My early aversion to winter dated from the time my tongue froze to an icy flying saucer at about age seven. But people do grow up and learn not to sample the ice on metal objects. And I have also learned that winter is one of the best times to be outdoors in the Poconos. The afternoon sun lighting snowy evergreens, the shape of far ridges seen through leafless trees, and the snow-muffled quiet of a woodland are some of the rewards.
Pennsylvania protects its outdoor heritage with state parks, state forests, and game lands. What luck to have all of these nearby! Here are three ways to get outside, breathe deeply, refresh your spirit ... and love being outdoors in winter.
Promised Land State Park
Whatever your skill level — or tolerance for winter weather — you’ll find an outdoor adventure at Promised Land State Park.
Head to Conservation Island with the self-guided trail map for an easy stroll on smooth, level paths. Take Little Falls Trail for a pleasant out-and-back walk with small waterfalls along the way. Walk or jog 6 miles around the lake on maintained roads. Borrow snowshoes — for free — and explore well-marked trails through wooded hills and valleys.
Promised Land covers 3,000 acres. Its 50 miles of trails include some that cross into Delaware State Forest and Bruce Lake Natural Area. Excellent maps are online and at the park office.
Delaware State Forest
Named for the river, not the state, Delaware State Forest is managed by professional foresters to create healthy forests, protect pure water and scenic beauty, provide recreation, and conserve plant and animal habitat, among other uses. At 83,519 acres, it’s big enough to feel like wilderness. You’ll find waterfalls and wetlands, glacial lakes and bogs, beaver dams, coyote tracks, and countless native plants, birds, and wildlife.
One place to start is off Snow Hill Road in Price Township. Follow Angler’s Road to the large parking area where it intersects with 16 Mile Run Road. Walk downhill through the gate — you’ll cross a beautiful unnamed tributary of Bushkill Creek. Continue uphill and curve around up the rocky heights, then retrace your steps. Dancing Ridge Trail loop also starts here.
A detailed map is available in hard copy and online.
State game lands
Pennsylvania Game Commission’s mission is to manage Pennsylvania’s wild resources — birds, mammals, and their habitats — for current and future generations and to champion Pennsylvania’s hunting and trapping heritage. Trails abound in game lands.
But keep in mind that this land is paid for largely by fees from hunting licenses, and something is just about always in season. Check the commission’s website for details. Late archery and flintlock deer seasons, for instance, run through Jan. 20 in our area. And always wear fluorescent orange while out in game lands. Brodhead Watershed Association’s April hike will be to Cresco Heights on State Game Lands 221. Plan to come along!
Something all these places have in common: water. There is no better protection for safe, drinkable, pure water than naturally forested land — the best, most effective, lowest-cost “water filtration plant” there is. Everywhere you go, forested land protects wildlife and birds, drinking water, and our rural heritage — and also provides that abiding sense of wonder you feel as you head back home after a day in the woods.
Editor's note: Carol Hillestad is a hike leader and writer for Get Outdoors Poconos, a grant-funded series administered by Brodhead Watershed Association.