Forget the high-priced dinner, artificial moon glow and hurried wait staff this Valentine’s Day.
Try, instead, something very different from the tried and true red roses that wilt away or those earrings that she really had hoped would be a ring. Plan a visit to a national forest or grassland. Let a photograph or video be the record of your everlasting love. Please do not carve your names into a tree or other object or in another way deface the beauty of our national forests and grasslands.
And if the weather for the recreational activity you would like to pursue makes a Valentine’s Day visit out of the question, consider designing and printing a “Let’s Love the Outdoors Together” coupon with a promise for a hike, bike or other activity during a more heart-warming time of year.
Make your Valentine’s destination Love Lake picnic site on the Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado. Open year round, a lovely hike around the small impoundment at the head of Middle Creek can do a heart good. Of course, it is winter. But you could bundle up and cuddle together as you take the snowmobile for a refreshing ride over the snow.
Can’t get away from that diamond? Then try Diamond Lake on the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon is a breathtaking mile-high lake that is perfect for a couple who enjoys swimming in the cold yet refreshing waters, fishing in a lake stocked annually with thousands of Rainbow trout or biking along an 11-mile paved trail around the lake. The campground has more than 200 sites to accommodate tents, RVs and trailers. The season begins in May, so don’t forget to make your reservation through Recreation.gov.
For a warmer climate, head to Heart Rock on Seeley Creek Trail on the San Bernardino National Forest in California. The easy hike follows Seeley Creek to the overlook that marks the trails’ end. It is here you will see a heart-shaped hole in the cliff next to a picturesque 20-foot waterfall. Just don’t get too close.
You could make Valentine’s Day a family affair at Hart Bar Family Campground, also on the San Bernardino. The area has tent and camping trailer spaces, picnic tables, toilets, drinking water and parking. Everything you need except for the s’ mores. Bring those for a sweet ending to your day.
We all know love is fickle, so how about Heartbreak Ridge on the Superior National Forest? The steep ridge, once used for logging, broke many a logger’s heart because during the winter he could not haul up or down the rise. Maybe for this one, you might want to give your loved one a coupon for a spring or summer hike. The forest is in Minnesota, and it’s pretty frigid this time of year.
National forests are home to 122 ski areas, like Loveland Ski Area on the Arapaho National Forest in Colorado. Loveland Basin is on the eastern slope of the Continental Divide about 53 miles west of Denver. The ski area, operated under a special-use permit with the agency, has three quad chair lifts, two triple chair lifts, three double chair lifts and one poma surface lift to service 1,570 acres of skiable terrain. Of course, a visit there on Valentine’s Day might just come with a commitment. The ski area is staging its 23rd annual mountaintop matrimony day.
The Valentine Lake Northshore Campground has 14 campsites, six of which are located along the shoreline of the lake on the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. The three-mile Valentine Lake Trail starts and ends at the campground and is good for a leisurely stroll and a bit of fishing from the pier.
Don’t have a valentine? Maybe Cupid shot a few misdirected bows at Double Arrow Lookout on the Lolo National Forest in Montana. The 20-foot tower has amazing views of Seeley Valley and the adjacent Swan Mountains with accommodations for a wonderful stay.
But don’t be disheartened. No Valentine’s Day is complete without a special hug. And when it comes to special hugs, there is no better bear hug than from our own Smokey Bear.