State parks, forests offer a winter playground
With the official arrival of winter, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn is reminding outdoor enthusiasts Pennsylvania’s state forest and park systems again are rolling out the welcome mat for winter visitors intent on enjoying cold-weather, outdoor fun.
“Our state forests and parks are the perfect place to enter a new world of outdoor excitement and adventure as the temperatures turn seasonable and snow and ice begins to accumulate,” Dunn said. “We hope families seek out a sledding hill at a nearby state park or stroll on a forest trail and enjoy the beauty and peace winter landscapes offer. For others, snowmobile and ATV trails have opened, and hunters and anglers can enjoy late-season hunting and ice fishing.”
Snowmobiling closes April 1 in state forests and parks where conditions permit. This season, snowmobile riders in Pennsylvania’s state forests and parks have access to 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. Winter ATV trails stretching more than 170 miles in seven state forest districts also opened December 9.
DCNR again provides condition updates on its toll-free, snowmobile hot line, 1-877-SNOMBLE (1-877-766-6253); or 717-787-5651. Recorded messages, providing reports on snow depths and trail conditions across the state, are updated at about noon each Tuesday and Thursday. DCNR also provides weather and condition reports online for state parks and forests.
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.
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.
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 un-groomed cross-country ski trails in 73 state parks. Downhill skiing is offered at Blue Knob State Park, Bedford County; Laurel Mountain State Park, Westmoreland County; and Camelback (Big Pocono State Park), Monroe County. Skiing is not being offered this season at Denton Hill State Park, Potter County.
Most state parks with bodies of water are open, weather permitting, for ice-skating, ice fishing, and ice boating. Sledding, tobogganing, and snowshoeing also are available at many parks.
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.
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.-5 p.m.
For details on ice and snow conditions, or winter festivals at state parks and forests, visitors also may call the nearest state park or state forest district office.
For more information, visit www.dcnr.pa.gov or call 717-783-7941 (Bureau of Forestry) or 717-772-0239 (Bureau of State Parks).