Thursday, February 18, 2016

Alternative winter activities to embrace the snowy season

Chapin Forest Pine Lodge Ski Center - photo by greennite

Winter activities

When winter is here, we can either choose to hibernate through it or—better yet—we can choose to embrace it!

The easiest way to do so is by cross-country skiing at Chapin Forest Pine Lodge Ski Center, snowshoeing at Penitentiary Glen Reservation or sledding at Hidden Valley or Chagrin River Parks. But the truth of the matter is there are many more ways to embrace what is probably the purest season of them all: winter.

Cross-country Skiing 

For trail conditions, call the Winter Sports Hotline: 440-256-2118 x4178 or follow us on Twitter @LakeMetroparksWe update our sports hotline daily (even hourly as snow conditions change).

If your adventure includes cross-country skiing, there are opportunities across the county starting with Chapin Forest where we rent skis and snowshoes, groom the trails and turn on lights for you at night. If you have “been there and done that” and want to experience the peace and solitude that exists throughout winter, you might check out three other areas groomed for skiing.

In eastern Lake County, at Erie Shores Golf Course, we groom about five kilometers of trail on the relatively flat course. In western Lake County, we groom five kilometers at Pine Ridge Country Club that includes some nice hills. In south/central Lake County we groom about nine kilometers at the south entrance of Girdled Road Reservation—some of it flat, but also some  challenging terrain. Each park offers a different experience and, with the spotty nature of snowfall, it may be possible to ski in one park while grass is still showing at another.

Groomed trails
Chapin Forest Reservation
Girdled Road Reservation
Erie Shores Golf Course
Pine Ridge Country Club

Rentals
Chapin Forest Pine Lodge cross-country ski center
Skis and snowshoes are available for rental from noon to 9 pm weekdays and 9 am to 9 pm on weekends and holidays.

Call the ski center for more information during operational hours at 440-256-2118 x4178

Snowshoeing

If you are looking for an adventure that can be dialed back a notch, then perhaps snowshoeing is for you. All it takes is three or four inches of snow and a good pair of boots and you can experience winter at its best. At Penitentiary Glen and Chapin Forest, we rent snowshoes and have designated marked trails for you to follow. Once you have done that, it is time to get out and explore the thousands of acres waiting for you!

To do this, rent a pair of snowshoes from Chapin Forest Pine Lodge (or purchase a pair and keep them in your trunk). When it snows, go for a ride and check out one of our many parks with trails. Some favorites include Indian Point Park (upper lot), the Environmental Learning Center, Pete’s Pond Preserve, Hell Hollow Wilderness Area, Hogback Ridge Park, Big Creek at Liberty Hollow and Skok Meadow at Girdled Road Reservation. Each of these parks has something different to offer from scenic overlooks to shale cliffs coated with ice. Anywhere you hike in the summer is a great place to snowshoe in the winter. Many of the parks in central Lake County benefit from great lake effect snowfalls.

Rentals
Chapin Forest Pine Lodge cross-country ski center
Snowshoes are available for rental at the Pine Lodge Ski Center from noon to 9 pm weekdays and 9 am to 9 pm on weekends and holidays.

Penitentiary Glen Nature Center
Snowshoe rentals are available 9 am to 4 pm daily beginning early November through early March on an hourly and 
daily basis (weather dependent).

2015-2016 cross-country skiing and snowshoeing programs

Sledding

Sledding at Hidden Valley Park - photo by greenniteLake Metroparks offers a variety of winter activities for all ages, but by far, sledding is one of the most popular. Our parks offer four different places to bring your family for a day of thrills in whatever apparatus you chose to bring. In the eastern end of Lake County there are two very popular spots to sled: Hidden Valley Park and Riverview Park, both located in Madison Township. In the western end, popular hills to sled on are found at Chagrin River Park in Eastlake and Chapin Forest Reservation in Kirtland.

