Gateway’s List of Winter Favorites

Couple Cross-Country Skiing in Cook Forest State Park
Continue reading Gateway’s List of Winter Favorites

As winter blankets Cook Forest State Park in a serene wonderland, a tapestry of outdoor adventures and enchanting destinations unfold. Join Gateway in embracing the winter season with our list of winter favorites in this picturesque corner of Pennsylvania.

Go Snowshoeing or Cross-Country Skiing through Cook Forest

Embark on a breath-taking journey through Cook Forest’s ancient hemlock and pine forest. The crisp winter air and tranquil ambiance set the stage for a serene experience. Cook Forest State Park has close to 30 miles of hiking trails, all of which are open to winter recreation. Three groomed trails are available: Toms Run Road, Fire Tower Road, and a section of Forest Drive. New to snowshoeing? Check out REI’s Beginners Guide to Snowshoeing. For those seeking rental equipment for winter exploration, Cooksburg Dry Goods (located on River Road) offers rental services for ice skates and cross-country skis. Ensure you’re well-equipped for your winter escapades by stopping at this convenient spot before immersing yourself in the snowy landscapes around Cook Forest State Park.

River Otters in Snow in Cook Forest

Otter Spotting on the Clarion River

Witness the playful antics of river otters along the Clarion River during winter’s opportune time. These charismatic creatures frolic in the snow, sliding down ice-covered riverbanks. Whether joining a local otter watch or venturing out on your own with binoculars, enhance the experience with a warm cup of hot chocolate or fresh coffee.

First Day Hike: Fire Tower Road Loop

Monday, January 1st at 1pm

Embark on a refreshing journey with the Friends of Cook Forest on New Year’s Day at the Nuthole Pavilion, located at the entrance to Ridge Camp. Lace up your boots as we traverse the Fire Tower Road Loop, exploring various forest types and delving into local history along the way. Take a moment to enjoy the panoramic view from Seneca Rocks, adding a touch of natural splendor to your hike. The loop, spanning just under 3 miles, provides an ideal terrain for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, conditions permitting. Friendly pets are welcome on a leash, ensuring a delightful outdoor experience for all. Join us for this invigorating hike, lasting approximately 2.5 hours, and kick off the new year surrounded by the beauty of Cook Forest.

Marienville Winterfest

Saturday, January 27th, 10am—7pm

Experience the thrill of Marienville Winterfest, the Snowmobile Capital of Pennsylvania, on Saturday, January 27th! This all-day event promises a winter wonderland filled with food, raffles, a chili cook-off, scavenger hunts, mesmerizing snow sculptures, a snowmobile torch-light parade, and a touching display of sky lanterns to the heavens. Immerse yourself in the festivities and celebrate the beauty of winter in the heart of Pennsylvania’s snowmobile haven. Join us for a day of excitement, community spirit, and the magic of Marienville Winterfest.

Snowmobiling in forest

Marienville Winterfest

Sledding in Cook Forest State Park

Feel the rush of the wind as you sled down the slopes near the Henrys Run Day Use Area. Located just 0.9 miles southeast (upstream) of the Route 36 Cooksburg Bridge along River Road, this dedicated sledding area promises winter fun for thrill-seekers of all ages. Bundle up, grab your sled, and experience the joy of speeding down the snowy hills surrounded by the natural beauty of Cook Forest State Park. Whether you’re a seasoned sledder or introducing little ones to the excitement, this sledding spot offers a perfect winter escape.

Visit the Cook Forest State Park Ice Skating Pond

Lace up your skates and indulge in a classic winter activity at the Cook Forest State Park Ice Skating Rink. Surrounded by snow-covered trees, the rink offers a picturesque setting for a day of family-friendly fun on the ice.

Franklin on Ice

Saturday, February 3rd, 10am—4pm

Get rid of those winter blahs and head to Fountain Park on February 3rd for Franklin on Ice. Professional ice carving teams will transform lifeless blocks of ice into beautiful works of art. Sparkling ice statues by DiMartino Ice will grace Fountain Park, creating a dazzling display. The event kicks off at 10am, offering a stroll through the park, indoor sidewalk sales at downtown retail businesses, and the chance to enjoy beautifully lit ice sculptures in the evening. Top off your experience with a meal at one of Franklin’s popular restaurants.

Snowman in the Forest

Saturday, February 17th, 11am–2pm

Celebrate the winter wonderland at Cook Forest State Park on Saturday, February 17th, with the ‘Snowman in the Forest‘ event. Located around the new River Pavilion, approximately 1 mile up-river from the RT36 Cooksburg Bridge, this event features a Chili Cook-Off, carriage rides, sledding, snowman building, and ice skating from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. For nature enthusiasts, a Snowshoe Interpretive Hike along Cook Trail starts at 12:00 pm. The day concludes with the Happy Dog Contest at 1:00 pm, ensuring a festive 2.5 hours in Cooksburg’s winter wonderland. Sponsored by the Cook Forest Vacation Bureau, it’s a delightful opportunity to embrace the charm of winter along the Clarion River.

Eagle Watch

Saturday, March 22nd, 8:30am—12:30pm

Grab your binoculars and spotting scopes and meet at the Park Office for a driving tour to eagle hotspots along the National Wild & Scenic Clarion River. The Eagle Watch event is on March 22nd which marks the prime time to view bald eagles on their nests and discover new nesting sites. While the car-pool may be lengthy and some areas may require an adventurous hike, the rewards of witnessing these majestic birds in their natural habitat will undoubtedly be worth it. Warm up with hot chocolate and coffee at the Park Office as you embark on this eagle-watching expedition.

Polar Bear Kayak Float

Saturday, March 18th, 9am—2pm

Experience the thrill of a cold-weather kayaking adventure with Cook Forest State Park’s Polar Bear Float on the National Wild & Scenic Clarion River. This four-mile journey offers sightings of bald eagles, river otters, and more. For $25 per boat (BYO or park-provided), pre-register by 3/15/24 at (814) 744-8470. Safety is paramount, requiring specific gear, including a dry suit and cold weather boots. Join at the Park Office for a safety check, gear loading, and embark on a memorable five-hour Polar Bear Float, supporting future park programs.

For those seeking the right equipment for winter exploration, Cooksburg Dry Goods, located off River Road, offers rental services for snowshoes, ice skates, and cross-country skis. Ensure you’re well-equipped for your winter escapades by stopping at this convenient spot before immersing yourself in the snowy landscapes around Cook Forest State Park.

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