Tag Archives: picnic

A Visit to Milltown State Park

Back in November we talked about Milltown State Park in Missoula, Montana, and how a state park is made. A short while ago, we paid a visit to Milltown to see how it is shaping up.

Good sky!

Seems fair to say that, though still not fully open, the park and its overlook certainly have merit.

During this visit on a resplendent June weekday, there were relatively few others at the park, and most of those were Montana Conservation Corps workers who were focused on a project off the paved overlook walkway. The overlook is the focal point of the park’s facilities, and it’s no small wonder why.

Good day for readin' outside.

The view of some of the mountains visible at the park foregrounded by interpretive materials and the railing that lines the Milltown State Park Overlook.

The park’s interpretive material details the history of the river confluence and the people who depended on its waters. It also elaborates on the building of the Milltown Dam in 1908, as well as the massive flood that buried heavy metals, arsenic, and other mining waste at the base of the dam, months after it was constructed. Some of the best information details the incredible effort it took to remove the dam and poisonous sediments, and restore the confluence to the Place of Big Bull Trout, as it is traditionally known to the Salish, who fished the confluence long before pioneers and businessmen settled and dammed it up.

A gorgeous, sunny day for river viewing.

The main overlook showcases the open, sweeping grandeur of the restored confluence of the Clark Fork River.

In addition to the overlook, there is a two-table picnic area and trails that amble into the wooded hills that frame the confluence. In all, the views from the overlook are expansive; the views from the trail are in touch with the quiet wooded parts of western Montana, shaded by large and often young conifers. The trail extends about two miles down, and deeper into the park toward the river.

Dirt path through pines!

The unpaved trail extends through the trees and down toward the river. It shoots cleanly off the paved pathway to the overlook.

Milltown State Park, though still building toward its total fruition, is a marvel of modern habitat and environmental rehabilitation. Through the hard work and perseverance of park staff, community members and organizations, volunteers, and local tribal leadership in the face of local, state and federal-level hurdles, the confluence has become a wonderful vista, well worth the jot from Interstate 90. Milltown is not just beautiful and improving all the time, but represents wholesomeness achievable to all of us, if we endeavor for the good of future generations, and the health of our natural resources.

Speaking of natural resources, there’s no time like the present to get out and enjoy them! Pocket Ranger® mobile apps make trip planning easy, and app features make exploring the parks you visit a delight.

GIANT & MARTIN’S Now a Sponsor of the Pennsylvania State Parks Pocket Ranger® App

We here at ParksByNature Network are very excited about our new sponsor, GIANT Food Stores and MARTIN’S Food Markets!

Screenshot showing the GIANT ad on The Official Guide for Pennsylvania State Parks & Forests.

If you’re a Pocket Ranger® app user in Pennsylvania, you may have seen their ads in The Official Guide for Pennsylvania State Parks & Forests Pocket Ranger® app.

We are thrilled about GIANT & MARTIN’S not only because of their sponsorship, but also because they’re the perfect partners for the season! Summer is a great time to explore the state parks and forests and the perfect season for picnicking and grilling. Our sponsors will make it easy and fun for you to make the most out of your park visits this summer.

A hiking trail carpeted in pine needles passes under trees at Caledonia State Park. [Image: www.dcnr.state.pa.us]

Image: www.dcnr.state.pa.us

Planning a day hike at one of Pennsylvania’s 120 state parks? Stop by GIANT or MARTIN’S for water and energy rich snacks, like nuts and bars.

Chicken and veggies on a grill. [Image: giantfoodstores.com]

Image: giantfoodstores.com

Itching to start off the season with some grilling? Use the Pocket Ranger® app to find the nearest location that offers grills. On your way over, pick up some juicy steaks, burgers, hot dogs, wings, veggies and other tasty foods from GIANT or MARTIN’S. They also have some terrific summer grilling recipes on their website. Your satisfied bellies will thank you.

Forested hills line the lake at Frances Slocum State Park. [Image: www.dcnr.state.pa.us]

Image: www.dcnr.state.pa.us

Looking to have a quiet picnic by the water? The Pennsylvania State Parks Guide can help you with that as well – search by activity and look for parks that offer picnicking. Once you find your ideal spot, buy some simple prepared foods at GIANT or MARTIN’S, along with some cheese and crackers or fresh fruits and veggies and head to the park for a relaxing picnic with your loved ones. Don’t forget the blanket! Also, check out our sponsor’s website for picnic perfect recipes, as well as our own tips on planning the perfect picnic or the perfect outdoor meal.

