With the excitement of the holidays behind us, it's time to acknowledge that winter’s fun and cozy days are beginning to feel cold, dark and dreary. Before cabin fever sets in, explore Pennsylvania’s Americana Region's many outdoor activities. You’ll find there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors, even in the cold. We've done some of the legwork for you and created a short list of things to enjoy this winter in our region. Check out our suggestions, bundle up, and get out there!
Winter Bird Watching
Pennsylvania’s beautiful outdoor regions come with lots of fascinating wildlife. Even in the winter, when many animals go into hibernation, there are plenty of amazing birds to see! From cardinals to bluejays to chickadees, the variety of birds in this region is astonishingly wide. Many of these birds can be seen just about anywhere, from your own backyard to area parks. However, there are some incredible spots across our region that provide a bird’s eye view of these incredible creatures like Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, French Creek State Park, Blue Marsh Recreation Center and Lake Ontelaunee. Whether you’re experienced at birding, or new to the pastime, you’ll find Berks County is a great place to enjoy this hobby.
A drop in the temperature is no excuse to stay inside. Why not give mountain biking a try on the Greater Reading Trails System. The trails are open year-round, and welcomes riders of all skill levels. Thanks to the Berks Area Mountain Biking Association, our trails are well marked, beautifully maintained, and even equipped with repair stations. The group invites interested cyclists to give this exhilarating sport a try. Learn more about local biking trails and BAMBA by visiting the embedded sites.
For those who prefer two feet to bike pedals, local hiking trails deliver invigorating walks and beautiful views across Berks County. Choose from uphill challenges, wooded paths and open terrain in our parks, forests, historic sites, rec areas and the nearby Appalachian Trail. Some of the trails are dog friendly, and some, like Nolde Forest, Blue Marsh, and South Mountain YMCA offer guided walks throughout the year. Learn more about great places to hike in Berks today.
Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing
No doubt about it, some of winter’s outdoor activities require snow like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. While lifts and steep slopes are required for skiing and snowboarding, Pennsylvania’s Americana Region offers many places to give the latter options a try. When snow falls Blue Marsh Lake Recreation Area, Gring’s Mill, French Creek State Park, and Nolde Forest State Park provide great trails for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Nolde Forest will rent snowshoes only on weekdays with proper identification and other requirements.
Tubing, Skiing, and Snowboarding
Tubing, skiing, and snowboarding are some of the most popular winter sports for good reason: they’re accessible, active, and lots of fun! Even your little ones can enjoy the snow on the bunny slopes as they learn the basics of skiing or snowboarding, and tubing can be lots of fun for the whole family, or for you and your friends. Bear Creek Mountain Resort in northern Berks County is a great place for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, with space on the mountain for all skill levels. No need to travel far for a day on the slopes in Berks County.
If you love fishing in the warmer months and tend to miss it in the winter, ice fishing might just be your new favorite way to spend a weekend. Most places that allow fishing will also allow ice fishing, but make sure you double check ahead of time. French Creek State Park is a popular location.
Safety is always important with outdoor winter activities, but you’ll want to take plenty of precautions when ice fishing because thin ice and cold water can get very dangerous. Check the weather and the ice thickness carefully, go out in small groups as opposed to going alone, and wear a personal floatation device or lifejacket just in case. You can read more about safety tips here.
Have you ever seen a tree get tapped during maple sugaring season? Pennsylvania’s maple sugaring season begins in mid-February and runs until the trees begin to put buds out in the very early spring. It is a fascinating process to watch, especially for young children.Wait until they discover that their favorite pancake condiment comes from trees. Truly, seeing the process of tapping and refining syrup is interesting for all ages.
As maple sugaring season gets closer, check out the websites for your local farms and parks for related events. The Berks County Parks and Recreation department typically offers maple sugaring demonstrations at multiple locations. Reserve your spot for a demonstration at Gring’s Mill on February 26. Reservations are required.
Many events include a tree tapping demonstration to retrieve the sap and possibly a tour of the facilities used to purify, boil, and reduce the sap down to a syrup. Some instructors might include an explanation of how maple syrup is graded according to color, and if you’re lucky, a taste test! What could be better than sampling fresh maple syrup poured on snow, then eating it once it sets into gooey, stretchy goodness. Delicious!
With these exciting ideas for outdoor fun you’re sure to beat cabin fever and boredom this winter! Check out Calendar of Events for more ideas. Just try to get outside and enjoy the beauty and fun Pennsylvania’s Americana Region provides in winter!