Going round and round on an ice skating rink can get pretty monotonous. A fabulous alternative—and the perfect cure for cabin fever—is to glide along an extended ice-covered trail that passes through snow-draped trees and bushes in the woods, runs along a frozen lake or stream, or skate loops around a lush park setting. While there are fewer ice skating trails in the U.S. than in Canada, a handful of great ones—all very different from one another—are providing people of all ages with a wonderful way to chase winter blues, exercise outdoors and connect to nature.
So, get your skates on and head to an ice trail for a one-of-a-kind winter adventure that won’t have you going around in circles. Here are the best ice skating trails the country has to offer.
Lake Morey Resort – Fairlee, Vermont
Vermont winters are breathtaking, and Vermont’s Lake Morey captures some of its most captivating features. Imagine vistas of a frozen lake glimmering under a rising sun as the morning fog burns off, and gliding along taking it all in. That’s what awaits you on the 4.5-mile skate trail on Lake Morey, at the Lake Morey Resort.
This is the longest groomed ice skating trail in the U.S. when the ice conditions allow for use of its full length. While skimming across the 600-acres of the lake in the cool winter air, skaters can soak up gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding mountainsides and spot bald eagles overhead. And they can’t lose their way here—the trail is edged in snow, making it very clear how and where to go.
Nordic ice skate rentals are available at the Lake Morey Resort’s Skate Shack for $30 to the public.
Before venturing out, check the daily ice report on the Lake Morey Resort Facebook page.
Location: 82 Clubhouse Rd, Fairlee, VT 05045
Skating Ribbon in Maggie Daley Park – Chicago, Illinois
This serpentine trail of ice, located in the heart of downtown Chicago in Maggie Daley Park, provides incredible views of the sweeping urban skyline as it winds through an undulating landscape. The experience here is less about skating among trees and more skating under skyscrapers in a natural, park-like setting.
The ribbon designers aimed to create a stimulating, multi-sensory adventure and they delivered it in spades with a trail that offers twice the skating distance of a traditional skating rink—without any of the tedium.
You’ll get quite a workout here, but benches along the ribbon provide good spots to catch your breath, and there’s a cafe for buying some quick pick-me-up snacks and hot chocolate.
These days, one has to make a reservation to skate but there’s a silver lining to that—no lines or crowds.
Pretty slick, right?
Location: 337 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601
Howard Park – South Bend, Indiana (16,000 sq. ft., culminating in an ice pond)
A recreation focal point in the South Bend, Indiana region, Howard Park’s 16,000-sq.-ft. ice trail is also one of the newest in the country. Diverse terrain is the name of the game here—the trail integrates ‘hilly’ slopes and curves that simulate a wilderness landscape and even has visitors skating over a bridge into the park.
The trail culminates in an ice pond, which not only boosts the variety quotient but also provides a more isolated skating area that’s ideally suited to skating instruction (lessons are included in the price of admission) and skating-focused activities like broomball.
The ice-skating area is surrounded by fire pits, seating and lovely landscaping; a concession stand provides quick sustenance.
Location: 219 S St Louis Blvd, South Bend, IN 46617
Central Park Ice Skating Trail – Maple Grove, Minnesota
The first refrigerated ice trail in Minnesota, the curvy Central Park Ice Skating Trail in Maple Grove, a suburb of Minneapolis, is 20 feet wide and 800 feet long, and meanders through a tree-filled area of the 44-acre park. The trail’s length, varied park-like scenery and perennially smooth and chilled surface make it a great place to skate solo or with family, no matter what the temperature is outside. And it stays open until 9:30 PM, so skaters can keep gliding under lights well after dark.
A rail runs along much of the path, giving skaters something to grab onto for extra support. There’s also a pavilion with plenty of spots for lacing up and taking breaks, and a large atmospheric fire pit for warming up. An indoor concession stand sells snacks and all-important hot chocolate.
Admission is free and skate rentals are available and cost $6.
Location: 12000 Central Park Way, Maple Grove, MN 55369
Palmer (aka Rabbit) Slough, Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge – Wasila, Alaska
For a popular wild ice (ice as it’s found in nature) experience, head to the wildlife-packed Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge, located in Alaska at the head of the Knik Arm waterway. Frozen streams wind for miles across the refuge and skaters can either follow the channels or explore the pond networks. The Flats offer relatively smooth glides because the strong winds that blow across this terrain sweep the snow away.
Rabbit Slough is a shallow, winding creek, flowing through the large network of connected waterways. When frozen, you can skate 5.5 miles on it, eventually reaching a series of stunning frozen lagoons.
Start your skate at the Rabbit Slough parking lot. You’ll get incredible unobstructed views of the Chugach Mountains and Pioneer Peak, out-of-this-world icy peaks soaring above the Knik River valley and moose walking through the flats. Be sure to bring binoculars! (A hut located near the lagoons provides a possible stopping or catch-your-breath spot.)
Location: About 8 miles south of Wasila and 30 minutes north of Anchorage
Important: When skating on wild ice, be sure to check weather and ice condition reports, and bring proper safety gear—a throw rope with ice screws, a helmet, ice spikes and extra clothes in a dry bag.