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Winter Activities Abound

It’s winter. Snow has already fallen. It’s cold outside. Brrrr …

But there is a no need to be a couch potato this time of year staying cozy by the fire for hours or binge watching a dramatic TV show series. Nah, not when there are fun things to do outdoors, that is!

There is actually host of activities that can be done outside in Nebraska throughout the winter months. So, gather up your winter garb, here are some ideas for you:

Cross-Country Skiing/Snowshoeing

When the snow flies and blankets the ground, the race begins for cross-country skiers and snowshoers to make the most of their time on the white stuff.  In fact, a number of these winter outdoor enthusiasts fully experience nature by taking to the snow covered trails at the Nebraska state park lands. You can even blaze your own trails at area parks or public properties. If excellent aerobic winter workouts and opportunities to get Vitamin D are sought, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing would be perfect fits.

Your blogger enjoys a cross-country skiing trek on public property in southeast Omaha, NE. Photo by Katie Stacey/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Bird Watching

Whether watching from the warmth of the living room or traipsing through the woods of a state park area, winter is a wonderful time to observe birds. It is easy to entice new feathered visitors to your yard in winter by offering much-appreciated food, water and shelter. Or grab your boots and parka and make a visit to their haunts in a nearby park or green space.  Whatever the preference is, there are many different bird species to be seen.

An eastern bluebird in winter perched on the edge of a shed at your blogger’s backyard in Omaha’s Metcalfe Park neighborhood. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Winter Camping

Winter camping is not for the feint of heart but it has its perks. There are no bugs, no crowds and you can really experience the calm and beauty of the season. However, you will need to be prepared with proper equipment, clothing and supplies. The good news is the campgrounds to Nebraska’s many state park areas are open and available to winter campers who want to “rough it.”

Scott Witthoff of Lincoln, NE enjoys winter camping at Indian Cave State Park near Shubert, NE. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Winter Hiking

Most folks think when the cold weather comes, the hiking season is over, but that is definitely not the case! The grounds to Nebraska’s 76  state park areas are open for recreational use and have dozens of miles of hiking trails available. The nice thing is the these trails don’t have a lot of people them in the winter. Due to much lower traffic, the chances of seeing a variety of wildlife species are good. Additionally, with snow cover and some ice, there are some very nice views to be relished, fantastic landscape photos to be taken and unique images to be captured.

Frozen waterfall along the Stone Creek Hiking Trail at Platte River State Park near Louisville, NE. Photo courtesy of Parks Division/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Sledding/Tobogganing

There is really no better way to enjoy magic of winter than by zooming down a snow-packed hill on a plastic sled, toboggan, saucer or perhaps an inner tube. Sure, the neighborhood or town hill where everyone goes is fun, but for the ultimate in sledding and tobogganing, Mahoney State Park near Ashland, NE is truly the place to be! If Mother Nature hasn’t cooperated with abundant snow on the hill east of the park’s Activity Center, and if it’s been cold enough, the crew there has made some!

The sledding hill near the ice skating rink/activities center complex at Mahoney State Park near Ashland, NE. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Snow Soccer/Snow Touch Football

Have snow cover? Then, perhaps a game of snow soccer or snow touch football is in order. Falling in the snow during those contests is no big deal. In fact, it is part of the fun! The snow is there for a cushion. To establish a snow soccer or touch football field, simply round up four bright, colorful, old shirts. Set them on the ground to mark the goal lines. Go get the ball, it’s game time!

A football lies in the snow cover of your blogger’s front yard in Omaha’s Metcalfe Park Neighborhood. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Ice Skating

A favorite winter past time for scores of parents and children alike is ice skating. It is a great way to stay active during the cold winter months. The learning curve for ice skating is not steep, and newcomers do well after a short while. When deciding where to ice skate this winter, there are plenty of options including both local indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks. In eastern Nebraska, a popular ice skating option is located at Mahoney State Park near Ashland, NE. The park has a large, covered, open-air ice skating rink where ice skates can be rented.

The ice skating rink at Mahoney State Park near Ashland, NE. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Ice Fishing

If you love the great outdoors, the snow, the crisp, clean air and fresh fish from the frig — the lifestyle of ice fishing may very well surprise you with one of the best days you’ve had all winter. And, if done properly, it can be one of the most adventurous outdoor excursions ever on a densely frozen water body not far from home! Manufacturers and retailers in the ice fishing equipment industry are luring an increasing amount of new ice anglers to the lifestyle with products that put even more emphasis safety, comfort, technology and mobility. Hands-on ice fishing workshops for beginners are also conducted by Game and Parks.

Your blogger is ice fishing at a private lake near Omaha, NE. Photo by Rich Berggren/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Animal Tracking

Winter offers an excellent opportunity to look for wild animal tracks, especially where there’s snow cover or mud. Venture safely to a nearby public park, forest or green space and start tracking them with an app on your mobile phone. Best locations would include snow-covered or muddy game trails and long the edges of woodlands, creeks, agricultural fields and backyard gardens.

Wild turkey tracks in a late winter dusting of snow along a woodland edge in rural Douglas County, NE. Photo by Greg Wagner/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Late Season Hunting 

Hunting gear should not be put away for the winter period!. Hunters should bundle up and take advantage of low hunting pressure, a serene atmosphere and concentrated and more predictable game species. Landowners are more receptive to hunting access this time of year, too. The word ‘late’ in the late season for hunting is a misnomer. Truth is, late season hunting is challenging and can be very rewarding!

Chris Pokorny of Elkhorn, NE likes the challenge of calling and hunting coyotes in the Nebraska Sandhills with the snow cover of winter before they breed. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKAland Magazine/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

About greg wagner

A native of Gretna, NE, a graduate of Gretna High School and Bellevue University, Greg Wagner currently serves as the Communications and Marketing Specialist and Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Service Center in Omaha. On a weekly basis, Wagner can be heard on a number of radio stations, seen on local television in Omaha, and on social media channels, creatively conveying natural resource conservation messages as well as promoting outdoor activities and destinations in Nebraska. Wagner, whose career at Game and Parks began in 1979, walks, talks, lives, breathes and blogs about Nebraska’s outdoors. He grew up in rural Gretna, building forts in the woods, hunting, fishing, collecting leaves, and generally thriving on constant outdoor activity. One of the primary goals of his blog is to get people, especially young ones, to have fun and spend time outside!

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