Beach Walks

Sounds crazy, but if all goes well and it gets really cold, then you must venture down to one of our lakeshore properties. This may be the coolest thing (pun intended!) you see all winter! Bring along snowshoes (or even simple YakTrax for your boots) and head to the north coast where you will see the 13th largest body of fresh water in the world turn from a liquid to solid state. This usually happens in late January and can last long into March. What makes it even more spectacular is the combination of the lake’s wave action with freeze-and-thaw cycles, which transform the flat beach into giant mounds of ice as solid as rocks. These mounds can stretch for miles and take on amazing shapes and textures. You will think you are on the edge of the Arctic Circle! Although the lake is visible from all six of our lakefront properties, the best places to explore the beach in winter are in Perry at both Lakeshore Reservation and Lake Erie Bluffs (Lane Road entrance). Always use caution when walking on or near the beach in the winter. Some days the mounds are solid; not so on other days. Always stay close to the bank and never attempt to walk on the ice if water is present.

Winter Camping

Winter campsite at Girdled Road Reservation- south entranceWhat if it were possible to pitch a tent and spend the night in a nearly 1,000-acre park in the middle of winter? Well it is — at Girdled Road Reservation in Concord Township. We’ll even provide the firewood! The campsite is located along Big Creek and can be reserved online at lakemetroparks.com or by calling 440-358-7275. It is a hike-in/ski-in site about 0.75-mile into the Big Creek Valley. It is a great place for a one night stay or to train for a longer excursion elsewhere in the world. You will be amazed how quiet the forest gets after a fresh snowfall.

Ice Fishing

Lake Metroparks offers two great locations for an ice fishing experience: Hidden Lake in Leroy Township and Veterans Park in Mentor. If you have the equipment and skills, you are welcome to venture out on the ice, drill a hole and give it a try. If you have never tried ice fishing before, consider taking one of our classes (View online or in the winter issue of Parks Plus!). Ice fishing can be dangerous and we do not monitor the ice, so this is a “try at your own risk” activity.

Steelhead Fishing

Lake Metroparks provides some of the best public access to Ohio's treasured steelhead streams!

  1. The Division of Wildlife annually stocks five Lake Erie tributary streams with 6-8" yearling Little Manistee River (Michigan) strain of steelhead. These fish (called "smolts") migrate out into Lake Erie and spend the summer in the cooler part of the lake before returning to streams during the fall through the spring. Steelhead trout caught by anglers in the streams typically average 25" long and weigh 5-6 pounds. These fish have usually spent 2-3 summers out in the lake. However, there are a good number of fish that are over 30 inches and weigh more than 10 pounds and have spent up to six summers in the lake.

Lake County's steelhead streams are the Chagrin and Grand rivers; each receiving 90,000 yearling steelhead annually. Good quantities of cold, spring water and adequate juvenile trout habitat are also rare in NE Ohio's Lake Erie tributaries. The fantastic fishing has been maintained by annual stocking and by the practice of most anglers to catch and release. A State of Ohio fishing license is required for fishing in all rivers and tributaries in Ohio.

Click here for a list of parks with public access to the Chagrin and Grand rivers, fishing guide permits and more information about fishing in Lake Metroparks.

Ice Formations

Winter in Northeast Ohio transforms moisture into spectacular cascading walls of ice. The most impressive formations can be seen at the gorge at Penitentiary Glen in Kirtland. These formations can be viewed on a naturalist-led hike offered periodically throughout the winter. There are also many other places to view ice on you own with just a little effort. Some of these includes the Grand River at Hidden Valley Park, Mill Creek at Hogback Ridge Park, Paine Falls in Leroy Township, Chair Factory Falls and Big Creek at Liberty Hollow in Concord Township and Pleasant Valley Park in Willoughby Hills.

Hiking

Winter Hike - Photo by Maribeth Joeright for The News-HeraldLake Metroparks has nearly 50 miles of trails spanning Lake County. The trails provide countless opportunities to fight off cabin fever this winter. 
Click here for the top 5 winter hikes.
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