The transition from 2017 to 2018 was a chilly one. Looking at Facebook I saw a number of people going through the same trouble with frozen pipes that I was, and worse. Nearly two weeks with temperatures between zero and freezing is not the norm around here.
Ever the optimist I saw the opportunity to visit a few of my favorite frozen destinations to share with you. Here are five of my favorite nearby places to visit when everything is frozen over …
Save this map and take it with you in the Google Maps App!
Save this map and take it with you in the Google Maps App!
#1 Middlecreek Wildlife Management Area
A few years ago I headed to Middlecreek to take some pictures and was astonished by what I saw at the northeastern edge of Lancaster County. There are a few ponds near where I grew up in New Holland, but I had never actually thought about lakes freezing over. One of those humbling moments in adulthood when you realize you’re completely ignorant about something.
At that time a number of ice fishing tents dotted the lake. People in large bright puffy coats could be seen walking across the ice towing small sleds full of their gear. It was my first experience of both seeing a frozen lake and witnessing ice fishing.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission operates a visitor center, but it closes after hunting season until February. A few weeks after they reopen the first flocks of migratory birds will begin appearing around the lake. While the visitor’s center is closed, so are some of the parking and access areas. If you get a chance to park at the small parking area near the dam on Klienfeltersville Road you’ll just be a few steps from the ice.
#2 Ulmer-Root-Haines Memorial Park - Indian Steps Waterfall
The next two spots are going to take us to the York County side of the Susquehanna River. This is one that I had seen some pictures of but wasn’t exactly sure what to expect in terms of accessing the falls.
The Ulmer-Root-Haines Memorial Park is located just across the street from the Indian Steps Museum. That’s another place I want to visit, but it will have to wait for another post because they close over Winter. The Museum's Arts and Crafts Style buildings were quite charming blanketed with snow. I could see what appeared to be a very beautiful view of the river at the edge of the property, but I didn’t want to wander around their property. I was on a waterfall mission.
I expected the falls to be frozen over, but I was actually quite impressed with how big the ice became given the slow flow of the creek I had seen in photos. After parking in the small pull off along Indian Steps Road we proceeded to the small staircase across the street. There is a large sign to let you know it’s the park and a small rocky trail leading directly up the hill about a quarter of a mile to the falls. This trail could be a little challenging for some due to the rocks and roots, particularly in rain, snow, or ice. Be sure to use caution if visiting this waterfall, and be prepared!
#3 Millcreek Falls
Millcreek Falls is another York County waterfall tucked away along the shores of Susquehanna River. This happens to be one of my favorite places to visit in general. After crossing the Susquehanna River on the Norman Wood Bridge (which towers over the river valley below), you take an immediate right into the Lock 12 Historic Area. There are a number of interesting lock remnants in this area left in time from the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal that previously extended from Wrightsville, PA to Havre De Grace, Maryland.
After a short drive down the unpaved River Road, you’ll cross Millcreek on a bridge and see the blue blazed entrance to the Mason Dixon Trail on your immediate left. In about a hundred yards or so you’ll notice a pull off area to the right for parking. If you reach the Holtwood Whitewater Park or the Holtwood Dam you’ve gone just a little too far.
Probably the biggest reason this is one of my favorite places to visit is the convenient access to a beautiful waterfall. After starting up this very easy section of the Mason Dixon Trail it’s only about a hundred yards until you see the creek and cascading falls to your left. Where you’ll be standing on the hillside gives you a great view of the falls. Getting to the base of the falls is a bit more challenging and a little risky for inexperienced hikers. If you choose to go down there use caution.
If you continue up the trail to the top of the falls it’s just a light walk on a heavily used path. The pool at the top makes a great place to let the kids, or your inner-child, splash around in the summer. In the winter the ice forms interesting features all around.
From there the trail continues along the side of the creek. The sound of flowing water is very soothing, but after the falls there are a few spots along the trail that can get slippery. Further up there’s a branch which offers a slightly smaller waterfall, beyond that the Mason Dixon Trail returns to its normal level of intensity reserved for more experienced hikers. Snow and ice were making it especially hazardous when we visited, so we headed back.
#4 Kilgore Falls
Kilgore Falls is Maryland’s second tallest waterfall located in a satellite portion of Rock State Park near Pylesville, Maryland. To get there we crossed the Norman Wood Bridge (Route 372) like we’re going to Millcreek Falls, but instead of turning onto River Road head straight until the road stops at Route 74. Turn left and it’s only another 20 mins south and a few turns in Maryland.
A big thing to remember about Maryland Parks, you typically have to be in a parking space in a parking lot. When the lots fill up in Maryland they tell you to drive around and come back later. Honestly, It’s super frustrating and I’ve been turned away from a few parks. We had no problem getting a space in winter, or when they first open the parking lot in the morning during the Summer months. Typically by the time we’re ready to leave the lot is near or at capacity though.
However, the hassle is totally worth it. This is a beautiful waterfall, and it's a lot of fun to splash around in the pools at the base of the falls in the summer. I stopped by here before the deep freeze and crossing the creek did not look inviting, so we headed to the top of the falls. When I returned during the freeze the entire creek was frozen solid and it became the trail.
The trail to the creek is well worn with few rocks and roots scattered around. It’s about a half mile to the falls and a fairly easy hike. The paths around the base of the falls are a little different. With so many people playing in the falls these paths have a lot of erosion causing roots and rocks to be exposed. Definitely use caution, especially at the top of the falls as there are no safety railings.
#5 Chickies Rock Overlook
Chickies Rock County Park is another favorite place I like to visit. I enjoy the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail at the base of the rock, and the Breezyview Overlook for a great view without the hike, but the overlook at Chickies Rock provides one of the best views in Lancaster County in my opinion. So much so that we captured it a few years ago for Google Streetview. Check it out …
The overlook is about a half mile from the parking lot along Chickies Hill Road (Route 441). The trail is well worn so rocks can be a hazard, particularly when there’s snow on the ground, but the 200-foot view is spectacular!