If you’ve ever even just glanced at my blog, it’s no secret that one of my favorite hobbies to push is cross-country skiing, mainly because it’s so accessible, it’s relatively cheap (once you buy skis), and Pennsylvania is a great place to explore via ski (when it snows that is). This year, however I’ve added another accessible, cheap, fun winter sport to my repertoire: snowshoeing.
For those of you who have still not caught up to the 20th century, snowshoes do not look like upside down tennis rackets strapped to your feet. Size wise, that’s not completely inaccurate though, as the job of snowshoes is to keep you from sinking into deep snow, and their rounded, bigger than your feet shape, helps keep your weight evenly distributed to do just that.
As much as I might not want to admit, simply because of my love for the former, snowshoeing might be easier and more accessible to a beginner than XC skiing (which is probably the reason it’s currently the fastest growing winter sport in the US). To start, the gear is typically cheaper to both purchase and rent. It’s not as aerobically challenging (you snowshoe as fast as you could walk), and if you could walk or hike you could snowshoe no problem. Another reason I like it so much is because you don’t always need a ton of snow to snowshoe.
My sister got me a nice pair of Atlas snowshoes for Christmas this year and I’ve been dying to try them out. Two weekends ago it flurried, so while there was a base down, it was nothing significant. It was however, one of those super sunny (albeit freezing) days that just begs you to be outdoors. Skiing was out. Snowshoeing across fields was out, however hiking via snowshoes was possible. I went snowshoeing via a guided hike through High Peaks Mountain Guides in Lake Placid two winters ago and we learned that snowshoeing is great for when there’s not a lot of snow, but you want to hike and conditions would be too slippery to just wear boots. Using this knowledge, I convinced three friends to take a ride up to Chet’s with me to rent snowshoes for the day. We took them to the Stillwater Cliffs, a favorite hiking spot of ours with great views and took a nice hour and a half hike to the summit. Despite 3 degree temperatures, we all stayed warm, got some good exercise, and even were able to share a nice six pack of some Sweet Baby Jesus on the top. Furthermore, I think I now have people to snowshoe with me again next time I get the whim.
Pennsylvania is a great place to snowshoe, with the abundance of undisturbed nature, and extensive trail systems we have (you could also easily go in parks, on golf courses, and frozen lakes), and with a bunch of places that rent snow shoes to beginners. Random fact: “Snowshoe” is actually also a borough (pop: 756) in Centre County. And as we already went over, it’s extremely accessible for all sorts of people- check out this article from Snowshoe Magazine that gives a much better “beginners guide” than I ever could.
If you want to try out snowshoes, but aren’t ready to throw down some cash for your own pair just yet, here’s a incomprehensive list of a bunch of places in PA that rent snowshoes or provide guided tours.
*Many PA hotels provide guests with snowshoes-I’ve left those off the list for the very reason of you have to first pay for a hotel room.
PA State Parks-
While you can’t rent snowshoes at most state parks, they do have extensive trail systems anyone can use for free. This link here lists all the PA State Parks that have snowshoe trails.
Jim Thorpe is an outdoor mecca located in the Lehigh Valley’s aptly named Lehigh Gorge (where, surprise, the Lehigh River flows). There’s a whole host of places here to snowshoe, and any of the rental locations could surely provide recommendations. Bike Jim Thorpe does rentals, while the Jim Thorpe Experience does guided group snow shoe tours during the day, and full moon tours at night.
Delaware Water Gap-
Northeast Mountain Guiding does group snowshoe hikes on both the PA and NJ sides of the Delaware Water Gap. Showshoeing the Water Gap is one of my winter goals this year.
Honesdale’s Northeast Wilderness Experience does snow shoe rentals and guided tours. Chet’s Place does rentals for $20.00 a day in the greater Forest City/Elk Mountain area, which is my neck of the woods-they could give you recommendations of where to go, or you could hit me up on social media for some trail advice.
PA Grand Canyon-
Pine Creek Outfitters located near the PA Grand Canyon does snow shoe rentals.
The Laurel Highlands would be a beautiful place to go show shoeing, and with both Ohiopyle and the Great Allegheny Passage, there’s more than enough places to chose from. In fact, this link gives you trail options, while Route 31 Board and Ski is where you could rent equipment.
Asbury Woods rents snowshoes. They have 250 acres, and nearby Presque Isle State Park is probably a great place to go as well (I’d have to listen to Greeting From Asbury Park while doing so).