Published February 2005

When it’s been a bad winter, with too much snow, too much rain, too much ice, too much everything, and when according to the Pennsylvania groundhog, we’ve got more long weeks of the above coming, what are your options?  Area outdoorsmen have a simple choice.  They can hole up like that proverbial groundhog and wait for spring, or they can head outside, hopefully with the spouse and kids, and enjoy the remaining winter  thoroughly.  For most, that should be no choice at all, and while private lands offer some fun things to do, Ohio’s state parks are waiting with open arms.  Lots to do in these places and no need for permission.

One of the closest hotspots for cold fun is Malabar Farm State Park in southern Richland County.  This pretty park with its nice mix of hills and valleys, forest and field is a perfect place for cross country skiing, and if you’re new to the sport, they’ll even rent the skiis.  Cross country is good exercise, but not nearly as demanding in skill as downhill skiing, and with 11.5 miles of trails, you can see some nice country and have exhilarating little downhill runs with stops for hot chocolate.  Malabar also has a good sledding hill and several skating ponds when the ice is good. 

Then there’s East Harbor State Park up in Erie County, another good spot for winter fun.  A fair number of northcentral Ohio outdoorsmen own snowmobiles as witness trails on snowy fields around the area, but there aren’t many public trails for their use.  East Harbor has a nice one that stretches 7.5 miles, and the same trail can be used for cross country skiing.  There’s a sledding hill too, and some good ice fishing when ice is safe. 

A little further away, you might like to visit Delaware State Park just south in Delaware County.  It has 5.75 miles of cross country trails with a good chance of seeing wildlife from deer to cottontails, and both a sledding hill and facilities for ice skating. 

Outdoorsmen who like to travel and see new country might enjoy a visit to Paint Creek down in southwestern Ohio on the edge of Ross County.  This hilly and well forested park has an impressive 25 mile long snowmobile trail and the same trail can be used for long hours of cross country skiing or you might choose to just enjoy the sledding hill here.  Have you ever heard of Sycamore State Park?  It’s a quiet little park in southwest Ohio’s Montgomery County that offers almost everything.  It’s small land area has 4.3 miles of skiing and snowmobiling, a sledding hill, and a skating area.  Lots to do there and new country to do it in.

There are plenty of other state parks waiting to host some winter fun, whether it be winter camping at Salt Fork or a lodge or cabin stay at the same spot.  There are some beautiful hiking trails at Hocking Hills with their winter pagentry of ice waterfalls and unusual scenery.  You might have a look at Maumee Bay State Park which has its own lodge/cabin/campground complex, or visit pretty little Dillon State Park, and just have fun sledding and skating.  Information on these and any other state park is available at or, or by calling 1-800-BUCKEYE.

And finally, don’t forget that there are still some organized activities at various state parks for winter entertainment.  Like a Maple Syrup Weekend at Caesar Creek State Park at the Pioneer Village.  March has more maple syrup festivals, and a Waterfowl On The Move event at Mary Jane Thurston State Park .  No need to sit and wait for spring, and the white stuff can be fun.  With your family, lots of fun.

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