How to Find Local Winter Recreation Activities

January 21, 2021
Paula ChampagneThe New England Trail is accessible from several urban areas in Massachusetts.

There are many ways to get outdoors all year round, including winter. Amid the social, physical, and mental health challenges presented by COVID-19, spending time outdoors may be more important this winter than ever. (Check out our Winter Survival Guide for some great ideas you can do anywhere.) Knowing where to look for more organized recreation activities can be a challenge, so we rounded up this list of resources to get you snowshoeing, skiing, or camping through the Northeast’s long winter.

And here’s the thing: You don’t need the trendiest gear or access to a national park to do so. Layer up in the gear you already have and check out the patches of open space right in your backyard. That said, when choosing an outdoor activity, evaluate your experience and fitness level and if you have the appropriate gear required for an activity (like skis). Here’s a guide to finding safe, local recreation opportunities this winter.

 

AMC’s Activities Database

AMC’s 12 chapters in nine states run more than 6,000 trips annually. The Activities Database brings them all together in one place. Just put in your desired location, the date you want to get outside, and hit “search.”

The Activities Database even has “Audience” and “Activity” tabs where you can specify if you’d like to find outings for your whole family or just you, and what type of outdoor activity you’re looking for. https://activities.outdoors.org/

 

AMC Chapter Social Media

Each chapter’s social media page is a great way to meet folks in your area, find out about local trips and educational opportunities, and get tips and tricks for all four seasons.

 

Alexandra KosibaAlways consult a physical map, rather than smart phone applications, when enjoying the backcountry. Maps and guidebooks can also be great resources for finding new outdoor adventures to try.

 

Books and Maps

Many guidebooks from a variety of publishers point residents of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to the local outdoor recreation opportunities near them. Since 1889, AMC has been one of the region’s most trusted sources of expert outdoor knowledge and local trip ideas. Its award-winning and ever-expanding lineup of books and maps includes well-worn titles like AMC’s Best Day Hikes series, paddling lineup, regional maps and guides, and, of course, the venerable White Mountain Guide. https://amcstore.outdoors.org/collections/books-maps

 

Outdoors.org

AMC’s headquarters on the Web features nearly two decades of turn-by-turn guides for hiking, cycling, trail running, paddling, and backpacking excursions from across the region. www.outdoors.org/itinerary

 

Outdoor Diversity Groups

A growing number of outdoor groups celebrate and convene people of color and minority populations in the outdoors. Outdoor Afro is the nation’s biggest network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. It is a national organization with local leadership networks around the country. With nearly 90 leaders in 30 states, Outdoor Afro connects thousands of people of color with trained leaders and mentors on local outdoor experiences. Latino Outdoors seeks to “inspire, connect, and engage Latino communities in the outdoors” and organizes activities and gatherings throughout the country. And LGBT Outdoors is one of a number of national groups connecting the LGBTQI+ community with the outdoors.

 

Hike It Baby

Hike it Baby creates opportunities and removes barriers to access the outdoors, so families with babies and young children can take their first steps outside. Hike it Baby has communities all over the country offering everything from leisurely walks to difficult hikes—all of which are listed on their website and social media pages. hikeitbaby.com

 

Paula ChampagneAMC Family Adventure outings—like this one in the White Mountain National Forest—are listed on AMC’s activities database, activities.outdoors.org.

 

AllTrails.com

AllTrails is a nationwide database for trails and walking paths. Just go to AllTrails.com, register, enter your desired location, and start exploring! Make sure to read comments from other users, who often relay interesting and relevant information such as detours, trail closures, and exciting wildlife sightings in the comments section. AllTrails.com

 

Audubon

The National Audubon Society has parks, events, and trail networks all over the country, and many states have their own Audubon organization that works locally to preserve natural spaces. Audubon.org

 

Meetup.com

Meetup.com is a fantastic resource for finding groups of people you didn’t even know you needed. For instance, if you need some motivation to continue running when it’s cold, Meetup has tons of local running clubs. Whether walking a trail or to brunch, find your people at Meetup. Meetup.com

 

Local Land Trusts

Land trusts are local, state, or regional nonprofit organizations directly involved in protecting land for its natural, recreational, scenic, historical, or productive value. Most land trusts are private nonprofit corporations. They have the potential to bring together a wide range of people in a community, such as naturalists, planners, farmers, hunters, landowners, community leaders, sometimes developers, and others who care about special lands in their communities.

Though slightly larger in land area than Washington state, the six New England states are home to a whopping 255 land trusts—the most of any U.S. region—while 133 land trusts operate in the Mid-Atlantic region. Well-known trusts preserving and managing land in AMC’s region include Trustees of Reservations, the Nature Conservancy, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, and Conservation Fund. findalandtrust.org

 

Paula ChampagneLocal parks, like Mary O’Malley Park in Chelsea, Mass., are great spaces to get outdoors all winter.

 

Your Town, City, or Recreation Department

Parks and recreation offices make neighborhood nature accessible to all, while keeping parks and trails fresh and exciting. While many of the other resources listed above don’t make it easy to reach anyone by phone, your local parks and recreation or government office will usually be happy to chat with you the old-fashioned way.


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Leah Cotton

Leah Cotton is a senior program director with AMC’s Outdoors Rx program.