Published: December 2008/January 2009
Central States
Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.
Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
Snowshoeing: Toast Tahquamenon Falls

Don’t bother bringing your ice tools to Upper Tahquamenon Falls near Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay. The waterfall, one of the largest east of the Mississippi, doesn’t freeze over, but the sight of the 200-foot-wide Tahquamenon River tumbling 50 feet at 50,000 gallons a second is a jaw-dropper. Hardy souls camp in Tahquamenon Falls State Park to ogle the cataract and XC ski the groomed, four-mile Giant Pines Trail or snowshoe the 4.5-mile River Trail between the upper and lower falls (camping, $16; Warmer lodging is in the nearby town of Paradise, and everyone meets at Camp 33’s brewpub, a quarter mile from the falls, to hoist a Black Bear Stout. Here’s to winter!

Wildlife Watching: Howl in the North Woods

The 4,000 or so Great Plains wolves in the Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Wilderness surrounding Ely may be elusive, but they’re also rather chatty, as participants in the International Wolf Center’s Mush With Dogs, Howl With Wolves weekends readily discover ($470; for dates). By day, the center leads tracking excursions in search of radio-collared wolves, the subjects of ongoing studies. (Sightings are recorded in the center’s burgeoning database.) At night, everyone howls up a storm, and the wild canines frequently respond. Hours in between are filled with saunas, meals, and fireside evening sessions at Timber Trail Lodge, during which wolf experts discuss the quirks of Canis lupus nubilus over cups of hot cocoa.

Hiking: Go Wild in the Smokies

Pigeon Forge’s 19th annual Wilderness Wildlife Week is a paean to the Smokies and a nod to Appalachian culture, featuring dowsing demonstrations (water-seeking rod provided), nightly owl prowls, winter photography seminars, and wilderness hikes (January 10-17; free; Headquarters is the Music Road Hotel Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, where indoor programs include talks on bears, elk reintroduction, trout, and logging history. But the highlight is getting outdoors with wilderness experts and local guides. That might involve an 11-mile hike up Mount Cammerer, a three-hour tracking seminar, or a five-mile trek to Courthouse Rock overlooking Sugarland Valley. In the middle of the week comes Appalachia Fest, a night of bluegrass foot stomping (January 13). Yee-haw!

Hiking: Hike the Hocking Hills (With a Few Friends)

There’s winter hiking in the Hocking Hills, and then there’s the Winter Hike in Hocking Hills State Park (January 17; free; Both have their charms. On the hike, the 44th annual, you’ll join more than 5,000 intrepid trompers on the six-mile trek from the park’s campground to the falls at Old Man’s Cave, passing icy waterfalls and snow-covered sandstone formations, plus Ohio’s tallest tree (a 149-foot hemlock). At the midway point, Cedar Falls, everyone halts for a feast of bean soup doled from steaming iron kettles, soaked up with fresh corn bread. Of course, you can hike this segment of the 1,444-mile Buckeye Trail anytime on your own—just grab a room or log cabin in the nearby Inn at Cedar Falls (doubles from $189;