As Old Man Winter works his magic in Pennsylvania, summer crowds disperse and snow-dusted beauty abounds in state parks and forests, which bustle with outdoor fun for all ages. Add one of these stimulating outdoor activities to your Keystone State itinerary.
Dogsledding excursions supply tail-wagging experiences amid Pennsylvania’s gorgeous snow-carpeted landscapes. The adorable and athletic Alaskan Huskies at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort power snowy treks across the Laurel Highlands countryside. The indelible outing is enhanced with a kennel tour and a visit with the musher.
Get your motor running on thousands of miles of roads, trails, and fields open for snowmobiling in our state forests and parks and federal lands. Opportunities range from scenic paths through woods to straightaway runs on closed-to-cars roadways. Most routes are open from mid-December to early April; check current dates and trail conditions.
McKean County has more than 140 miles of trails that connect to an additional 360 miles of pathways within the Allegheny National Forest, including the Allegheny Snowmobile Loop. Other popular places to snowmobile include Bald Eagle State Forest in central Pennsylvania, which boasts more than 300 miles of roads and trails, and the Tioga State Forest in the Pennsylvania Wilds, where 177 miles of trails draw riders from near and far.
3. Cross-Country Skiing
While Pennsylvania has a robust roster of ski resorts and areas for downhill enthusiasts, the state also hosts plenty of opportunities for cross-country skiers. Hit groomed and ungroomed trails in state and local forests situated in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna, Wyoming, and Sullivan counties. Book a stay at a friendly lodge for a multiday adventure; Crestmont Inn in Eagles Mere will hook you up with gear and a comfy place to lay your head.
A hub for hikers and bikers in the summer, the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage is regularly groomed for cross-country aficionados on the portion that passes through Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands. Presque Isle and Parker Dam state parks also become Nordic wonderlands when summertime pathways are converted into pristine ski zones.
4. Snow Tubing
Many Pennsylvania ski areas offer snow tubing, a fantastic alternative for those who prefer not to get into ski boots. And forget dragging your ride up the hill – magic carpets and rope tows do all the work for you. Camelback Mountain in the Pocono Mountains boasts the largest tubing park in the U.S. with 42 sledding lanes, while AvalancheXpress at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York has a seven-story, 900-foot tubing hill.
Mercersburg’s Whitetail Resort is also known for its excellent sledding terrain; book a tubing party or purchase one- to two-hour blocks of riding time. For an old-fashioned ride, try Eagles Mere Toboggan Slide, which has amused kids of all ages since the early 1800s. Find more winter sports >>
A mix of sailing, ice skating, and sledding, ice boating is an ideal endeavor for extreme recreation enthusiasts. Iceboats, essentially sailboats with sled rails, can glide up to 70 miles per hour across frozen surfaces. Set sail in Moraine, Codorus, Beltzville, Pymatuning, Black Moshannon, and Presque Isle state parks (state launch permits are required). Those who’ve never sailed on ice should consider connecting with Erie Yacht Club, an excellent resource for first-timers.
6. Ice Fishing
Home to more than 2,500 lakes, Pennsylvania teems with outstanding ice-fishing locales in the wintertime. Hot picks for ice fishing include Lake Chillisquaque at Montour Preserve in Danville, where schools of yellow perch, northern pike, and walleye hide under the ice, and Crook Creek Lake, a hangout for bass, musky, sunfish, and crappy just 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Lyman Run State Park near Coudersport is known for rewarding anglers with catches of rainbow and palomino trout, while Black Moshannon State Park near Philipsburg has yellow perch, bluegill, northern pike, and largemouth bass.
7. Ice Skating
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced skater, Pennsylvania has divine surfaces for gliding outdoors on picturesque lakes and reservoirs. Cook Forest, Moraine, Nockamixon, and Presque Isle state parks and Green Lane and Oxford Valley parks are just a few of many recreational areas with ice-skating grounds. Cook Forest State Park’s lighted pond offers a fire ring, skate rental and a nearby sledding hill.
For an urban delight, consider the Rothman Ice Rink at Dilworth Park in Philadelphia, which has a warming hut with hot chocolate, coffee, and snacks. Or try Elmwood Park Zoo, which has a synthetic rink that provides a smooth, ice-like surface for skating in any weather. Find more places to ice skate in PA >>
8. Carriage Rides
For a relaxing and romantic cruise through Pennsylvania’s postcard-worthy winter woodlands, book a horse-drawn carriage ride. Dragon Run Forge and Livery, one hour outside of Pittsburgh, offers daytime and lantern rides. Northern Star Farm in Trappe offers Victorian-themed rides through snow-dusted farmlands in the Perkiomen Valley.
9. Fat Biking (Winter Mountain Biking)
Fat bikes – bicycles with oversized tires for cruising on soft terrain like snow – date back to the early 1900s, but have gained popularity over the past the few years. Try snow biking at Huntingdon County’s FrozenFat Weekend (January 15-17, 2016), where you can ride, camp, and socialize with other bikers.
10. Winter Festivals
Pennsylvanians toast the cold-weather months with snowsport competitions, belly-warming cookoffs, ice sculpture displays, and more. Here are some festivals to pencil into your winter calendar:
- Fire & Ice Fest in Reading, January 15-16, 2016
- Fire & Ice Festival in Somerset, January 15-17, 2016
- Winterfest at Moraine State Park, January 16, 2016
- Ligonier Ice Fest, January 23-24, 2016
- IceFest in Chambersburg, January 28-31, 2016
- Clearfield YMCA Winter Family Festival in Penfield, January 30-31, 2016
- Heart of Lewisburg Ice Festival, February 5-6, 2016
- WinterFest at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, February 6, 2016
- R.B. Winter State Park Snowfest in Mifflinburg, February 14, 2016