Sunlight shines on a tent at a campsite in Pennsylvania State Parks. [Image: www.dcnr.state.pa.us]

Image: www.dcnr.state.pa.us

Or perhaps you want to tackle an overnight camping trip to take advantage of all the amenities and activities the parks have to offer? Remember, a prepared camper is a happy camper. Stock up at GIANT or MARTIN’s for your camping essentials. And if you’re taking home your big catch after some fishing or hunting, make sure you pick up some herbs, spices and veggies to help you make that perfect dish. If you’re new to camping but want to try it, read through our tips on the basics, camping in the wilderness, camping with kids, and leaving no trace.

Not sure which Pennsylvania state park to visit? You can find some suggestions from past blog posts that highlight parks with beautiful water views, waterfall hikes and hiking destinations.

Regardless of whether you’re planning for a quick day outing or an extended overnight camping vacation, the Pennsylvania Pocket Ranger® app and GIANT/MARTIN’S are here to help you make the most out of your trip.

How to Plan the Perfect Picnic

Happy Earth Day! Go out and celebrate with a spring picnic. If planning isn’t your favorite thing to do, then we’ve got you covered! Once you follow this guide on planning the perfect picnic, everyone is sure to have a blast.


Picnic tables on green grass by a lake

Image: www.picnic-basket.com

Using your state’s Pocket Ranger® app, you can find state parks that offer picnicking spots for you. Just go to Explore > By Activity > Picnicking. Or you can simply search by using the Nearest Me map feature and selecting only the picnicking icon from the menu.

Date & Weather

Blue sky with the sun shining above green grass and trees

Image: www.landscapehdwalls.com

It is important that you choose a date where all of your guests are able to attend. While you are choosing a day, remember to check the weather to make sure that there won’t be any rain clouds in sight.


Aloha themed picnic decorations

Image: blog.smartyhadaparty.com

To make a picnic exciting and unique, the host should make it a theme picnic. Guests can come dressed to match the theme or they can bring recipes! Themes can vary from Hawaiian, 80’s themed, fiesta, sports, Mardi Gras, etc.

What to Pack

Picnic basket with a cooler with drinking items

Image: www.popsugar.com

  • A picnic basket for tableware and nonperishable items.
  • 2 coolers – Use one for cold beverages and the other one for perishable foods such as meats and salads.
  • Food that will be barbequed to feed all of your guests, unless each guest is bringing a dish.
  • Plastic bags – To keep your trash in.
  • Folding chairs
  • Blankets or sheets to spread out if you like to sit on the grass.


Cold food should be kept at 40 degrees or colder so it won’t spoil. Your cooler should be 25% ice and 75% food. Ice should be on the bottom and at the sides. Place the heaviest, perishable foods over the ice at the bottom of the cooler; then layer lighter items on top. Remember that a full cooler will stay colder longer and that larger pieces of ice melt slowly. Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees or more.

If you are taking salads with you, remember to place serving containers in a larger pan with ice under them, to keep them cold and fresh.

BBQ Tips

Family barbecuing in the park

Image: urbanmilwaukeedial.com

If you are planning on barbecuing at the park, make sure that the park you are visiting has BBQ grills available, unless you are permitted to bring your own grill.

Before leaving home, wrap raw meat in plastic containers or in re-sealable plastic bags. You can also freeze meats before packing, especially if you are traveling a long distance. It is advised to not partially cook foods at home to speed up the cooking process, which can cause bacteria to grow on food.

Fun Stuff

Family playing football in the park


To keep the fun going, bring along board games, softballs, a football or a frisbee. You can also check for playgrounds, basketball courts and ATV trails during your state park location research.

You and your guests can also go on a hike to tour the state park you are visiting, and watch the sunset if you are planning to stay the entire day.

Suggested Gear:

  • Sun Screen
  • Shades
  • Hat
  • Bug Repellent

Check out these accessories at our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store and search for much more items that can be used during your outdoor adventure.

Salads for a Summer Picnic

Picnicking in state parks can be a ton of fun with games, activities and food. But what is a picnic without a delicious salad? Not sure what type of salad to make? Check out some of these salads for your summer picnic.

Mexican Coleslaw

Courtesy of delish.com

This coleslaw goes best on a taco or you can munch on it as a snack. This recipe serves 8 and the total time to make it is 20 minutes.

Cabbage Mexican Coleslaw

Image: www.tattoodonkey.com


  • 6 cups of thinly sliced green cabbage (1/2 head)
  • ½ cup peeled and grated carrots (2-3 medium)
  • 1/3 cups of chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cups of rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt


1. Place cabbage and carrots in a colander; rinse thoroughly with cold water to crisp. Let drain for 5 minutes.

2. Whisk cilantro, vinegar, oil and salt in a large bowl. Add cabbage and carrots; toss well to coat.

Tomato, Onion and Cucumber Salad

 Courtesy of eatingwell.com

This is the simplest salad to make, especially if you are in a hurry heading to your state park for a good picnic spot. This recipe serves 6 and total time to make is 50 minutes.

