The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has some really special winter events planned for December! Whether you enjoy touring the Big House at Malabar Farm State Park all decorated for the holidays or simply hiking along some snowy trails, we have some ideal outdoor events for you and your family. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and spend some quality time in the great outdoors.

Fantasy of Lights at Alum Creek State Park – The popular annual Fantasy of Lights will be held through Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. From Sunday through Thursday, the hours are 5:30-9:30 p.m., and the cost is $20 per car. On Fridays and Saturdays, the hours are 5:30-10:30 p.m., and the cost is $30 per car. The address for the tour of lights is 3305 S. Old State Road, Delaware 43015. The Santa House will offer free hot chocolate and cookies. For more information, call 614-560-1371.

Built by Beaver at Lake Hope State Park – These industrious little fur-bearers have been busy beavers along one of our trails at Lake Hope State Park! Check out a dam and lodge up close and maybe even hear that slap of their tails. Prepare for muddy conditions. The walk is less than ½ mile. Meet at the beach house on Friday, Dec. 1, at 5 p.m. to caravan to the location.

Candlelight Holiday Tours at Malabar Farm State Park – Tour Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist and conservationist Louis Bromfield’s Big House all decorated for the holidays. Visitors will also enjoy freshly baked cookies and hot cider. The Candlelight Holiday Tours will be held at Malabar Farm State Park the first two weekends in December (Dec. 1-3 and Dec. 8-10). Visitors will enjoy the tours from 5-9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and then from 12-5 p.m. on Sundays. The cost is $5 for an adult; $4 for children ages 6-17; and children ages 5 and under are free.

Water Wise at Shawnee State Park – Acquire new skills or brush up on old ones with Shawnee’s naturalist at the lodge indoor pool at Shawnee State Park on Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 30 at 10 a.m. Paddling, nautical knots and water safety are the themes of this fun water program. Bring a bathing suit and prepare to get wet. People who attend four programs will receive a free hour of kayaking. Call the park office at 740-858-6652 for more information.

Hosak’s Cave Hike at Salt Fork State Park – Meet at the Hosak’s Cave parking lot on Saturday, Dec. 2, 9 and 16 at 11 a.m. for the Hosak’s Cave hike at Salt Fork State Park. Dress for the weather.

Naturalist Nook at Shawnee State Park – Visit with a naturalist in December (Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 30) and learn more about our native wildlife and fun things to do in the area at the new Naturalist Nook at Shawnee State Park from 12-2 p.m. upstairs in the lodge.

Crafter-noon at Lake Hope State Park – Stop by the nature center at Lake Hope State Park from 2-3 p.m. each Saturday in December (Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 23) for a new winter or holiday-themed craft. We will be making some crafts to take home and some to decorate the nature center!

Section Hike at Shawnee State Park – Put your feet to the test on a section of the 60-mile Shawnee Backpack Trail on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 1 p.m. Wear sturdy hiking boots, pack snacks and water, and be prepared to climb. Meet in the lodge lobby.

Mammals of Ohio at Burr Oak State Park – Join the naturalist at Burr Oak State Park for a close-up look at common Ohio mammals by examining their fur and skulls on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 3-4 p.m.

Nature on Display at Lake Hope State Park – Stop by the dining lodge on Sunday, Dec. 3, from 12-2 p.m. to see the naturalist’s collection of interesting objects and creatures found in the park recently.

Full Moon Hike at Lake Hope State Park – Take a 3-mile hike illuminated by the moon on Sunday, Dec. 3, at 5 p.m. at Lake Hope State Park. Bring a flashlight, dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes. Meet at the shelterhouse.

Breakfast with Santa and Holiday Ornaments for Young Kids at Burr Oak State Park – Bring the kids to the lodge at Burr Oak State Park on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 8-11 a.m. and meet Santa in the lobby or while eating breakfast in the dining room. Join us before or after Breakfast with Santa for even more holiday fun! From 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Dec. 9, parents can help their children make an ornament to decorate the tree and one for the birds to enjoy as well. All materials are provided for this free program in the Lodge Sandpiper Room.

