people are more than happy to share their hobbies with others. If you’re interested in ice fishing, speak to your local rod and gun club or fishing group to learn more about ice fishing. Or, you can speak with your local park ranger about ice fishing.
They will be able to share with you the rules and regulations you need to follow.
But before you venture out to any location, make sure you find out about ice fishing opportunities and the most recent ice conditions. There needs to be a certain ice thickness to enjoy ice fishing and stay safe.
Click here to learn more about ice fishing and how to get a permit from the DCNR.
Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests are home to hundreds of miles of cross-country ski trails, providing the perfect infrastructure for those looking to stay fit and explore public lands this winter.
Cross-country skiing provides a scenic and tranquil experience for those looking to spend time outside in the colder months. DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry has 560 miles of cross-country ski trails in 15 state forests.
There are also numerous places to cross-country ski in state parks, including; Chapman State Park, Cook Forest State Park, Kooser State Park, Laurel Ridge State Park, and more. While most state parks have trails open for cross-country skiing, DCNR says that several offer groomed trails, and a few also have warming huts.
Cross-country ski trails take over a wide variety of landscapes, from lake shorelines and old railroad grades to hiking trails and open fields. Suitable cross-country ski conditions require heavy snowfall.
Want to try out cross-country skiing without the large upfront investment? No problem! There are plenty of places around the commonwealth to rent skis and equipment.
Click here to learn more about cross-country skiing trails, tips, and more.
Just because there’s snow on the ground, doesn’t mean you can’t go for a hike.
Snowshoeing – which has been around for thousands of years – allows park and forest visitors to explore Pennsylvania’s substantial trail system when it snows. Snowshoes prevent you from wasting energy breaking through the snow by helping you “float” on top of the snow.
The larger footprint from the snowshoes keeps you from sinking in the snow. For snow shoes to work effectively, there need to be at least six inches of snow on the ground.
If you would like to try snowshoeing before making the investment, some Pennsylvania state parks offer loaner programs. How great is that?! DCNR also hosts numerous events focusing on snowshoeing for beginners.
Some snowshoeing spots in state parks that DCNR recommends include; Jennings Environmental Education Center, Laurel Hill State Park, Sinnemahoning State Park, Black Moshannon State Park, and Hickory Run State Park.
Click here to learn more about snowshoeing opportunities in Pennsylvania parks and forests.
Thousands of acres of Pennsylvania public lands are available to hunters. From deer and turkey to black bears and porcupines, Pennsylvania hunt seasons typically start in the fall and end in the winter.
During the colder months, there are ample opportunities to hunt on public land – with a hunting license, of course. If you’re new to hunting, all first-time hunters, regardless of age, must successfully complete hunter-trapper education training before they can buy a Pennsylvania hunting or trapping license.
But after you complete the course, the world of Pennsylvania hunting opens up. All 20 of Pennsylvania’s state forests and 97 of the 124 state parks are open to hunting during established hunting seasons.
As someone who is now just getting into hunting in his late-30s, I’m excited to pick up this new hobby, meet veteran hunters and learn as much as I can.
Click here to learn more about hunting in Pennsylvania state parks and forests.
Christian Alexandersen’s writing about ways to enjoy the outdoors year-round. Keep your eye out for the next article in this winter recreation series here. Check out more blog posts from Christian and other PPFF guest bloggers on our News page.