Cucumber, Tomato, Onion Salad

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/173177548141326359/


  • 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 4 medium tomatoes (cut into ½ wedges)
  • 1 sweet onion (halved and thinly sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped herbs (parsley, chives)


  1. Whisk vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl.
  2. Remove alternating stripes of peel from the cucumbers. Slice the cucumbers into thin rounds. Add the cucumber slices, tomatoes and onion to the dressing; gently toss to combine. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Just before serving, add herbs and toss again.

Seven-Layer Salad

 Courtesy of recipe.com

This recipe is Midwestern. It has layers of lettuce, peas, bell peppers and tomatoes with a tangy dressing. The best thing about this salad is that it stays fresh until it is time for your picnic. This recipe serves 10 and total time to make is 30 minutes.

Colorful Seven layer salad

Image: tsgcookin.com


  •  8 cups of shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • ½ cup sliced scallions
  • ¾ cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ¾ cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ½ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 strip cooked bacon, crumbled


1. Place lettuce in a large bowl. Layer peas, bell pepper, tomatoes, celery and scallions on top.

2. Whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar to taste, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Spread the dressing evenly over the top of the salad. Sprinkle with cheese, basil and bacon.

 Roasted Corn, Black Bean, and Mango Salad

Courtesy of myrecipes.com

If you are having a picnic in the park and plan on firing up the grill, here is a refreshing topping for grilled food such as chicken, pork or even salmon for that extra kick! This recipe serves 8 and it takes 45 minutes to make.

Mango Salad

Image: sweetpeaskitchen.com


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3 cups corn kernals
  • 2 cups mango, peeled and diced
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 small can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, drained and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in corn; cook 8 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Place corn mixture in a large bowl. Add mango and remaining ingredients except greens; stir well. Arrange 1 cup greens on each of 8 plates. Spoon 1 cup corn mixture over greens.

Playground and picnic area near water

Image: www.tripadvisor.com

Download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to find a state park near you with a picnic area and a playground so your whole family can enjoy the day. Happy summer picnicking!

 Related articles

SUBWAY Now Sponsor of Montana State Parks Pocket Ranger® App

All of us at PBN are super excited about our newest Proud Partner: SUBWAY®!

Subway Sponsor

SUBWAY® is now the sponsor of our Montana State Parks Pocket Ranger® app. That means that in your Nearest Me map, along with seeing the parks and sites closest to you, you’ll also be able to see 92 of Montana’s SUBWAY® locations! It’ll make planning your park visits easier than ever.

Subway map sponsor

Now when you look at your Nearest Me map, you won’t just see park facilities and amenities. You’ll see SUBWAY locations, as well!

Since we love picnicking in the parks, we can think of no better picnic-ready fare than SUBWAY® to join us in our mission of helping you to create the perfect outdoor excursion. We hope you’re as excited as we are!

3 Lemonade Recipes Perfect for Spring

Now that we’re heading into May, spring just feels more real. (Are we right?) And in our heads, spring rhymes with lemonade. (We’re not the best at rhyming, okay?) And we don’t even have to mention our love for the outdoors, because honestly, if you didn’t know that, where have you been? (No, but really. Where? Not on this blog, clearly. So, welcome! Welcome, welcome.)

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite homemade recipes for lemonade. They’re all perfect for a post-biking/hiking/climbing/fishing/etc. excursion, or of course, for a picnic at a state park. You can even make some at your campsite – or at least bring it with you! Read away, friends. Read away.

Fresh-Squeezed Blackberry Lemonade

Adapted from PaintChipsAndFrosting.com

fresh-squeezed blackberry lemonade

Image: paintchipsandfrosting.com/2013/05/22/fresh-squeezed-blackberry-lemonade


  • 7 lemons (approximately 1 1/2 cups lemon juice)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 + 5 cups water
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pint blackberries


  1. Juice the lemons. Remove seeds and strain pulp if desired.
  2. Heat sugar and 2 cups water to boiling and stir to dissolve all of the sugar. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least a half hour.
  3. Puree ~1 cup blackberries and strain seeds if desired; you will end up with about 1/3 cup blackberry puree.
  4. Mix lemon juice, sugar water, remaining water, and blackberry puree, and refrigerate until chilled.
  5. Serve over ice.

