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Photo: leaf/Getty Images/iStockphoto, License: N/A, Created: 2008:03:23 16:16:43


Cabin fever setting in? Need to get out and enjoy the great outdoors then why not make it a family trip?

Well, look no further than the great outdoors of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The weather is nippy, the scenery is gorgeous and the conditions are perfect.

Northeastern Pennsylvania has so much to offer families who wish to spend some quality time together as a family in the great outdoors. Whether it is snowshoeing or cross country skiing through some magnificent countryside to just a walk through the woods admiring the wildlife, it can all be found here in NEPA.

What a better place to get started then the Lackawanna State Park where a multitude of winter festivities abound.

Angela Lambert, environmental education specialist at the park, says their snowshoeing trails are very popular and families enjoy the 12-mile system together. The park also offers a snowshoe loaner program to those interested in trying out the wintertime sport.

Another great family time at the park is ice fishing. Not only to children have the joy of catching the big one but many families make it an outing with a picnic lunch to go with it. In addition, the park has ice skating and a sledding hill, as well as cross country skiing areas to add to the fun.

On Feb. 24, a Veteran’s Hike will be held for veterans and their families, at 1 p.m. Snowshoeing will be available based on conditions. To register call 570-945-7110.

Come mid-March another interesting family event is the Woodcock Watch where families can view the “courtship flight” of area woodcocks. “It is really neat to see,” admitted Lambert.

Check the park’s Facebook page for its calendar of events.

The Rail-Trail Council (RTC) of Northeastern Pennsylvania offers a variety of winter programs along and off the trail that are great for families, according to Lynn Conrad, executive director.

“Snowshoeing is most popular especially when there is six inches or more of snow,” she explains and the RTC loans out snowshoes, free of charge, from their office in Union Dale. Snowshoes fit any shoe or boot, but also they provide various sizes based on weight including men’s, women’s, children’s.

RTC holds winter nature walks to look for deer and rabbit browses, animal footprint ID’s, winter tree ID’s, and to experience the beauty of icy waterways and nearby forests. “We have had naturalists lead walks and our retired Susquehanna Co. district forester, Jim Kessler, always attracts a large group when he leads the way,” added Conrad. Sometimes to the delight of children and adults alike, a scavenger hunt is combined with the nature walks for everyone to partake in.

RTC also features yoga hikes combined with hiking, breathing, stretching and an awareness of the beauty of winter all in one trip. Families are welcome to partake in this and often find it a great reprieve from the daily hectic schedules they often lead.

Cross-country skiing is easy especially on the groomed snowmobile trails or cutting fresh tracks in snow along the trail, notes Conrad. “It’s as easy as walking and learning to glide is fun,” she adds. The RTC offers introductory lessons for those wishing to give it a try.

Rentals for cross country skis and snowshoes are available nearby for rent at Chet’s Place, Union Dale. A variety of trails near Chet’s, a nearby restaurant and bar, offers you a choice of workouts from an easy loop around the lake to a moderate ski through the woods or a rigorous run to the top a a nearby mountain.

The Winter Botany Hike at the Thomas Darling Preserve in Blakeslee is another great family time to explore nature. “I think this is a great hike for families with children ages 12 and up. Winter is a great time to look at plants and see their structure and our Thomas Darling preserve is home to many animals so hopefully we will be able to see and identify some tracks,” explains Jenny Case of the Preserve. There is also a large population of snowshoe hare living here, so participants may be able to see one of them on the hike on Feb. 25. “By this time in February everyone has got a touch of cabin fever, so a nice afternoon hike is the perfect cure,” she added.

“The winter botany walk is a great event for families because deep winter is a time when most folks are suffering from the winter blues and are looking forward to spring. This event gets them up off the couch and outside into the fresh air. The most important step to staving off cabin fever,” said botany walk leader Mike Leggiero. Also, he admits, many folks are interested in using plants for different reasons, whether it is for learning about holistic medicine, knowing which plants provide natural foods for survival situations or learning what that tree is in the back yard. Winter is a tough time of year to identify plants since most people identify plants by their leaves.”

The Preserve’s winter botany walk will teach people to look at plant parts which will allow them to be able to identify the plant all year long. Likewise, the Thomas Darling Preserve is home to some interesting animals that few people get a chance to see such as snowshoe hares and river otters. To register for the walk call 570-643-7922.

Leggiero is also founder of Sandcut Outdoors which features a variety of family friendly programs such as fire making, hug a tree, first aid, basic outdoor skills for primitive camping and more.

“Most of my programs are geared toward getting people outside to learn about their surroundings. Here in PA we are blessed with millions of acres of public land and private land with public access, and my goal at Sandcut Outdoors is to give people a reason to explore that land because once they start to use it, they are more prone to keep using it,” explains. Other events he offers include a Wilderness and Remote First Aid class in March especially for families of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts or families that hunt in remote areas. Another, one of his favorite events, in April is a bird “listening” walk he performs for the PA DCNR. “On this walk we are not bird watching, we’re learning to identify birds by song or call,” he points out.

Check out for more information.


Elk Mountain

With a great variety of terrain for everyone in the family, Elk Mountain Ski Resort, is a great place to learn the family-friendly sport, says Bob Deluca, director of marketing and group sales at Elk.

“We are not overcrowded with 180 acres of skiable terrain so even when there’s a large crowd, it’s spread out over a large area,” he adds.

Providing a very family-friendly environment, generations of skiers continue to ski at Elk Moutnain. “We are not commercialized and we pay attention one-on-one to our guests,” stated DeLuca.


Pocono Mountain Snow Tubing

Why not pack that family in the car and head to one of six Pocono Mountain resorts that offers snow tubing? Appropriate for almost everyone, all you have to do is dress appropriately and get ready for some fun. Family size tubes are often available and make a great day outing. For more information and to check age and height requirements for each go to at Blue Mountain Snow Tubing, Camelback Tubing, Shawnee Mountain, Jack Frost Big Boulder, Ski Big Bear, and White Lighting Tubing at Fernwood. Shawnee Mountain is conducting a special Military Appreciation Weekend on March 16 to 18, so make plans to go snow tubing with in the Pocono Mountains!