Snowmobiling and Sledding and Cross-Country Skiing, Oh My!
Great Winter Getaways in the Ohio State Parks
Exciting outdoor activities throughout the winter at five Ohio State Parks range from snow sledding and snowmobiling to guided nature walks, geocaching and bird watching.
Four parks in the woods and one on the shores of Lake Erie are within easy drives from Ohio cities and major highways. Salt Fork is 12 miles from Cambridge near the I-70/I-77 interchange. Mohican is about 75 miles from either Columbus or Akron. Punderson is 35 miles east of Cleveland. Deer Creek is 35 miles south of Columbus. And Maumee Bay is 12 miles east of Toledo.
One major draw of the parks is the variety of birdwatching activities, either at the parks themselves or within easy driving distance. At Salt Fork, Mohican, Punderson, Deer Creek and Maumee Bay, naturalist programs highlight the importance of birds, provide tips on protecting their habitats and spotlight their place in the food chain. Ohioâ€™s marshes and wetlands are a haven for birds, both local residents and flocks of migratory birds that fill the airways as the snow melts into spring.
Here are some fun winter activities for each park.
Deer Creek State Park Lodge
Outdoor activities: Hiking and nature walks, birdwatching, geocaching, ice-skating, ice fishing and snowmobiling (bring your own) on 17 miles of trails. The park is a collage of meadows and woodlands in gently rolling hills that surround a scenic reservoir at Deer Creek Lake.
Indoor activities: Fireside chats, indoor pool with hot tub, cards and board games.
Maumee Bay State Park Lodge
Outdoor activities: Sledding, hiking and nature walks (a nature center has wildlife exhibits with an easily accessible boardwalk), birdwatching, miles of cross-country skiing trails (equipment rental available) and geocaching. The park is near renowned wildlife sanctuaries Metzger Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.
Indoor activities: Fireside chats, indoor pool with hot tubs, saunas, and childrenâ€™s splash pad, cards and board games, family movie nights, wallyball and racquetball for all ages. Separate cabins have hot tubs.
Mohican State Park Lodge
Outdoor activities: Hiking and woodsy nature walks in the secluded hills, birdwatching, geocaching and snowmobiling (bring your own). On the western edge of the state park is Mohican Memorial State Forest, where the hemlock-lined Clear Fork Gorge is a National Natural Landmark.
Indoor activities: Fireside chats, indoor pool, sauna, cards and board games, and game rooms.
Punderson Manor State Park Lodge
Outdoor activities: Punderson is Ohioâ€™s premier winter-sports park with excellent sledding, cross-country skiing on more than six miles of trails and snowmobiling (bring your own) in the hills around a 150-acre natural lake. There are also hiking and nature walks, birdwatching, ice fishing and geocaching. New in 2016: a mechanical tow rope on the popular sledding hill.
Indoor activities: Fireside chats, indoor pool, cards and board games.
Salt Fork State Park Lodge
Outdoor activities: Sledding, hiking and nature walks, birdwatching, geocaching, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, ice fishing and snowmobiling (bring your own) on 19 miles of trails. Salt Fork Wildlife Area includes an 80-acre marsh, and the park sits along Salt Fork Lakeâ€™s 74 miles of shoreline.
Indoor activities: Fireside chats, indoor pool with hot tub, cards and board games, game room with pool and video games. Separate cabins have hot tubs.
The Ohio State Park Lodges Â are pet-friendly and are open year round.
For special guided winter hikes and events, a winter recreation chart, and a brochure on Ohio parks winter activities, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/winter.
For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit Xanterra.com/explore.
WRITTEN BY: DAVID G. MOLYNEAUX
Ohio-based freelancer David Molyneaux writes regularly about travel and cruising tips and trends for newspapers and websites in Miami, Dallas and Cleveland. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com.