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.
Dogsledding excursions supply tail-wagging experiences amid Pennsylvania’s gorgeous snow-carpeted landscapes. The adorable and athletic Alaskan Huskies at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s Wildlife Academy power 30-minute 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, federal forest lands and private facilities. Opportunities range from scenic trails through woods and wide-open spaces to straightaway runs on closed-to-cars roadways. Most trails are open from mid-December to early April; be sure to check current dates and trail conditions.
The Pennsylvania Wilds, beautified with trail-abundant state forests, is home to multiple snowmobiling destinations. Potter County’s local snowmobiling clubs work with the Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association to complete a navigational signage system to clearly mark trails.
Meanwhile, McKean County has more than 140 miles of trails that connect to an additional 360 miles of trails within the Allegheny National Forest, including the 114-mile Allegheny Snowmobile Loop, one of the area's premier spots for powder lovers. Thousands of riders travel to Marienville annually to partake in organized rides and blaze groomed and ungroomed trails in the national forest.
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 the trails in state and local forests situated in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna, Wyoming and Sullivan counties. Book at stay at a friendly lodge for a multi-day adventure; Stone Barn Inn near Elk Mountain and 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 State Park in Erie is also a Nordic wonderland, with summer time trails and beaches converted into pristine ski zones.
4. Snow tubing
Many Pennsylvania’s 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 snow tubing park in the U.S. with 42 sledding lanes, while Heritage Hills Golf Resort’s Avalanche Xpress tubing hill is a favorite with families and Crawford County's has seven-story 900-foot runs, night tubing and fire pits for après-sledding fun. Mercersburg’s Whitetail Resort is also known for its excellent snow tubing; book a tubing party or purchase one- to two-hour blocks of riding time. Find more winter sports in PA >>
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. Iceboaters can set sail in Moraine, Codorus, Beltzville and Presque Isle state parks, but state launch permits are required. First timers should consider connecting with groups like the Erie Yacht Club or Lake Arthur Sailing Club. Pymatuning State Park is also a favorite for iceboating, and its Jamestown Marina is the perfect spot for a mid-outing hot chocolate break.
6. Ice Fishing
Home to more than 2,500 natural and man-made lakes, Pennsylvania teems with outstanding ice-fishing locales in the wintertime. Hot picks for ice fishing include the lake at Hills Creek State Park in Wellsboro, where schools of yellow perch, bluegill and walleye hide under the ice and Crook Creek Lake, a hangout of bass, musky, sunfish and crappy just 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Lyman Run State Park, near Coudersport, which is known for rewarding anglers with catches of rainbow and palomino trout.
7. Ice Skating
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced skater, Pennsylvania has divine surfaces for gliding outdoors on picturesque lakes and reservoirs. 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. For an urban delight, consider the new Rothman Ice Rink at Dilworth Park in Philadelphia, which has a warming hut and holiday happenings.
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, located one hour outside of Pittsburgh, offers daytime and lantern rides. Northern Star Farm, located one hour outside of Philadelphia, has one-hour sleigh rides that can be shared with up to a dozen of your favorite people.
9. Winter Festivals
Pennsylvanians toast the cold-weather months with snowsport competitions, toasty cook offs, ice sculpture displays and more. Here are some festivals to pencil into your winter calendar:
- Fire & Ice Festival in Somerset, Jan 16–18, 2015
- FrozenFat Mountain Bike Festival at Raystown Lake, Jan 16–18, 2015
- Winter in the Wilds at CJ Spirits Distillery, Jan 16–19, 2015
- Winterfest at Seven Springs, Jan 16–25, 2015
- Winterfest at Moraine State Park, Jan. 17, 2015
- Marienville Winterfest, Jan. 24, 2015
- Ice-O-Rama at Lyman Run State Park, Jan. 31, 2015