COLUMBUS, OH – Feeling the winter doldrums with the gray days and being cooped inside? Exploring outdoors in the Buckeye State is a great way to embrace the winter season! The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is offering several winter hikes and events in February for people to enjoy. When hiking during the winter, people should remember to check the weather forecast before hiking, let people know when they will return and dress for the weather with waterproof sturdy boots. Hikers should also remember that no ice is safe ice, and any ice covered by snow should always be presumed to be unsafe.
Big House Valentine’s Bash at Malabar Farm State Park – Experience artistic stylings in the tradition of the Great American Songbook while enjoying a five-course meal in the historic Big House at Malabar Farm State Park. This event will be offered over two weekends. It will be held on Friday, Feb. 9, and Friday, Feb. 16, at 6 p.m. Two seatings will be offered on Saturday, Feb. 10, and Saturday, Feb. 17, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The cost is $50 per person. Pre-registration is required, call Victoria Cochran at 419-892-2929.
Birding Caravan at Shawnee State Park – Join Dave Riepenhoff on a journey around the park, forest and river bottoms in search of ducks, geese, eagles, hawks and anything else that’s moving. Meet at the Shawnee State Park Lodge lobby at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10. For more information, call 740-858-6652.
Winter Hike for Health at Malabar Farm State Park – Enjoy a healthy hiking day with friends, family and pets at Malabar Farm State Park on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sign in at any time at the visitor’s center. Maps and refreshments will be available in the conference room. This event is free and is sponsored by the Richland Public Health Department. For more information, call 419-774-4772.
Winter Hike at Beaver Creek State Park – Join us for a winter hike at Beaver Creek State Park on Saturday, Feb. 10, at 10 a.m. Led by the park naturalist, this moderate hike will highlight winter wildlife and take visitors along a trail complete with scenic views of Little Beaver Creek and the surrounding gorge. The exact route for this hike will be determined by weather conditions the day of the hike and last approximately 2 hours. The Friends of Beaver Creek will provide visitors with hot soup to warm up after the hike. Participants should meet in the main parking lot in the Pioneer Village on Echo Dell Road. Hikers should dress in warm layers and proper footwear. Ice cleats, hiking sticks, binoculars and cameras are all great additions to a winter hike. For more information, call 330-385-3091.
Winter Hike at Burr Oak State Park – Join fellow hiking enthusiasts for a great day of hiking on Saturday, Feb. 10, for the winter hike at Burr Oak State Park! Hike lengths of 3, 5 and 8 miles will be offered from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Enjoy free bean soup and cornbread after the hike at the lodge. All hikers should meet at the lodge. For more information, call 740-767-3570.
Nature Night at Maumee Bay State Park – Ever wonder what animals roamed the wilds of Ohio? Or lurked in the Great Black Swamp? Swing by the lodge at Maumee Bay State Park on Saturdays in February (Feb. 10, 17 and 24) from 4:30-5:30 p.m. to find out, and see some skins, skulls and snakes! For more information, call 419-836-7758.
Sweethearts Hike at Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park – Join us for the Sweethearts Hike at Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 5-7 p.m., all are welcome. Meet at the Ash Cave parking lot a little before 5 p.m. for a naturalist-guided hike. Take your sweetheart for a romantic stroll to Ash Cave in the soft light of dusk. Enjoy a cozy fire and refreshments afterward. For more information, call 740-385-6842.
Sweetheart Stroll at Mohican State Park – Bring your sweetheart for a romantic stroll lit by luminaries on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 7-9 p.m. Meet in the lobby of the Mohican State Park Lodge. The gazebo trail is on the lodge grounds, and it goes through beautiful old growth trees to the gazebo and a beautiful view of Pleasant Hill Lake. Afterward, enjoy a cozy fire, marshmallows and refreshments. For more information, call 419-994-5125.
