Snowmobiling in Penn’s Woods
By Ryan Reed
When I was just a kid, I recall my best friend’s parents talking about “goin’ up to ride the sleds.” It took me a while to realize these weren’t the little red ones I so beloved. The sleds to which they alluded are of course much larger, with motors and handle bars too.
They always mentioned “Tioga” in their plans, a place of which I had no familiarity. I’ve since become abundantly aware of the winter playground that exists in our northern tier for this cold-hardy bunch.
Tioga State Forest is hardly the only destination for snowmobiling in our vast state forest system. Loyalsock, Tiadaghton, Susquehannock, Elk, Sproul, Moshannon, and Bald Eagle state forests also possess ideal “sledding” trails. Rothrock, Tuscarora, Buchanan, Michaux, Forbes, Pinchot, and Delaware state forests are also excellent options, boasting extensive trail systems which may be geographically closer for many Pennsylvania residents. Even the relatively smaller Weiser and Gallitzin state forests offer well-developed snowmobile trails for the winter riding enthusiast. In fact, 17 of the 20 PA state forest districts offer winter riding opportunities.
Snowmobile riding is undeniably a great thrill, but it also has its risks. Riders should always be aware of operator safety guidelines, dress for extreme cold, and have robust knowledge of the trail system upon which they ride. It is also advisable to avoid riding alone and traveling at excessive speeds. Riders are reminded to always wear a helmet and safety goggles and to frequently clear running lights of snow/ice buildup. For a more complete list of safety tips, please look here.
Parents are encouraged to share their passion for snowmobiling with their children but should know that it is mandatory that all youth ages 10 -15 take an approved snowmobile training course if they are planning to use their vehicle off their parent’s or guardian’s property. The online course can be found here. Children under the age of 10 are not permitted to operate a snowmobile on public lands.
Our recent subjection to the “polar vortex” lends itself well to taking a jaunt on the “ol’ sled.” With thousands of miles of trails to explore, I catch myself wondering if I can fit another “toy” in the shed.
Safe and happy trails!
For more information on snowmobile riding in state forests, please visit www.dcnr.pa.gov.
About the Author: Ryan Reed is an Environmental Education Specialist in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry. He possesses degrees in Wildlife and Fisheries Science and Wildlife Technology, while currently pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Pollution Control. He has also worked for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and taught high school sciences for 11 years. He is especially interested in biodiversity and ecology. A lifelong hunting and fishing enthusiast, Ryan resides in Harrisburg, PA. This article was originally written for the Bureau of Forestry’s Forest Fridays e-newsletter.
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