8 ideas for winter recreation on your public lands

Cross-country skiers staying at Grizzly Ridge Yurt in Utah's Ashley National Forest.

flickr, USDAgov

America's forests, refuges, national parks and other public lands are excellent places to discover all the peace and joy that winter holds.

These are your public lands, so be sure to make the most of them year-round. From snowshoeing to ice fishing to ice climbing, there are numerous ways to explore winter in our wildlands.

Here are some of our favorites:

1. Snowshoeing. This type of recreation allows you to venture into virtually any snowy landscape while leaving little impact on the most special places. It's easy to learn, affordable and great exercise. It's also a great way to spot wildlife tracks in wildlife refuges. Therefore, we highly recommend it as one of the best forms of winter recreation that there is. 

2. Downhill skiing and snowboarding. About 60% of downhill skiing and snowboarding runs in the U.S. are in national forests, according to Resource Media. This industry is at risk, however, due to climate change. This is why The Wilderness Society partnered with Protect Our Winters two years ago, as well as other groups to reduce this risk - and preserve the wild places that offer such exciting recreational opportunities. Check out our video with professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones below:

3. Cross-country skiing. America's three million cross-country skiers can attest to the special thrill of this quick, aerobic trip through a quiet winter landscape. National parks like Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Yosemite, Sequoia and Mount Rainier have cross-country trails, but national forests usually have many more. Sometimes BLM lands in the West have them and even wildlife refuges too.

4. Stargazing. Parks often offer full moon snowshoeing hikes and other astronomical events this time of year. In places like Bryce Canyon National Park, cold, dry air makes skies even more ideal for stargazing. The perfectly wide atmospheres at Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks won't be as unbelievably hot either. If you happen to be in Alaska, you may even be lucky enough to get a glimpse of the breathtaking aurora borealis. 

5. Backcountry trips. If you seek a destination that can only be reached by ski or snowshoe, you will find adventure, peaceful solitude and cozy comforts. For more information on how to rent a backcountry hut, yurt or cabin, contact a national forest near you, such as:

  • Willamette National Forest in Oregon
  • White River, Arapaho and San Isabel National Forests in Colorado
  • Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming
  • Angeles National Forest in California
  • White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire

6. Ice fishing. This season make wilderness a kitchen table issue, literally. Wildlife refuges are usually ideal spots for licensed anglers. In addition, gorgeous, life-filled waters may be found in wilderness areas, national recreation areas as well as national parks like Yosemite, Acadia, Glacier, Yellowstone, Zion, Rocky Mountain and Voyageurs.

7. Special icy adventures. There are some unique ways to discover the marvels of ice on wild lands, some of which are only available this time of year. Consider, for example:

8. Sledding and other kid-friendly fun. Cold weather is no reason to keep youth indoors, especially when there's so much fun to be had outdoors! Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Lassen Volcanic national parks are just a few beautiful sledding destinations. Even if your adventure is merely to your backyard, you can play games, make treats, do science experiments and build animals and forts. 


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