Bird Hike at Stage’s Pond State Nature Preserve – Participate in a bird hike at Stage’s Pond State Nature Preserve on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 9 a.m. to hike the trails as we find, identify and observe our overwintering birds while discussing their adaptations for winter survival. People should bring binoculars and birding field guides if they have them and dress for the weather. Children are welcome, but pets are not permitted. Stages Pond is located in Pickaway County 5 miles north of Circleville on U.S. Route 23; proceed 1.5 miles east on Hagerty Road to the preserve parking lot and trail system. Meet at the large parking lot in front of the park office. Contact Jim Osborn at 740-969-4964 with questions.

Tree Identification Workshop at Mohican State Park – Winter is on its way, but don’t stay inside! This is a wonderful time of year to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate Ohio’s beautiful, stately trees. Learn to identify tree silhouettes, bark color and pattern, twigs and habitat on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Following an inside program, we will hike to explore some of Mohican’s beautiful ecosystems. Call 419-994-5125, ext. 20, to sign up for this workshop.

Lookout Trail Hike at Shawnee State Park – Enjoy a brisk hike on our oldest park trail. The 2-mile Lookout Trail provides a majestic view of Roosevelt Lake at the reconstructed lookout post built by a local eagle scout. Wear comfortable hiking shoes and dress in layers. Meet on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 1 p.m. in the lodge lobby.

Christmas in Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park – Step away from the hectic holiday season and come bundled for the weather while enjoying a lighted stroll back to Ash Cave on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 5-7 p.m. After arriving at the cave, warm up with refreshments by an open fire. Listen to or join with our carolers, have the kids visit with an old-fashioned Santa or help decorate our Christmas tree for wildlife.

Christmas Bird Counts at Shawnee State Park – Join the naturalist at Shawnee State Park on this fun citizen science outing along scenic back roads of Adams County or hiking park trails counting birds for the 115th annual National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Counts. People wanting to participate should pack a lunch and bring binoculars if they have them. We will be meeting on Dec. 15 and 16 at 9 a.m. at the lodge lobby.

Breakfast with Santa at Shawnee State Park – Join the friendly lodge staff on Saturday, Dec. 16, at Shawnee State Park with your children for breakfast with Santa in the lodge dining room from 8-11 a.m. Kids will have the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and share their holiday wish list with a photo opportunity. For more information, call the front desk at 740-858-6621. It’s a wonderful holiday weekend get-away as the lodge has more than 30 trees decorated.

Christmas at Lake Hope State Park – Join Santa for cookies, hot chocolate and a horse- drawn wagon ride at the lodge at Lake Hope State Park from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16.

Winter Solstice Celebration at Maumee Bay State Park – Come to the nature center at Maumee Bay State Park from 1-3 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21, for holiday crafts and cookies for our Winter Solstice Celebration. Enjoy the nature-themed decorations and spend some time at the wildlife window taking in the quiet beauty of the season. Learn from our staff naturalists where the animals go and what they do during the winter months.

Winter Solstice Hike at Burr Oak State Park – The shortest day of the year occurs on Dec. 21 so it’s all uphill from there! Join us on Friday, Dec. 22, for a 1-mile hike to look at the vestiges of summer left behind on plants. Meet in the lodge lobby at 2 p.m. We will enjoy hot chocolate and homemade cookies by the fire after the hike.

Winter Bird Hike at Lake Hope State Park – How do birds keep warm in the winter and why do they stay? Come find out on Saturday, Dec. 23, at 10 a.m. during a leisurely 1-mile stroll along the Hope Furnace Trail at Lake Hope State Park. Meet at the Hope Furnace. Some binoculars will be provided. Hikers should dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes.

Yuletide Plants Hike at Burr Oak State Park – We will take a 1.5-mile hike at Burr Oak State Park to discover evergreen plants as well as plants associated with this season. Meet at the lodge boat ramp on Saturday, Dec. 23, at 2 p.m.

