Who’s afraid of a few snowflakes? Cold and snow are no excuse to stay indoors. When you’re properly dressed, winter can be spectacular at Ohio’s 74 state parks. And, after an hour outdoors, a fireplace and hot cocoa are sublime — and available at many parks.
It’s challenging to get enough exercise and sunlight during the short days of an Ohio winter. Ohio’s state parks provide a venue for both. Geneva, Headlands and Punderson state parks offer three different experiences in Northeast Ohio. Pick one, pick all three — then venture out to one of our incredible metro or county park systems.
It’s easy to think of the mile-long Headlands Beach State Park in summer — the coconut aroma of sunscreen, the buffing action of sand on bare feet and the booming bass of bands on Pandora playlists. With no thought of exercise virtue, visitors wade wild waves or amble along on paved paths.
In winter, the wide sandy strip is abandoned by the noisy, bathing suit-clad crowds. During the winter months, wind whips snow away from the sand, leaving open spaces where a few solitary souls still seek sea glass or, spurred by social conscience, collect litter. Frozen-in-place waves and ice formations present an eerie, sometimes extraterrestrial-ish spectacle to delight and lure the exercise-resistant explorer.
Further east, trails through the 698-acre Geneva State Park trace ledges overlooking similar scenarios. When Mother Nature unleashes her winter squalls, park visitors enjoy six miles of snowmobiling and cross-country ski trails, as well as opportunities for ice fishing. When cold creeps under a winter coat (and even if it doesn’t), the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake beckons with hot beverages, local wines and a warm hearth.
Both lakefront parks put on dramatic — albeit early — sunsets, while the angry, shallow lake kicks up a powerful show.
To further embrace winter, settle south at Punderson State Park’s 741 acres in Geauga County and celebrate the Snowbelt’s excess. Campsites close, but trails remain open for winter wanderers. When conditions are right, cross-country skiers, snowmobiles and dogsleds inhabit trails. A well-lit sledding hill (with rope tow) beckons the bold, bringing delighted squeals from grandchildren and their grandparents, as well.
Both Geneva and Punderson have lodges for winter getaways. To learn more about activities — including January dinner theater at Geneva and a maple syrup workshop at Mohican State Park — check out ohiodnr.gov/winter and parks.ohiodnr.gov/calendar.
Don’t forget our local county parks if you get a case of cabin fever. Cleveland Metroparks (clevelandmetroparks.com) has Ohio’s tallest and longest toboggan chutes at Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville. Big Met Golf Course in the Rocky River Reservation, the North Chagrin Nature Center, and the Hinckley Lake Boathouse and Store rent snowshoes.
Cross-country skiing rentals are available at Big Met, with trails open throughout the park system. Anglers can try ice fishing at any lake or pond within the Metroparks. Sledding hills are located throughout the Metroparks, including at Big Creek, Euclid Creek, Rocky River Reservation and South Chagrin Reservation.
Lake Metroparks (lakemetroparks.com) rents cross-country skis and snowshoes (or you can bring your own) to enjoy the snow on groomed trails. Trails are lit for nighttime use.
Geauga Park District (geaugaparkdistrict.org) keeps things interesting year-round, and winter is no exception. Check out the website for hikes, snowshoe lessons and other outdoor activities.
Enjoy January’s Blue Moon at the end of the month with naturalist-led hikes. Visit medinacountyparks.com and other county park websites for details.
Paris Wolfe likes watching Lake Erie’s moods from shores in Mentor and Geneva, even in winter.