Featured image: Liz Mickley, Caledonia State Park
Picture this. You’re alone in a snow-covered forest. You hear the trees creak as they sway in the chilly breeze. You are miles from the closest person. You are completely alone with nature.
Doesn’t that sound amazing? It’s a feeling you can only feel in the winter, as people choose to stay indoors instead of braving the elements.
No crowded trails. No loud music. Just winter bliss.
Exploring the outdoors can be intimidating for many people – myself included. But there are a number of activities that can get you outdoors safely in the colder months.
Here are some activities to try this winter to keep you outdoors while everyone hunkers down for the winter.
While most birds fly farther south for the winter, there are a number of birds that remain in Pennsylvania when temperatures drop.
There’s a chance you can spot a bald eagle, which will be nesting soon. Also, birds from northern territories – like Canada, Alaska, and the Arctic Islands – actually fly to Pennsylvania for the winter.
These beautiful birds include the American tree sparrow, rough-legged Hawk, snow bunting, redpolls, lapland longspur, snowy owl, northern shrike, tundra swan, and snow goose.
According to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), northern shrikes are often seen at Bald Eagle State Park and have been spotted at Moraine State Park. Layer up, pack some binoculars, and go find some birds!
Skiing and snowboarding
Did you know you could downhill ski and snowboard at three state parks in Pennsylvania?
Laurel Mountain State Park in Westmoreland County features slopes and trails for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Recent renovations include a new chair lift, trail improvements, lodge enhancement, and a doubling of snowmaking capabilities.
Big Pocono State Park’s Camelback Mountain ski area has 33 trails, 13 lifts, two halfpipes, two terrain parks, and night skiing. The area has been proclaimed as the biggest and best ski, snowboard, and snow tubing area in the Poconos.
Blue Knob State Park leases the downhill skiing area to Blue Knob Recreation, Inc. With 1,050 feet of vertical drop, the park is known as one of the most challenging ski resorts in Pennsylvania. The ski area provides; snow tubing, day and night skiing, four chairlifts, and extensive snowmaking.
Grab your helmet and shred!
What’s more enjoyable than gliding effortlessly around a frozen lake?
Ice skating is a great activity choice to get you outside in the winter. Many state parks allow for ice skating opportunities at their lakes; however, not all state parks monitor ice levels for ice skating at their lakes.
The DCNR warns that if you plan to go where the ice is not monitored for safety, make sure the ice is at least four inches thick for a single skater and seven inches thick for a small group.
It’s urged that skaters always carry safety equipment, spread out on the ice, and wear a life jacket.
Find out where to go for winter activities with the state parks’ online Winter Report from December until the spring thaw.
If you’re looking for less serenity and more adrenaline, you could try snowmobiling this winter.
Pennsylvania state parks and forests offer thousands of miles and hundreds of acres of designated snowmobile areas for exploration.
Whether you’re looking for a quick ride or a day-long trek, you’ll find opportunities on state-first land in particular. Your motorized chariot will take you to splendid views and unmatched scenery.
DCNR operates a snowmobile hotline and Snowmobile Trails Conditions report updating snow and trail conditions twice a week. Call the toll-free hotline at 1-877-SNOMBLE before you head out to see if trails are open and ready for riding.
Christian Alexandersen’s writing about ways to enjoy the outdoors year-round. Read another article in his winter recreation series here. Check out more blog posts from Christian and other PPFF guest bloggers on our News page.