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade

Adapted from SheKnows.com

sparkling strawberry lemonade

Image: www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/961585/refreshing-summer-mocktails-for-kids

Ingredients (per drink)

  • 4 ounces ginger ale
  • 4 ounces fresh lemonade (see second recipe)
  • 3 medium strawberries


  1. Remove the tops of two of the strawberries. Then finely chop them and set them aside.
  2. Combine ginger ale and fresh lemonade in a glass with ice. Top with chopped strawberries.
  3. Garnish the rim of the glass with the remaining strawberry and serve.

Watermelon Lemonade

Adapted from YellowBlissRoad.com

watermelon lemonade recipe

Image: www.yellowblissroad.com/refreshing-watermelon-lemonade-and

Ingredients (makes about 2 quarts)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups lemon juice
  • 4 cups water


  1. Wash your lemons, then slice them in half.
  2. Use a juicer to juice your lemons.
  3. Pour 2 cups of white sugar into a large pitcher, followed by 3 cups of fresh lemon juice, strained through a sieve to remove any pulp or seeds. Stir well until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Add water, stir well, and chill.
  5. To make watermelon lemonade, first freeze chunks of watermelon on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper for at least an hour.
  6. Add a healthy handful or 2 of the watermelon ice cubes to your lemonade, garnish with a lemon slice and a pretty straw, and enjoy! The frozen watermelon not only adds flavor, but helps to keeps your lemonade cold and refreshing.

What are some of your favorite lemonade recipes? And what state parks will you be picnicking at (with your lemonade in tow, of course)?

Thanksgiving-Inspired Cold Weather Picnic Guide

We here at PBN are big fans of celebrating Thanksgiving in the great outdoors. If you’re hoping to give thanks with a meal set in nature, then we hope you’ve checked out our recipe guides from years past offering the best campfire-friendly Thanksgiving fare around.

autumn picnic

Image: www.talkofthehouse.com

If you’re good to go with the food but need a few pointers on how to enjoy an outdoor meal when Thanksgiving temperatures can be too cold for comfort, then this blog post is for you! Hold onto your turkeys, grab a mug of cider, and cozy up to our cold weather picnic guide.

Remember the basics

The season may have changed, but the general picnic pointers haven’t. Brush up on our original picnic guide to make sure you cover all your bases. Use your Pocket Ranger® app to find the perfect destination, prepare a mouth-watering menu, set the mood with your favorite music, and, of course, clean up once you’re done. Hot weather and cold weather picnics are actually pretty similar.

autumn picnic

Use your Pocket Ranger® app to help you locate awesome picnic spots like this.
[Image: www.123rf.com]

Keep your food warm

It would be a real shame to whip up a delicious Thanksgiving meal only to see it turn ice-cold once it hits the chilly autumn air. However, keeping food at its proper warm temperature is a real challenge come late-November. Insulated coolers are the go-to method of maintaining food temperatures, but if you want to really ensure things stay warm, try this trick: Wrap clean bricks in foil, then warm them over the fire. Then place the warm bricks in the bottom of the cooler, making sure to keep them separated from the cooler so that it doesn’t melt (you can use towels or small pieces of wood). Viola!

Pack plenty of blankets

picnic blankets

Image: www.bhg.com

You’ll likely be packing blankets anyway so that everyone has something to sit on, but don’t forget that your guests may need a blanket to wrap up in too! Being able to snuggle up with a warm blanket will add an extra cozy touch to your cold weather picnic.

Toast those tootsies

Have you ever noticed that when your feet are cold, your whole body is cold? Likewise, when your tootsies are toasty, you are likely to be warm as well. A super simple way to keep your feet warm is by tucking chemical heat packets (colloquially called “foot warmers”) into your shoes. Your toes, and you, will stay warm for hours, so you can spend less time shivering and more time digging into the food.

Serve hot drinks

warm drink

Image: www.myhealthmyhappiness.com.au

Sure, there are foot warmers and blankets and campfires to warm you from the outside, but do double-duty on staying toasty by drinking a hot beverage to warm your belly on the inside too. Need some inspiration? Try these 5 hot drink recipes to start.

Don’t forget about indoor picnics!

No matter your options for creating a killer cold weather picnic, eating a big meal in the great, cold outdoors is just not for everyone. If you don’t want to give up on your picnic dreams just because the weather outside may be frightful, consider an indoor picnic.

Lay a picnic blanket down on the floor and bust out the casual dining ware. Give your favorite picnic foods a Thanksgiving twist. Love fried chicken? Consider serving a deep-fried turkey. Can’t get enough of potato salad? Try sweet potato salad instead. After years of traditional Thanksgiving feasts, an indoor Thanksgiving picnic will surely be a meal to remember!

indoor picnic

Image: www.asubtlerevelry.com

While this guide will help you plan the perfect outdoor meal this Thanksgiving, you can use it all season long. Have you ever had a cold weather picnic? Is it on your to-do list? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think!