December 21 2021

Winter family fun in your Five Rivers MetroParks

Perhaps the most underrated outdoor adventure season, winter is still a great time to explore the outdoors. Beautiful land formations, habitats and wildlife are on full display since there’s less foliage on the trees. Your family can do and explore so many things, you just need to  bundle up and plan ahead.

Additionally, staying active and surrounding yourself with nature is good for your mind and body, both essential for staying healthy during these unprecedented times when we’re all watching our health more closely.

Before you take to the trails, here are some tips to stay safe during your next outdoor winter adventure:

  • Dress in layers to control your body temperature. Sweating in the sun can make you cold in the shade. It’s best if your base layer is made from a wicking material, such as polyester, that pulls sweat away from your skin. Additionally, be sure you have a layer of insulation, such as wool., that provides heat and a weather-appropriate jacket.
  • Bring water and snacks. Exploring the parks during winter can still work up a sweat, and it’s important to have plenty of fuel to keep you going. Take frequent breaks with your little ones to make sure they have a drink and snack.
  • Sledding in MetroParks is permitted in some parks. Never turn your back at the bottom of a sledding hill, as you want to avoid downhill sledders from running into you.
  • Many injuries on the trails during winter come from falling. Be sure everyone in your family has footwear appropriate for the weather – sturdy shoes to hike and snow boots after a fresh blanket of snow.

Now that you’re ready to go, here are a few activities and destinations to get you outdoors during the winter:

Winter Hikes: Trails that are shorter in length with even terrain are prefect for kids. Check out:

  • Hills & Dales MetroPark: The Adirondack Trail loop is less than a mile and starts at Dogwood Pond. To make your walk longer, start at the Paw Paw shelter and cross the wetlands boardwalk.
  • Possum Creek MetroPark: Take the 1-mile blue trail around Argonne Lake for beautiful views of tree lines and the possibility to spot wildlife.
  • Englewood MetroPark: The 0.5-mile blue trail takes you along the boardwalk. Next, head to the nature play area for bonus fun.
  • Carriage Hill MetroPark: The 0.5-mile red trail loops around Cedar Lake. The orange trail is 1.3 miles and has options for shorter routes.

Ice Skating: For a downtown outdoor experience, visit the MetroParks Ice Rink at RiverScape MetroPark. Open through Sunday, Feb. 27, the MetroParks Ice Rink offers a safe, family-friendly experience for skaters of all ages. Admission is $6 daily and visitors can rent ice skates for $2. Children younger than 3 are free with a paying adult.

Visitors can warm up in the Kettering Health Comfort Tent and enjoy warm snacks and hot chocolate at the RiverScape Café.

The rink offers special holiday hours during Christmas, New Year’s and more. Daily hours change throughout the season and can be found at metroparks.org/icerink.

MetroParks Tip: Thanks to the Five Rivers MetroParks Foundation, discounted admission and financial assistance for skating lessons are available for qualifying Montgomery County residents.

For a 50% discount ($3 admission; $1 skate rental), just present your EBT/SNAP benefits card upon purchase. To apply for the Access to Nature financial assistance program for children, teen and adult skating lessons, visit metroparks.org/access.

Hidden Gems: On especially cold days, heading to Englewood MetroPark to see the waterfalls frozen is a treat. Three waterfalls are located along the 3.5-mile green trail. Those with small children can take the 0.5-mile purple trail, which intersects the green trail, allowing you to spot Patty’s Falls.

Sledding: A staple of childhood is celebrating a snow day by hoping on a sled and zooming down a hill. Celebrate the first big snow of winter on the sledding hills at Englewood, Germantown and Taylorsville MetroParks.

Let’s Explore: MetroParks’ new program, Let’s Explore, makes it easier for you to spend time with your kids outdoors. Visit the nature play areas at Sugarcreek, Possum Creek, Hills & Dales, and Englewood MetroParks for self-guided activities, such as Wildlife Warm Up, Hike & Seek, and Tic Tac Toe. Learn more at metroparks.org/letsexplore.

Gnome Hide and Seek: Gnomes have once again taken over Cox Arboretum MetroPark for the winter. MetroParks’ horticulturalists have hidden eight gnomes across the grounds of the park. See if your family can spot them all.

Nature at Night: After the sun sets, nature comes to life in a different way. Bundle up and grab a flash light or headlamp to walk the trails at night. Because some of the wildlife that live in MetroParks are nocturnal, you might be able to hear and see them during the evening hours. Your MetroParks are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through March 31.

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