This winter has done right by we Midwesterners…you know, if you like snow that is! We’ve had it all: the quarter-sized snowflakes that surround our homes to make our very own snowglobes; the plow and shovel packed mounds that take our meager feet of snow and turn it into mini-mountain ranges alongside the roads and sidewalks that one must traverse to get…well, everywhere really; the thin-icy snowfalls; the thick packing snow; the “hold onto something because it’s just ice” snow days and everything in between. This wide array of winter’s glory gifts us what we treasure most… Snow play! Snow forts, snow people, ice skating, skiing, snowball fights and…the standard family favorite, SLEDDING!
We have been so ready to bust out the sleds this season that we didn’t go sledding once or twice. Six times we sledded our way through a winter day! Stuck on where to go? Here are our favorite spots in Northwest Indiana!
- Oak Ridge Prairie, Griffith
- Lemon Lake, Crown Point
- Veteran’s Memorial Park, Hobart
- Lake County Fairgrounds, Crown Point
Oak Ridge Prairie County Park
Oak Ridge Prairie is the fastest hill, by far! There is generally a medium crowd of sledding enthusiasts gripping the fence that lines the back of the hill as they try to make it back up in a desperate ice climb that is sure to poop out the grown-ups well before the kids ever realize it’s exhausting. (If the kids ever realize it’s exhausting…) There are benches politely placed at the top of hill if you need to take a load off. And, even though you are not permitted to bring your snowboards to this icy goliath (not even the toy ones, sorry folks!) there are some pretty stellar kid-packed moguls you can find throughout the slope that really give the sleds some extra lift. It’s a good idea to throw a $10 in your bag before making the trek. There is usually a parking attendant collecting a small fee to play. If you only plan to hit one sledding hill this season…this is probably the one. Unless you have little littles or like a bit more peace then keep reading!
Lemon Lake County Park
This is our personal favorite. We are the family that likes the wide open areas of magical nothingness with fewer humans and more trees. Sledding Lemon Lake requires commitment. The roads and parking lots are plowed but there are no clear trails to the sledding areas. Those, my friends, you are going to have to enlist the power of your strongly-tied boots to stomp and pound your way to glory. It’s a park full of peaks and valleys so if you know of other areas in the park you enjoy sledding – please let me know. Our crew always attempts the long hill on the left that you can see through the trees as you pass through the parking gate. If you park in the first lot on your left, you will need to walk the long route pass a few disc golf baskets up to the top of the gentle incline that really only works if you pull your kiddo down on a sled with a rope. This hill really is test in perseverance and grit. It’s quite a beautiful view along the way…but a bit anti-climactic on the way down.
Our favorite option is the danger option just beyond the parking lot and before you hit the playground on the right hand-side. If you see the stop sign that says “Stop: Thin Ice” then you have found the spot. We (and perhaps a couple of families that are making it out in-between our visits) have packed down the path between the trees to the lake so perfectly that it gifts us incredible private sledding with the backdrop of a frozen lake lined by winter-loved birch trees standing guard as a natural stop sign for the kids at the bottom of the hill. (Though I recommend doing as we do and stationing a grown-up at the bottom to catch any fast sledders before they hit the lake!) We have sledded this spot for years and have yet to make it that far. You will need to suss out if this is the right fit for you based on all the factors your gut is telling you right now.
We do bring the kids toy snowboards to the spot. And, hot chocolate roadies…and some firewood for the grill in the shelter a the top of the hill in case we need to warm up our fingers. This is spot for nature-lovers that don’t want a long trek uphill after each joy ride down. It’s our number one.
Veteran’s Memorial Park
This park has the basics great for sledding without much work. It’s a very short walk from the parking lot to the hill. If you have older kids, you can easily stay in the car and watch them do their thing until they plop. I have a whole other blog dedicated to this spot pre-snow here. Veteran’s Memorial gets the job done in a pinch if you are looking for an experience stop…not necessarily where you want to spend a full day. My crew apparently likes to really work for our pleasure so once is enough for us this season. If you are looking for easy – look no further!
Lake County Fairgrounds
This spot is full of nostalgia for many…not for us (unless it’s county fair time!)…but we tried it out and enjoyed it just the same. We stopped here on the first really good snow fall of the season where everyone and their neighbor seemed to have the same great idea. For better (or worse!/pandemic) the hill was poppin’! Good news: outdoors is the best place to encounter fellow humans. Better news: humans are still great and it was nice to see so much joy and togetherness while watching everyone’s eyes light up from above the many ski-masks.
Even though the hill abounded with humans – the hilltop access is incredibly long so there is room enough for everyone without getting crowded. Note to brave drivers: even though you feel like you want to off-road to the most convenient parking spot at the top of the hill – don’t do it! We dug out at least 5 cars in our afternoon there. (5!!!) The parking lot is not that far and will save you hours of digging if you can hoof it just a little further.
I may have mentioned something about grit and perserverance already ready but it’s worth mentioning again. Nature doesn’t come with built in safety features…but our kids do. Winter is the perfect stomping ground for trial and error with a (somewhat!) soft landing. I don’t know about you but when my kiddos spend too much time inside the complaining amps up. And, yes! There can be a world of complaining outside, too (cold toes, snow in gloves, lost boots, tired legs, etc…) But every now and then, the hill gets quiet and you get to watch those growing legs traverse the ice hill with stealthy intensity. Or, the long journey to the top of the hill is quiet because we all find ourselves saving our breath and our energy. These moments of work for works sake make me smile. Give the kiddos confidence. And give all of us a very glorious night of accomplished sleep!
There are plenty more sledding spots & other fun winter recreation locations shared by our South Shore friends here. Now go hit the hills before the snow turns to slush!
Disclaimer: Even though this play blog is for the Dirt on Kids, its’ author is employed by the Lake County Parks. The Lake County Parks did not commission this blog nor is in any way associated with the Dirt on Kids . I write about the parks independently because I happen to be a park enthusiast and am happy to share the many regional treasures I have found through playing, parenting and living.