It doesnt get any easier to enjoy winter than at Lake Cascade State Park.
People often bypass Cascade as they head toward recreation destinations to the north, but a short detour off Idaho 55 gives snowmobilers, ice anglers, sledders, cross-country skiers and snowshoers access to the frozen lake, trails and winter camping.
Lake Cascade has a lot more than people think, said Theresa Perry, park manager, as she checked out conditions at the Crown Point Trail near the reservoirs dam.
There are five plowed parking areas around the 26-mile-long, 3-mile-wide reservoir that offer quick access to recreation within steps of your vehicle.
Parking at Crown Point is free, but $5 at the parks other units.
The parks diverse offerings give novices and families simple and comfortable ways to enjoy the outdoors.
Its an easy way to have a variety of experiences, from ice fishing to skiing, Perry said.
Finding the state park is straight-forward. On Idaho 55, drive north from the Treasure Valley about 75 miles to the town of Cascade. Its an easy day trip or weekend outing.
Several units of the state park are close to town where you can get pie and coffee after skiing or snowshoeing, or eat dinner and stay in a motel if you dont feel like winter camping.
Its only a few blocks away, she said.
The park offers great scenery and winter photo opportunities just steps from the parking lots. The wide expanse of the snow-covered reservoir comes with a beautiful backdrop of West Mountain.
Birds and waterfowl hang out near open water at or below the dam.
As you explore the parks trails, or just wander along the snowy shoreline of the reservoir, youll see animal tracks going in all directions along with winters sculptures of ice and frost. You can have a picnic and go sledding along the hilly shoreline.
Its also a convenient place for snowmobilers to start their trips into the backcountry. You can park at a plowed lot and ride 3 miles across the reservoir to access high-elevation trails.
Not all of the parks campgrounds and recreation areas are plowed, so if you have a favorite summer spot, it may not be accessible in the snow.
Here are winter recreation areas within the state park ready for your winter fun:
This area is located minutes from Cascade, north of Cascade Dam.
Youll find a multiple-use trailhead, parking and restroom.
The trail follows the reservoirs shoreline north for 2.5 miles, giving you a scenic 5-mile out-and-back trip. The trail is used mostly by cross-country skiers and snowshoers, but snow-mobilers occasionally use it, too.
It winds through trees with excellent views of the reservoir and West Mountain.
This plowed parking area with a restroom is located a few blocks from the center of town and is usually the first area visitors see going up Lake Cascade Parkway.
Snowmobilers use this lot so they can take a straight shot across the reservoir to Anderson Creek trails on West Mountain.
It also is a popular parking place for ice anglers.
A 3/4-mile loop cross-country ski trail takes off from the parking lot and goes north. Its groomed for classic and skate skiing.
Its an ideal trail for beginners and those who just want a quick workout.
This plowed parking lot is 2.5 miles south of Van Wyck on the southeast shore of the reservoir.
Its popular with ice anglers and snowmobilers.
The nearby hilly shoreline is great for sledding.
Blue Heron also offers winter camping and has an outhouse, but no water.
Youll have to drive from Cascade to Donnelly on Idaho 55 to get to this area.
In Donnelly, turn left on West Roseberry Road and follow the signs to Tamarack Resort. Turn south on West Mountain Road and drive about 4 miles to Poison Creek.
It also has plowed parking and offers access for ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the reservoir. Beware of the ice along the shoreline where the creek dumps in because the running water can weaken or melt the ice.
Poison Creek also offers dry camping and an outhouse.
Continue south past Poison Creek for about 2.5 miles to get to Osprey Point and the parks yurt area.
Three yurts are available for rent as a group unit. Theyre located on the edge of a grove of trees near the reservoir.
The yurts are popular for families, reunions, youth groups and Boy Scouts.
The area is close to Tamarack Resort for skiing and snowshoeing.
Snowmobilers use the yurts as a base camp for West Mountain trails.
The yurts also offer access to the lake for ice fishing.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors
Source: Lake Cascade State Park