The calendar may say winter still is eight days away, but Pennsylvania's state forest and park systems again are rolling out the welcome mat for visitors intent on enjoying cold-weather outdoor fun, according to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
"Winter has made an early entry across the state and as temperatures drop and snow and ice begin to accumulate, our state forests and parks extend an invitation to head for woodlands, lakes and trails," said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. "There's a new world of fun and adventure awaiting the outdoors enthusiast."
"For family fun, there is sledding and ice skating at many of our state parks, and a hike through our state forests is the ticket to the beauty and peace winter landscapes offer," Dunn said. "For others, snowmobile and ATV trails are reopening, and hunters and anglers will be heading to our state forests and parks for late-season hunting and ice fishing."
Below is a list of activities and events that visitors can explore this winter:
-- Winter events: When winter weather cooperates, state parks and forests also are the scene of coordinated winter festivals with games, dog-sled races, sleigh rides and fun competitions for families. To view scheduled activities around the state, visit the Get Outdoors PA website.
-- Overnight stays: The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park offers a great base for winter activities like cross-country skiing, ice fishing and other outdoor adventures in the Pennsylvania Wilds. It offers modern overnight accommodations and breakfast, as well as a large stone fireplace in the great room to warm up after outdoor activities.
Several state parks have winter cabin rentals available. Cabin reservations can be made by calling the toll-free information and reservation line, 1-888-PA-PARKS (1-888-727-2757). It operates Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
-- Snowmobiling/ATV riding: The season began December 11, and closes April 1, 2017, in state forests and parks where conditions permit. Snowmobile riders in Pennsylvania's state forests and parks have access to almost 3,000 miles of marked joint-use state forest roads, closed roads, and trails in 18 of the state's 20 state forest districts and in 32 state parks. More than 170 miles of winter ATV trails in seven state forest districts also opened Dec. 11.
DCNR will provide condition updates toll-free through 1-877-SNOMBLE (1-877-766-6253); or 717-787-5651. Recorded messages, providing reports on snow depths and trail conditions across the state, will be updated around noon each Tuesday and Thursday.
Snowmobile enthusiasts will find maps, conditions, and other detailed information DCNR’s State Forests Recreation webpage. Snowmobile maps are updated to show storm damage and other conditions that may affect the trails.
Riders who visit the Loyalsock State Forest District are reminded some state forest roads remain impacted by severe flooding in October. Advisories for that district and others are posted at the above webpage.
All snowmobiles and ATVs in Pennsylvania must be registered with DCNR's snowmobile/ATV Unit. For more information on registration, call toll-free 866-545-2476, or visit DCNR's website.
-- Skiing: For the cross-country skiing enthusiast, more than 330 miles of marked cross-country ski trails are offered on Pennsylvania's more than 2.3 million acres of state forestland. Also available are nearly 400 miles of groomed and ungroomed cross-country ski trails in 73 state parks.
Downhill skiing is offered at Blue Knob State Park, Bedford County, and Camelback (Big Pocono State Park), Monroe County. Skiing again will be offered at Laurel Mountain, Westmoreland County, but is not offered at Denton Hill, Potter County.
-- Other Activities: Most state parks with bodies of water are open, weather permitting, for ice-skating, ice fishing and ice boating. Sledding and tobogganing also are available at many parks.
Updated state park ice conditions and snow depths are available on DCNR’s website. Visitors also may call the nearest state park or state forest district office.
-- Hunting: Archers, muzzle-loaders and other late-season hunters are reminded that more than 400 miles of normally gated state forest roads were opened for the late fall and early winter seasons to provide easy access to often remote areas. As much as 3,040 miles had been open to hunters, but openings and closings are at the discretion of local forestry officials and are weather-dependent. Hunters are urged to check with forest district offices about specific roads.For more information, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Click Here to be part of DCNR’s Online Community, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.