UPDATE: Phipps is now open for your visit. All tickets must be purchased in advance, and new safety protocols are required. Learn more about how you can join us!

#bioPGH Blog: Outdoor Adventures in January
Jan 23

#bioPGH Blog: Outdoor Adventures in January

By Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas, Research and Science Education Outreach Manager

Biophilia NetworkA resource of Biophilia: Pittsburgh, #bioPGH is a weekly blog and social media series that aims to encourage both children and adults to reconnect with nature and enjoy what each of our distinctive seasons has to offer. 

Subscribe to Posts Via Email


This time of year, we may be tempted to stay wrapped up in blankets or hunkered down with mugs of tea until warm weather returns.  Even if it’s cold out, though, the outdoors still are bustling with life to explore, and we still need a dash of nature in our days. So grab a thermos of hot coffee and let’s see what we can do outside!

Day Trip to State and County Parks
Summer isn’t the only time that a day trip one of our local parks makes a perfect Saturday. Even if it’s chilly out, you can still pack a picnic and plan for a day of hitting the trails, or even playing soccer, football or capture-the-flag! Being outdoors is good for all of us, perhaps especially when it’s a time of year when we are inside with limited exposure to sunlight and fresh air. While you’re out, take a few moments to appreciate the wintry world. Even under ice, streams are still filled with insects; hibernating amphibians may hiding near your picnic site, and the plants and animals around us have variety of tricks to keep from freezing over the winter. The natural world is magical.

Check out the state parks’ calendar of events for exciting winter time adventures, or just enjoy a day of wandering and exploring. And if a recent story from Raccoon Creek State Park is any indication, you might even see some quite exciting wildlife!

Bird Watching
For birds, the need to migrate is largely due to food availability during winter. Lucky for us, that means we have the opportunity to see species that are either open to a wide variety of food sources or have diet preferences of winter-safe foods like nuts and seeds. (Species that exclusively eat fruits, nectar, or certain insects for a meal will have much lower success in a wintry Western Pennsylvania and, thus, tend to migrate.) Depending on where you hike, you are likely to see dark-eyed juncos, black-capped chickadees, northern cardinals, blue jays, American goldfinches, woodpeckers, kinglets, tufted titmice, nuthatches, and many others including a few birds of prey. Going on a solo or family birding walk is always enjoyable, but if you would like to join in with a group of folks, check out the Three Rivers Birding Club, the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, and the National Aviary for various birding outings.

Guided Group Hikes
Maybe you prefer guided group excursions to enhance the learning experience! If that is the case, our area has a variety of resources to help you find an outing that is right for your needs. Our local land trusts (like Allegheny Land Trust and Hollow Oak Land Trust) all offer guided explorations of their properties. If you check out the Allegheny County Parks system’s activity calendar and search “hike,” you can find a variety of themed guided hikes to suit different needs and interests (including some for your four-legged friends!)

Visit the Tropics
Of course, if the weather just isn’t safe for exploring (slush, ice, extreme cold, etc.), Pittsburgh does happen to have a little piece of a tropical paradise right here at Phipps Conservatory and we are always happy to have you as our guest!


Photo credits: 123rf and vaidor otsar CC-BY-SA-3.0