Owl Prowl at Burr Oak State Park – On Thursday, Feb. 15, Pat Quackenbush, the naturalist at Hocking Hills State Park, will start this Owl Prowl program inside with a live owl. Next, we will head outside for a hike to call for owls. We will have bean soup and cornbread available for purchase prior to the program. Complimentary hot chocolate will be served. Meet at the lodge at Burr Oak State Park at 6:30 p.m. for this fun event. For more information, call 740-767-3570.
Great Backyard Bird Count at Burr Oak State Park – Take part in a global citizen science project for birds! We will identify and count all of the birds we see on a 1.5-mile hike on Friday, Feb. 16, at 9:30 a.m. Data submitted from the hike helps scientists track changes in the abundance and distribution of birds, as well as migration patterns. Bring binoculars, and meet at the nature center. For more information, call 740-767-3570.
Winter Hike in the Little Miami River Gorge – The picturesque cliffs of the Little Miami River provide the backdrop for this second annual winter hike on Saturday, Feb. 17. This guided hike, which is free to the public, will follow the river for approximately 6 miles passing several historical sites and will include living history encounters along the route. Hikers can learn about some of the unique geological features of the Little Miami River Gorge, as well as the cultural history of this site. Guided groups will leave at 10 minute intervals from 9-11 a.m. starting at John Bryan State Park, located on St. Rt. 370, 2 miles west of Yellow Springs. Hot beans and cornbread will be available for donation at the half-way point at Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve’s nature center. This event will take place regardless of the weather so warm clothing and sturdy shoes are recommended. For questions regarding this event, contact the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve manager at 937-537-6173 or John Bryan State Park manager at 614-949-7998.
Sweetheart Hike at Portage Lakes State Park – Share a love of nature with the person you love during the Sweetheart Hike at Portage Lakes State Park on Saturday, Feb. 17, at 10 a.m. During this hike, we will be on the lookout for birds and mammals. Meet the naturalist at the first parking lot on your right when entering the park. For more information, call 330-644-2220.
Backyard Maple Syrup Workshop at Mohican State Park – Join us at Mohican State Park on Saturday, Feb. 17, for an introduction on how to make maple syrup at home from your own backyard from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Meet at the nature center located in Camp Area A, south of Loudonville off State Route 3. To sign up for this event, call 419-994-5125, ext. 20.
Great Backyard Bird Count at Lake Hope State Park – Identify and count birds at the nature center at Lake Hope State Park on Saturday, Feb. 17, from 1-4 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. as part of the National Audubon Society’s annual event to collect data on species’ trends in the country and around the world. Beginners and experts are welcome. Some binoculars will be available. For more information, call the nature center at 740-596-3030.
Winter Hike at Caesar Creek State Park – Start at the Wellman Meadows Trailhead parking lot at Caesar Creek State Park on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 10 a.m. for a self-guided hike to Horseshoe Falls and our 103-foot swinging bridge. Warm up with a nice soup lunch available at the nature center before going on to Crawdad Falls. The proceeds of the lunch will go toward providing more nature programs at Caesar Creek State Park. People can hike either 3 miles or 6 miles. For more information, call 513-897-3055.
Off the Beaten Path Hike at Burr Oak State Park – This winter hiking series explores areas of the park not normally seen by hiking established trails. Wear sturdy footwear and be prepared for steep hills and uneven terrain on this 2-mile hike on Saturday, Feb. 24. Meet at the nature center at 2 p.m. For more information, call 740-767-3570.
Getting outdoors is an ideal way to relieve stress and boost mood levels. The Explore Ohio initiative is aimed at encouraging people to exercise outdoors and become healthier in the process. Participants can log their miles, share their photos and create friends groups on the Explore Ohio website at ExploreOh.com. Whether people are running, hiking, biking, climbing, walking or paddling, Ohioans can keep track of their progress at ExploreOh.com and share their adventures on social media using #ExploreOhio. After reaching 100 combined miles of activity on the site, each registered user will receive an email with a certificate good for 15 percent off camping at any Ohio State Park.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.