Go ahead and put on your boots, scarves, and gloves because it’s time to explore Presque Isle State Park in the wintertime! Although Presque Isle is mainly known for its sandy beaches, there are many ways to enjoy and explore the park’s natural beauty any time of year. Here are 10 fun things to do at Presque Isle that will get you outside, enjoying the cool winter air.
Cross-Country Ski on Fox Trail
The half-mile Fox Trail is across from the Presque Isle Lighthouse, winding through wooded swamps and oak-maple trees, providing a picturesque, forested byway between the Sidewalk Trail and a portion of the Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose Trail. Other trails that are maintained for cross-country skiing include the Sidewalk Trail and Dead Pond Trail. Take your skis out on the frozen bay, but only when it's safe to do so. (picture: @benjamindberlin on Instagram)
Spot a Snowy Owl at Gull Point
The snowy owl is the largest of the North American owls and is mainly white with black and brown markings. Some snowy owls are known to migrate from their summer nests near the Arctic Circle to parts of southern Canada and the northern rim of the United States, including Presque Isle. The best place to catch a glimpse of a snowy owl is Gull Point, where they perch on land and short posts waiting for prey. To protect the ecologically fragile area, visitors must use the designated observation platform and trail.
Watch a Winter Sunset
Presque Isle is known for its world-class sunsets, but in winter it’s a special sight to behold. When the sun sets on the horizon between the snow dusted sand and the frozen lake, it’s simply breathtaking. Whether you bundle yourselves up on the beach or enjoy from the coziness of your own car, this gorgeous display of color is definitely Instagrammable. The best spot to catch this amazing show is at Sunset Point, also known as Kite Beach. (photo: Paul Gibbens)
Snowshoe on Long Pond Trail
This one-mile trail follows the shoreline of Long Pond, one of the ponds within the park’s lagoon, near the entrance to the east pier. The trail is ideal for snowshoe exploration and has great opportunities to see some of the park’s wildlife population, including some very active beavers. These busy little creatures have cut a noticeable path through the trail near the eastern trailhead. Other snowshoe trails at the park include Pine Tree Trail and Ridge Trail.
Learn a Little at TREC
Although not physically attached to Presque Isle, the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (affectionately referred to as “TREC”) is a must-see if you want to learn how the peninsula formed from glaciers and ice melt. This fascinating (and free) attraction features hands-on, educational exhibits, a glass-enclosed observation tower and orientation theater.
Go on a Scenic Drive
Enjoy Presque Isle’s natural winter beauty from the warmth of your vehicle as you meander through the park’s 13-mile paved loop. To maintain the park’s natural condition and protect its natural inhabitants, the main road is cleared of snow but is not treated with salt or other chemicals.
Ice Dune Admiring
Ice dunes form as a result of cold Lake Erie waters, icy temperatures, and strong winds coming together. Found on the lake side of the park, ice dunes help to preserve the beaches and protect them from sand erosion, and can be small chunks floating at water's edge, or structures up to 15 feet tall. Ice dunes are lovely to look at, but only from a distance due to their extremely hazardous instability. We recommend capturing them with a photo so the memories last long after the dunes melt away.
Presque Isle’s location on the Atlantic Flyway makes it a favorite spot for birds to stop to feed and rest on their migration across Lake Erie. More than 339 species of birds have been identified on the peninsula during the winter including geese, swans, and a wide variety of owls. Play a family game of “I-spy with my little eye” and see how many other wildlife residents you can find throughout the park! We bet you’ll see at least one of these: white-tailed deer, foxes, rabbits, raccoons, frogs, and turtles.
Ice Fish Misery Bay
The sheltered, frozen waters of Misery Bay set the stage to get you hooked on ice fishing. When the water freezes, set up your hut and see if you get that all-important bite on your line! Common catches are yellow perch, panfish, northern pike, walleye, and the occasional steelhead. Presque Isle Bay, Horseshoe Pond and the Presque Isle Marina are other ice fishing hot spots accessible from Presque Isle State Park. (pictured, photo by Paul Gibbens)
Review Presque Isle State Park Ice Fishing Regulations here.
Hike a Mile
Enjoy a tranquil stroll along Presque Isle’s main trail, the Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose Trail. Breathe in the fresh, crisp air as you appreciate the scenic surroundings. The trail is regularly cleared of snow from the park’s main entrance to the public safety building, so visitors can negotiate the path with ease. Bring the pups out too! Just remember to do your part and clean up after them.
Know Before You Go:
Presque Isle State Park Winter Hours of Operation
Open daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Day use areas such as trails, beaches, restrooms, and the marina close at dusk. After sunset, driving only is permitted until 8 p.m.
Presque Isle State Park Main Office
Open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Presque Isle State Park Restrooms
Most restrooms are closed during the off-season. Restrooms at Rotary pavilion, the ranger station/public safety building and Perry Monument are open year-round.
Presque Isle State Park Ranger Station/Public Safety Building
Offering first aid, telephones, restrooms, and maps of the park. Hours vary depending on staffing