Fight winter doldrums with activities at Ohio state parks

COLUMBUS – As 2014 comes to a close, families can begin to put the hustle and bustle of the holiday season behind them as they seek a bit of peace and quiet in the great outdoors. Ohio State Parks offer special events during the winter, such as guided hikes, cross-country skiing, sled dog races and late-winter maple syrup festivals.

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“Ohio's winter weather shouldn't prevent families from having the great memories that can be created by spending time together outdoors,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director James Zehringer.

There are several great outdoor events happening throughout the next few months. The public is encouraged to participate in all of these free activities. For a list of other winter activities including places to stay the night, go to ohiodnr.gov/winter.

First Day Hike at Shawnee State Park – Thursday Meet at the lodge lobby at 1 p.m. before going on a fun, relaxing walk through an oak hickory forest with friends and family in the center of the largest state forest in Ohio along the 1-mile Lampblack Trail. After the hike, enjoy cookies and hot chocolate in the lodge.

Punderson Dog Sled Classic – The dog sled race will be held at Punderson State Park Jan. 10 and 11, 2015. This event is sponsored by Siberian Husky Club of Greater Cleveland. Contestants should park at the golf course, while general parking is at the beach parking lots. Makeup dates are Feb. 21-22. Contact Mary Groth at 330-659-7330 to register and for more information.

10th Annual Winter Hike at Mohican State Park – Winter is a great time to see native wildlife, birds and trees while hiking so people are invited to participate in this hike on Jan. 11 at 10 a.m. The hike begins at the commissary, which is located at the park's Class A campground, just outside Loudonville on State Route 3 in Ashland County. Two general hikes – a 5K and a longer 10K hike are planned. Trails run from moderate to difficult. Hikes, led by volunteers from the Mohican Trails Club, will begin and end at the commissary. A warm fire, hot soup, cookies and drinks will be provided after the hike.

50th Anniversary Winter Hike at Hocking Hills State Park – This self-guided hike will be held on Jan. 17, with continuous starts from 9-11 a.m. This rugged hike offers a 3-mile or 6-mile trek, allowing hikers to see noteworthy sights such as Old Man's Cave, Cedar Falls and Ash Cave. This remains the most popular winter hike in the Ohio State Parks system, and millions of hikers visit this nationally recognized park throughout the year. Hikers are encouraged to layer clothing and wear good footwear. Refreshments are available at Cedar Falls, and donations are appreciated. Shuttle buses return hikers to Old Man's Cave.

Annual Buckeye Trail Winter Hike at Findley State Park – This hike will be held on Feb. 7 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Meet in the campground to enjoy a great hiking event with delicious bean soup. The event includes a 10K, 5K as well as interpretive led hikes. Contact the park office for more information at 440-647-5749, ext. 100 or 102.

“An Evening with Ole Blue Eyes” at Malabar Farm State Park – Enjoy listening to a Frank Sinatra impersonator singing while enjoying a five-course Italian meal on Feb. 7, and Feb. 14, inside the Big House where Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield lived and where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married. There will be two seatings at 4 and 7 p.m. each day, and guests will receive a special gift. Cost is $35 per person. Guests must pre-register by calling Victoria Cochran at 419-892-2929 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sweethearts Hike at Hocking Hills State Park – Meet at the Ash Cave parking lot on Feb. 14, and go on the Sweethearts Hike from 5-7 p.m. Take your sweetheart for a romantic stroll to Ash Cave in the soft light of dusk and then enjoy a cozy fire and refreshments for free.

Hike to Health at Malabar Farm State Park – Enjoy a day viewing the winter sights at Malabar Farm on Feb. 21, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Meet at the visitor center to receive maps. After hiking, refreshments will be available at the visitor center conference room. This free event is sponsored by the Richland County Health Department. Call 419-774-4761 with questions.

Pancake and Maple Syrup Brunch at Caesar Creek State Park – Enjoy some homemade maple syrup with pancakes, sausage, coffee, milk, and hot chocolate at the Pioneer Village on Feb. 28 and March 1 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Maple Sugaring in the Hills at Hocking Hills State Park – People are encouraged to go to the naturalist's cabin located behind the Old Man's Cave Visitor Center on March 7-8, from 12-4 p.m. Visitors can watch as local maple sap is boiled down and learn about the many methods used throughout history to make delicious maple syrup.

The 49th Annual Maple Syrup Festival at Hueston Woods State Park – Visitors are encouraged to explore this family friendly festival on March 7-8 and 14-15. Activities will include maple syrup tours, hay rides, and a hike through the Big Woods State Nature Preserve. The nature center will also be open throughout the day with various exhibits including reptiles, birds of prey and our resident cougar Timber! For more questions, call 513-524-4250.

Maple Syrup Festival at Malabar Farm State Park – People are invited to enjoy this free event on March 7-8 and March 14-15 from 12-4 p.m. Experience the sugar camp with live historical demonstrations, horse-drawn wagon rides, music, food and maple products for sale.