When it comes to outdoor fun, Ohio truly is a state for all seasons even during these long months of snow and ice. And no place offers more winter adventure than Punderson State Park in Geauga County.
Nestled within the snow belt of northeastern Ohio, Punderson is a playground for cold-weather enthusiasts who enjoy cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, ice skating and snowshoeing, not to mention ice fishing.
Six miles of snowshoe and cross-country ski trails wind through quiet woodlands, where the only thing to break the silence is the sound of an occasional scolding squirrel or the trickle of slowly moving water beneath ice-encrusted streams. Be sure to bring your own ski equipment or consider renting from a local ski shop in nearby Chesterland.
Young and old alike can ride their toboggans, flexible flyers, discs and snowboards to their heart’s delight on the park’s 125-yard lighted sledding hill. When it’s time for a warming break, they can rest and refuel at the park’s Sport Chalet, strategically perched at the top of the sledding hill. Inside, a small concession offers comforting winter fare such as hot chocolate, hot dogs, chili and more. For those with cold noses and toes, a cozy fire burns to help melt away winter chills. As long as there is snow on the ground, the chalet is open for business from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. through the week, and noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
When the ground is frozen and the snow is deep, Punderson becomes a snowmobiler’s delight, offering more than four miles of trails. Before loading up the snowmobile, park officials suggest calling the office at 440-564-2279 to ensure that conditions are right.
Punderson also hosts the annual Sled Dog Classic. Mushers and their canine athletes from across the country and Canada race across a challenging course laid out on the state park golf course. Weather permitting, this year’s exciting event is scheduled to run February 18-19. As always the race is free of charge to spectators. For more details contact the park office.
Ice skating and ice fishing are two additional winter sports that get a lot of attention at the park. The 100-acre Punderson Lake and two smaller lakes are open to both activities. Ice can be unpredictable, so be sure to test its thickness before venturing out. Park manager Nick Fischbach recommends staying around the beach or marina area of the main lake, where water under the ice is more shallow.
At the heart of this winter sports paradise is Punderson Manor, the smallest of Ohio’s nine state park resort lodges and the only one originally built to be a private residence. Construction began on the English Tudor-style manor house in 1929 and was completed nearly 20 years later. In 1951, the manor house and surrounding lands were transferred to Ohio State Parks. Four years later, following extensive remodeling, the new state park lodge was opened to the public.
Today, visitors entering through the lodge’s heavy wooden doors instantly step back to another time. In winter, flames dance merrily inside the large stone and wood fireplace of the “Grand Hall.” A few steps away is the charming Cherry Dining Room part of the original house which features an extensive menu that’s sure to please any palate.
If you want to extend your day of play to an overnight visit, the lodge offers 31 guest rooms. Seven of these are part of the original construction and are reached by an enchanting winding staircase. With a nod to its Tudor-style architecture, these rooms have been assigned names, such as Churchill, Chaucer and Saxon, and are decorated with charming antique reproductions. Another 24 rooms, in the 1950s addition, offer more modern accommodations, and also have been recently updated.
If you crave something even more cozy, you’ll lack for nothing at one of the park’s 26 rental cottages, which come fully equipped. Each two-bedroom cottage sleeps six persons, features a bath with shower, living room, dining room and complete kitchen, as well as a screened porch and an outdoor charcoal grill.
Surround yourself this season in snow and ice at Punderson State Park, where falling in love with winter comes naturally.
For more information about Punderson State Park, call the park manager’s office at 440-564-2279. Lodge and cottage reservations can be made by calling 1-800-282-7275 or online at ohiodnr.com