Outdoor activities don’t have to stop as fall fades into winter. Although sledding, cross-country skiing and skating may depend on weather conditions and snow amounts, walking and hiking can be enjoyed throughout the winter if you dress appropriately and pay attention to the thermometer.
Pokagon State Park Toboggan
This thrill ride at Pokagon State Park near Angola isn’t dependent on snow because the toboggan sleds rocket down two refrigerated tracks. It’s a 90-foot vertical drop from the start of the ride in the 30-foot tower all the way to the end.
The men serving in Civilian Conservation Corps Company 556 built the first slide in 1935 for their own entertainment. The track had a huge curve halfway down and then leaned toward Lake James near the Potawatomi Inn. The track was straightened to increase the speed in 1936 and a second track was added in 1940.
The tracks were refrigerated in 1971. The current 30-foot tower and track was constructed in 1974. The two tracks were renovated in 1984 at the same time a new rental and warming center was built. The new tracks finally opened on Thanksgiving 1986. Additional work was completed in 2998.
The toboggan operates Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., but will close if the temperature dips below 0 degree F.
Riders must use the park’s sleds, which hold up to four people. There are no age, or height restrictions, but children must be able to understand and abide by the rules.
Cost: Park entrance fees: $7 in-state vehicles; $9 out-of-state vehicles; $2 per person for bus passengers. The sled rental is $13 per hour plus tax, with a guarantee of one ride per hour at peak times. A driver’s license is held as a deposit on the sled. Sleds are rented on a first-come, first served basis. There are no all-day rental, no group rates and no group reservations.
Chain O’Lakes State Park
The 2,718-acre state park near Albion is open all winter for hiking on its 12 trails, which range from easy to rugged. Ice fishing is popular when the lakes are frozen. Nine of the 13 kettle lakes in the park are connected.
The park also schedules nature education programs about wildlife, lakes and natural features. Events are listed on the park’s Indiana Department of Natural Resources website.
A monthly hiking club schedules hikes on the trails the first Saturday of each month at 9 a.m., with information posted on the park’s Facebook page, facebook.com/chainolakessp.
“Glacier Gliders” is the next hiking club event, on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 9 a.m. in the park for a fun hike on Trail 10. All ages and skill levels are welcome. No registration is required. Sturdy, waterproof shoes or boots are recommended, along with a bottle of water.
Hikes are free but gate fees may apply. Park entrance fees: $7 in-state vehicles; $9 out-of-state vehicles; $2 per person for bus passengers.
ACRES Land Trust
ACRES Land Trust, Indiana’s oldest and largest local land trust, permanently protects 7,230 acres in the tri-state area including DeKalb, Noble, Steuben and Allen counties. The land trust has 1,700 members.
All ACRES preserves with trails are open to the public every day, all year, from dawn to dusk. Maps and information on all preserves can be found here: https://acreslandtrust.org/preserves.
Some upcoming ACRES events:
Creek Stomp: Winter Edition
Saturday, Feb. 1, 1 p.m.
Wabash County: Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run
1866 E. Baumbauer Road, Wabash
Ross Run in winter is spectacular, with 20-foot icicles, frozen waterfalls and fossils. Depending upon weather, hikers will be walking either through frigid water or on ice. Choose your footwear carefully and consider bringing dry shoes and socks for after the hike.
World Wetlands Day: Plants and Animals
Saturday, Feb. 1, 10 a.m.
Allen County: Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve
1802 Chapman Road, Huntertown, IN 46748
Discover the unique plants and animals of the Cedar Creek Corridor’s wetlands, then join on a short hike through the forever-protected woods of the Dustin Preserve. The Little River Wetlands Project will lead this hike as part of an Allen County celebration of World Wetlands Day.
Headwaters Park Skating Rink
The Headwaters Park Skating Rink is a covered outdoor skating rink at Clinton and Superior streets in Fort Wayne. The rink is open November through early March. Other Features include concessions, skate sharpening services and private ice rentals during non-public skating hours.
Hours are Monday through Thursday, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, noon to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. The rink’s phone number is 422-7625.
Admission: Age 13 and younger, $3; Age 14 and older, $5; skate rental is $3; spectators and parking are free. Kids age 13 and younger skate for free every Wednesday.