Maryland Turns Up the Heat on Seasonal Sports

From the frosty shore to snowy peaks, the state spotlights the best of winter this month


Connie Yingling,
Leslie Cox,


BALTIMORE (January 5, 2015) – Do you carve it up on the slopes at the first sign of flakes? Do you prefer a quiet snowshoe stroll through the woods? Or do you grab your skates and head to nearest rink? Whatever your sport of choice, Maryland offers plenty of winter activities to explore and enjoy this season.

“Even when the temperatures drop and the holidays are over, Maryland continues to offer exciting activities that encourage winter enthusiasts to get outside and try something new,” said Margot A. Amelia, executive director, Maryland Office of Tourism. “Don’t miss outdoor ice skating rinks, guided snowshoe trips through state parks, and a variety of upcoming events for the open-air adventurer.”

Here are just a few winter activities and events across Maryland this season:

Western Maryland

January is “Learn to Ski or Snowboard Month” and Western Maryland's Wisp Resort overlooking Deep Creek Lake is the perfect place to hit the slopes. The only full-service ski resort in Maryland offers plenty of alternative winter activities, including snowshoeing, ice skating, and cross-country skiing. For even more adrenaline-pumping fun, jump into a bobsled car and ride the mountain coaster, which drops more than 350 vertical feet on the eastern side of Wisp Mountain. Visitors can also race the wind during a guided snowmobile tour; glide through the tree canopy on a wire or go snow tubing.

Deep Creek Lake offers “hard-water” fishing enthusiasts the opportunity to drop a lure, typically during January and February when the lake freezes over. One of Western Maryland’s fastest growing winter sports, ice fishing for perch, walleye and Northern Pike, can be enjoyed by anglers of all ages and abilities.

For snowshoeing enthusiasts, or those who prefer off-road vehicles (ORV) and snowmobiles, Dans Mountain State Park, Fort Frederick State Park, Garrett State Forest, Green Ridge State Forest, Greenbrier State Park, New Germany State Park, Herrington Manor State Park, Rocky Gap State Park, and Savage River State Forest have got you covered. Be sure to get a permit for your ORV and snowmobile, which are available at some State Park offices.

Weather permitting, get out those cross-country skis and hit the Western Maryland Rail Trail with more than 21 miles of trail through the countryside. Plan a stop at Hancock Station, just off Main Street in Hancock, where you can head into town for a bite to eat before continuing on your journey.

Visit Oakland, near Deep Creek Lake, and let Pleasant Valley Dream Rides take you on a sleigh ride. Snuggle up under warm blankets and enjoy the mountain air as sturdy draft horses pull you along. If it’s not snowing, the sleigh can be outfitted with wheels for daytime or moonlit rides.

Capital Region

Ladies first! Head over to Lois Y. Green Conservation Park on Jan. 10 for a free Ladies “Hike” Out. Visit and choose Course #303451. With a large, expansive meadow, the park offers nature-lovers the opportunity to see birds and unique wildlife, including a variety of hawks and sparrows, bluebirds, Baltimore Orioles, indigo buntings and other birds as well as foxes, deer, groundhogs, beaver, muskrats and mink.

Practice your loops and axels at several Maryland ice skating rinks including Silver Spring Ice Skating at Veterans Plaza, surrounded by great restaurants, shops and plenty of parking; the Rockville Town Square Ice Skate Shop, the largest outdoor ice skating rink between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and Frederick’s Sled Run and Ice Skating Pond.

Throw on a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes and head out to Cunningham Falls State Park, Gambrill State Park, and Catoctin Mountain Park, all in Frederick County, for hiking or perhaps horseback riding. Follow the ancient pathways of the Piscataway Indian Tribe at Cedarville State Forest in Prince George’s County.

Central Maryland

On Jan. 10, join the "Frostbite" Tour, a free guided nature and historic walk of the North Park Trail in Havre de Grace. The 1.5 mile walk starts at the Susquehanna Museum at the historic Lock House in Havre de Grace.

Central Maryland is rich in trails where you can enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. At North Point State Park located in Baltimore County, discover the old Bay Shore amusement park pavilion, once a popular destination for summer visitors. In Harford County, climb the King and Queen Seat cliff at Rocks State Park, once a ceremonial gathering place of the Susquehannock Indians. History buffs will be drawn to Susquehanna State Park to visit the restored Rock Run Historic Area with its working grist mill, the Carter-Archer Mansion, Jersey Toll House, and the remains of the Susquehanna Tidewater Canal.

Experience dog sledding with Maryland Sled Dog Adventures where the focus is on teaching others about the art of mushing. The outfitter offers a variety of dog sledding adventures, snow or dry land, to suit just about anyone or any group. Don’t miss the Yappy Hour Dog Sled Rides on the Torrey C. Brown Trail, formerly known as the Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCRT) in Gunpowder Falls State Park.  

Take a spin on Anne Arundel County’s two outdoor rinks: Quiet Waters Park Ice Skating Rink in Annapolis and Glen Burnie Outdoor Ice Skating. Or lace up your skates at Baltimore’s McKeldin Square ice rink. In addition to open skating times, the rink will offer skating lessons and host games of broomball, and other events through Jan. 19.

Southern Maryland

Southern Maryland offers two new rails-to-trails, the Three Notch Trail and the Indian Head Rail Trail, featuring small town charm for riders as they wind through St. Mary’s and Charles counties. The Indian Head Rail Trail is a 13-mile bike trail converted from an abandoned railroad corridor. It was originally built in 1918 as a supply route for the Navy’s Indian Head Powder Factory and the elevated rail bed passes through the Mattawoman Creek stream valley. Even though parts of the trail are still under construction, Three Notch Trail connects 28-miles of railroad right-of-way from Hughesville to Lexington Park.

Have a green thumb? Then don’t miss the Maryland Native Plant Society’s event at Ward Farm Nature Park on Jan. 16. Search for ferns, herbaceous plants and trees that stay green all winter. Dress warmly and bring binoculars!

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the raptors—hawks and owls—that live at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp. Find out what it takes to be a raptor handler, and learn more about these birds. Aimed at kids between 12- and 16-years-old, this program will take place on Jan. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hit the trails meandering through the hardwood forest, passing many natural and historical points of interest like the home of William Smallwood at Smallwood State Park. Smallwood was the highest ranked native Marylander who served in the American Revolutionary War. Alternatives include Chapel Point State Park, Chapman State Park, St. Clements Island State Park (accessible only by boat) and St. Mary's River State Park.

Eastern Shore

Enjoy Horse & Carriage Rides along Ocean City’s Boardwalk on Saturdays and Sundays until April 26. Passengers board the heated carriage near Thrasher's at the Inlet lot and travel around the pier and down the Boardwalk to 4th Street and back.

If hiking, biking and birding are your favorite winter activities, then visit the Cross Island Trail that begins on Kent Island or Assateague State Park near Berlin. In January, the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary for geese, swans, ducks, hawks, great blue herons and other species of shorebirds.

Pass through the 2800 acres at the Wye Island Natural Resource Management Area, a habitat for wintering waterfowl populations and other native wildlife. Or explore the world of the bald eagle and bald cypress as you cruise the Pocomoke River by boat on Jan. 17, 24 and 31.

Sea glass hunting gets a boost in winter when snow reflects the light and stormy weather pushes more sea glass to the shore. For the dedicated enthusiast, try Tolchester Beach in Kent County, Matapeake Beach in Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County, Roaring Point Beach on the Nanticoke River, Deal Island Beach in Somerset County, and any of the back bay beaches along Chincoteague Bay between Snow Hill and Chincoteague.