Pennsylvania's forest and park system offers a wide range of ways for visitors to enjoy spending time outdoors during the winter, according to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. To view scheduled activities around the state, visit on the Web at www.getoutdoorspa.state.pa.us.
"Our state parks roll out the 'welcome mat' to winter visitors entering a new world of outdoor excitement and adventure," DCNR secretary Richard Allan said. "We invite families to find a steep hill at a nearby state park and take the sleds for a spin, or stroll on a trail and enjoy the beauty and peace winter landscape offers.
"Our snowmobile and ATV trails are now open, and hunters and anglers will be seeking out our state forests and parks for late-season hunting and ice fishing. The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle now is an established, popular component of our park system, offering a great launching point for winter activities like cross-country skiing at Bald Eagle State Park or for other outdoor adventures in the Pennsylvania Wilds."
Events at the Nature Inn are listed on the Web at www.natureinnatbaldeagle.com.
And it offers modern overnight accommodations and breakfast. Guests can relax in front of a large stone fireplace in the great room to warm up after outdoor activities.
This season, snowmobile riders in state forests and parks have access to 2,894 miles of marked joint-use state forest roads, closed roads, and trails in 18 of the state's 20 state forest districts and 32 state parks. Winter ATV trails stretching more than 170 miles in seven state forest districts opened earlier this month.
Snowmobile enthusiasts are reminded Bureau of Forestry snowmobile maps have been updated to reflect considerable changes linked to gas operations and recent storm damage. Maps can be found on the Web at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/recreation/snowmobile/smplacestoride/snowm....
Condition updates are provided by the DCNR on its toll-free, snowmobile hot line, 1-877-SNOMBLE (1-877-766-6253), and recorded messages, providing reports on snow depths and trail conditions across the state, are updated at about noon each Tuesday and Thursday. DCNR also provides weather and condition reports online for state parks and forests.
Snowmobile enthusiasts will find maps, conditions, and other detailed information on the Web at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/recreation/snowmobile/index.htm. Updated ice conditions and snow depths also are available.
All snowmobiles and ATVs in Pennsylvania must be registered with DCNR's snowmobile/ATV Unit. For more information on registration, call toll free at 866-545-2476 or visit DCNR's website.
When winter weather cooperates, state parks and forests also are the scene of coordinated winter festivals with games, dog-sled races, sleigh rides and fun competitions for families. Also, more than 330 miles of marked cross-country ski trails are offered on Pennsylvania's more than 2.3 million acres of state forestland and there are nearly 400 miles of groomed and un-groomed cross-country ski trails in 73 state parks.
Downhill skiing is offered at Blue Knob State Park, Bedford County; Denton Hill State Park, Potter County; and Camelback (Big Pocono State Park), Monroe County. Skiing again is not being offered this season at Laurel Mountain, Westmoreland County.
Most state parks with bodies of water are open, weather permitting, for ice-skating, ice fishing and ice boating. Sledding and tobogganing also are available at many parks.
Flintlock, late-season archery and other late-season hunters are reminded that more than 400 miles of normally gated state forest roads were opened for the late fall and early winter seasons to provide easy access to often remote areas. As much as 3,040 miles had been open to hunters, but openings and closings are at the discretion of local forestry officials and are weather-dependent, so hunters are urged to check with forest district offices about specific roads.
Several state parks have winter cabin rentals available. Cabin reservations can be made online at www.visitPAparks.com or by calling the toll-free information and reservation line, 1-888-PA-PARKS (1-888-727-2757). It operates Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For details on ice and snow conditions, or winter festivals at state parks and forests, visitors also may call the nearest state park or state forest district office. For general information, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us or call 717-783-7941 (Bureau of Forestry) or 717-772-0239 (Bureau of State Parks).
Pennsylvania Game Commission executive director Carl Roe said the agency applauds the enactment of legislation that will remove the requirement for hunters and trappers to display their licenses on an outer garment. This law takes effect in 60 days.
House Bill 735, sponsored by Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York), was unanimously approved by the House on June 15, and was approved by a vote of 46-3 in the Senate. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law today, which will take effect Monday, Feb. 13.
"Since 2003, the Game Commission has been supporting various drafts of legislation sponsored by Rep. Gillespie and Rep. Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill) to remove this antiquated requirement," Roe said. "With today's new license format, this change in law will make hunting less complicated, improve license management by hunters and trappers, and limit the inconveniences and troubles associated with lost or misplaced licenses.
"While we are pleased with the change in law, it is important to remember that the new law doesn't take effect for 60 days. So, hunters and trappers will need to continue to wear their licenses on an outer garment until Feb. 13."
This year's Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Photography Contest deadline is Saturday, Dec. 31. This year's contest will have the following three categories: "Anglers and Boaters," "Waterway Scenics" and "Reptiles and Amphibians." To obtain an entry form, complete with contest rules and past winning entries, visit the PFBC website at www.fishandboat.com/anglerboater/photocontest/00photo.htm.
This week's edition of "Experience The Outdoors," hosted by award-winning Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association member Doyle Dietz, Sunday, at 7 a.m. on 1410 WLSH and 9:30 a.m. on Magic 105.5, will feature the annual program of Christmas music.
A trap shoot will be held, Thursday, Dec. 29, beginning at 6 p.m., at Orwigsburg Gun Club, Gun Club Road, off Route 443 East, Orwigsburg. For information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.