Looking for a great Valentine’s Date? Try U.S. forests

Kathryn Sosbe
Office of Communication, U.S. Forest Service
February 10th, 2015 at 8:45PM

<none>Finding unique gifts for Valentine’s Day just got a whole lot easier. With 122 ski areas, and thousands of miles of trails, riv­­­ers and streams, the U.S. Forest Service has plenty of ideas for a special outing with your l­­­oved one.

Show some warmth by sweeping your loved one away from colder climates to Ocala National Forest in Florida where temperatures are likely to be in the upper 60s or low 70s. Ocala has more than 27 first-magnitude springs, and forest visitors have long enjoyed Juniper Springs. There are hundreds of tiny bubbling springs, and underground water gushes out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of palms and oaks. The area is truly an oasis that is bound to warm hearts. It’s a popular place, so book your reservations at Recreation.gov.

Showing some love doesn’t always mean going long distances. About 53 miles from Denver, Colorado, is Loveland Ski Area, one of three ski areas that operate on the Arapaho National Forest. Loveland offers skiing and snowboarding with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing available on the forest, including special opportunities to ski with a Forest Service ranger. Check with the forest for dates and times.

<none>Oh, and Loveland’s most popular event of the year is the annual Valentine’s Day Mountaintop Matrimony for couples getting married or renewing their vows. Registration is required, so sign up early.

If you have children, show some love by planning an excursion outdoors. For those in snowier regions, take along the free, downloadable Junior Snow Ranger book that is filled with information for young people, educators and parents. Learn about Forest Service snow rangers and try some of the cold-weather activities like learning how to make frozen bubbles. The book also includes lots of safety tips and things you can do with the kids before you venture from home, such as helping them create an avalanche.­­­ In warmer climates, get your child started with the Junior Forest Ranger program, which includes an online clubhouse.

Live close to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area? Visit this family friendly 170,000-acre area between Kentucky and Tennessee for year-round activities. On Feb. 14, the Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory, a 40-foot dome theater operated by Friends of Land Between the Lakes, will offer a variety of planetarium shows for all ages. In honor of President’s Day Weekend, which also happens to include Valentine’s Day, the 1 p.m. planetarium show “Firefall” will be free Feb. 14-16. The show explores impacts from comets and asteroids that have shaped Earth’s surface.

From Alaska to Puerto Rico, the Forest Service has 193 million acres with plenty of room to spread the love and something for all ages. There are more than 150,000 miles of trails of all kinds, 10,000 developed recreation sites, more than 9,000 miles of scenic byways and eight national monuments, plus a lot more.

So find a forest or grassland, and get started.