Holiday Hike at Hueston Woods State Park – People are encouraged to meet at the Hueston Woods State Park nature center on Sunday, Dec. 24, to take a break from the holiday rush. Enjoy a hike through a scenic forest at 11 a.m. Hikers should wear appropriate footwear, and people should bring their vehicles, we will drive to the trailhead.

Raptor Caroling at Hueston Woods State Park – Meet at the nature center at Hueston Woods State Park on Sunday, Dec. 24, at 2 p.m. to learn about our winged music makers.

Strategies for Winter at Burr Oak State Park – Now that winter has officially arrived, we will look at how wildlife survives the cold. Who hibernates and migrates? Which animals remain active? Come find out the answers to these questions and more during this presentation at the lodge at Burr Oak State Park on Friday, Dec. 29, at 2 p.m.

Portman Trail Overlook Excursion at Shawnee State Park – Walk off those holiday calories on the edge of Appalachia’s newest overlook trail affording a magnificent view of the Ohio Brush Creek Valley on Saturday, Dec. 30. The 2.3-mile loop trail ascends 430 feet. Pack water and snacks, dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes. Meet at the lodge lobby at Shawnee State Park at 1 p.m.

End-the-Year-Right Hike at Burr Oak State Park – Finish off 2017 right with an invigorating walk through Burr Oak State Park’s beautiful forest on Saturday, Dec. 30! Wear sturdy hiking boots for this 3-mile hike. Meet at the nature center at 2 p.m.

Owl Walk at Mohican State Park – Welcome to an evening all about owls in Ohio at Mohican State Park on Saturday, Dec. 30, at 7 p.m. Learn about the different species of owls and their life histories. Then we will take a short hike to call our region’s most stealthy predator, the owl! Dress for the weather. Call 419-994-5125, ext. 20 to sign up. The walk will be easy to moderate. Meet at Camp Area A.

New Year’s Eve Night Hike at Maumee Bay State Park – Maumee Bay State Park will be hosting our annual New Year’s Eve night hike on Sunday, Dec. 31! Meet at the nature center at 5:15 p.m. We will test our night vision on the boardwalk and bring in the New Year naturally! All ages welcome, make sure to dress for the weather.

First Day Hike at Mohican State Park – Join the naturalist at Mohican State Park on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, at 10 a.m. to bring in 2018 with a continuous hike from Camp Area A through beautiful Lyons Falls, Pleasant Hill Dam, the Mohican covered bridge, Hemlock Gorge Trail and back. Meet at the nature center, which is located at the park’s Class A campground, just south of Loudonville on State Route 3 in Ashland County.

New Year’s Day Hike at Maumee Bay State Park – Welcome in the New Year and get started on those resolutions at Maumee Bay State Park by taking a naturalist-guided stroll around our 2-mile boardwalk through the beautiful Lake Erie marsh. Meet at the nature center at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. The boardwalk is easy to walk and wheelchair/stroller accessible, dress for the weather.

First Day Hike at Hueston Woods State Park – Meet at the nature center at Hueston Woods State Park to help bring in the New Year on Monday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m. Hike our 3-mile loop trail through a scenic forest and close to Acton Lake’s shore. We will learn about native flora and fauna along the way. Hikers should wear appropriate footwear, and people should bring their vehicles, we will drive to the trailhead.
To learn more about family-friendly events at Ohio’s state parks and state nature preserves, go to parks.ohiodnr.gov/calendar or naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/ calendar.

Getting outdoors is an ideal way to relieve stress and boost mood levels. The Explore Ohio initiative is aimed at encouraging people to exercise outdoors and become healthier in the process. Participants can log their miles, share their photos and create friends groups on the Explore Ohio website at ExploreOh.com. Whether people are running, hiking, biking, climbing, walking or paddling, Ohioans can keep track of their progress at ExploreOh.com and share their adventures on social media using #ExploreOhio. After reaching 100 combined miles of activity on the site, each registered user will receive an email with a certificate good for 15 percent off camping at any Ohio State Park.

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