Rona Kobell is a former writer for the Bay Journal and Baltimore Sun.
State parks offer winter wonderland getaways
Looking for something a little different for a winter getaway this year? Why not rent a state park cabin?
Many state parks in the watershed clear out in the winter, making them ideal places for visitors seeking solitude and views through the bare trees. The pools are closed and the kayaks are on the rack, but some offer snowshoes and cross-country skis for rent. Bring the extended family for Christmas break or leave the children at home and enjoy an adults-only weekend. Either way, you’ll find a lot to enjoy.
Each state has a centralized reservation system for its parks. Check the websites for dates and availability, and be mindful of fees that may be added for parking, extra nights and incidentals. Take a look at what cabins look like on state park websites, which also list of what to expect to find there. Not all parks in all states have cabins available. Many require visitors to bring their own linens. Websites like www.tripadvisor.com rate many of these state parks’ amenities.
Here is a partial list of winter cabin rentals:
Ask Candy Thomson which cabin in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is the best to rent in the winter, and her answer is simple: her own. The former longtime outdoors writer for The Baltimore Sun reserves a cabin every year at New Germany State Park in Grantsville. Hers is closest to the trail — perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Even with the warmer temperatures in recent years, Garrett County always gets a decent amount of snow. The roads departments in Western Maryland know how to handle it, so getting out there is not a problem. There are no bugs, not too many people, and if solitude is not so much your thing, it’s a short drive to tubing and downhill skiing at Wisp.
New Germany has 11 cabins, starting at $76.75 a night. Visit reservations.dnr.state.md.us, the centralized website for cabin rentals in New Germany or other Maryland parks.
Thomson is also partial to Herrington Manor State Park, also in Western Maryland. It offers cross-country skiing and 20 full-service cabins. Both parks have a two-night minimum and some of the cabins at Herrington are under renovation this winter, so availability may be tight.
It’s no surprise that the state called “Penn’s Woods” is full of lush forests perfect for winter getaways. Pennsylvania has so many cabins for rent that the Department of Conservation and Recreation has its own web page to list them all:
www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/staythenight/lodging/index.htm. Inside the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed, Gifford Pinchot State Park, near Harrisburg, offers 10 modern cabins for year-round rental. World’s End State Park, in the Loyalsock Forest, offers 19 rustic cabins for year-round rental.
Westmoreland State Park is a Northern Neck gem. A cabin renter can hike the trails and take in the views as well as visit nearby Caledon State Park, noted for its bald eagle habitat. Winter is a great time to hunt for shark’s teeth below the Horseshoe Cliffs, or visit George Washington’s birthplace nearby.
Many Virginia state parks offer cabins, and a few even offer mansions or larger lodges for extended families. They are available in the winter, said spokesman Gary Waugh — though there are not as many available then, and guests may not check in on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.
For details, visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/index.shtml and click on the camping tab.
Lost River State Park, near the Lost River, in Mathias, WV, is quiet — a great place for hiking and strolling. The park is near Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, a popular hiking area. You can rent rustic or modern cabins at Lost River Nov. 1 through March 31, starting at $87 a night. For information, visit www.lostriversp.com; check under cabin availability.
Blackwater Falls State Park, on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay watershed near Moorefield, WV, offers more than 10 miles of cross-country ski trails, excellent sledding hills and 20 miles of hiking trails. Cabins are available year-round starting at $121 a night.
For details, visit www.blackwaterfalls.com; then click the “cabin availability” tab.
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