For flintlock muzzleloader and late-season archery hunters, one of the all-too-often overlooked areas to hunt is Pennsylvania State Parks.
Many times, State Parks simply are overlooked and fail to get as much hunting pressure – especially for deer – as other public land, such as State Game Lands and State Forest Land. State Parks are also an ideal destination for the winter small-game season after muzzleloader and archery closes Saturday, Jan. 12.
To assist hunters, 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 its is important to check with forest district offices about specific roads.
In addition, State Parks can be a winter wonderland for all variety of outdoors activities – from ice fishing, to hiking to cross country skiing. Some parks even cater to those who enjoy snowmobiling and running all-terrain vehicles by opening special roads and trails.
"As the temperatures turn and seasonable and snow and ice begin to accumulate, our state forests and parks transform into a new world of outdoor excitement and adventure," Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary Richard Allan said. "We are hoping families seek out a sledding hill at a nearby state park or stroll on a forest trail and enjoy the beauty and peace winter landscapes offer.
"For others, snowmobile and ATV trails have opened, and hunters and anglers will be heading to our state forests and parks for late-season hunting and ice fishing. Some of our parks have special events like winter festivals with games, dog-sled races, sleigh rides and fun competitions for families.
"We also want people to take advantage of our parks that have modern, fully furnished cabins when thinking about lodging for a winter vacation or a weekend getaway. A complete schedule of activities from around the state can be viewed on our website at http://www.getoutdoorspa.state.pa.us/."
For the ultimate in getaways, the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle offers a great launching point for winter activities like cross-country skiing or for other outdoors adventures in the Pennsylvania Wilds. It offers modern overnight accommodations and breakfast, as well as a large stone fireplace in the great room where guests can warm up after outdoor activities.
For winter cabin rentals at other State Parks, reservations can be made by calling toll-free, 1-888-PA-PARKS (1-888-727-2757), Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Snowmobiling is available where conditions permit and is offered through April 1, on nearly 3,000 miles of marked joint-use State Forest roads, closed roads and trails in 18 of the state's 20 districts and in 32 State Parks. More than 170 miles of winter ATV trails in seven State Forest districts are also open.
DCNR is providing condition updates toll-free through 1-877-SNOMBLE (1-877-766-6253). Recorded messages, providing reports on snow depths and trail conditions across the state, are updated around noon each Tuesday and Thursday.
Snowmobile enthusiasts will find maps, conditions, and other detailed information at http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/ by first selecting "State Forests" and then "Recreation." Snowmobile maps are updated to show storm damage and other conditions that may affect the trails.
All snowmobiles and ATVs in Pennsylvania must be registered with DCNR's snowmobile/ATV Unit. For more information on registration, call toll-free 866-545-2476, or visit DCNR's website.
For the cross-country skiing enthusiast, more than 330 miles of marked cross-country ski trails are offered on Pennsylvania's state forestland. Also available 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. Also, sledding and tobogganing also are available at many parks.
Most state parks with bodies of water are open, weather permitting, for ice-skating, ice fishing and ice boating. Updated state park ice conditions and snow depths are available at http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/ by selecting "Find a Park," "Things to Do" and then "Enjoy the Winter."