The temperature is below freezing. Snow has been falling for days. Icicles are forming foreboding bars along the outside of your house. Why in the name of anything sane would someone deliberately go out in this sort of weather!? Well, it’s because they know the benefits of getting outside during the winter!
I know, it sounds crazy to go hiking during the winter. But believe me when I say that some trails are just better for hiking during the winter! In this post, we’ll discuss 3 surprising reasons on why you’ll enjoy winter hiking. These include:
- Less crowded trails.
- More opportunity for wildlife viewing.
- No bugs!
Once you’re convinced that winter is a great opportunity for enjoying the outdoors, you’ll learn where to go to access the best places to hike in the winter!
Before we get started, I want to remind you that it’s imperative that you know to be thoroughly prepared for winter hiking. There are more risks associated with hiking during the winter compared to the summer with one of the most apparent ones being the increased risk of hypothermia. Go prepared into a winter wonderland by dressing appropriately with plenty of layers to keep you warm and dry. A good down jacket, polyester pants, waterproof socks, and even a set of hiking gaiters can go a long way in keeping your winter hiking adventure safe and enjoyable!
- Less Crowds
One of the most frustrating things about hiking during the summer and fall is that the trailhead is often packed with cars and people, especially for popular trails! With winter hiking, you’ll notice the crowds tend to stay at home and leave plenty of space to park and enjoy the trail all to yourself!
One of the best parts of hiking is the solitude that you get when you’re out in nature. There’s just something about cutting out all of the noise from the world when you’re in the woods that is rejuvenating to the soul. When you’re able to fully enjoy that solitude with limited crowds at popular trails, you’ll understand why the winter is such a great time of year to go hiking!
- More Wildlife Viewing Opportunities
Seeing wildlife while hiking is one of the most magical things to experience. Seeing a deer, elk, or moose is something that everyone strives to do while outside! The challenging part for spotting wildlife while hiking is being in the right spot at the right time. During the summer, it’s incredibly difficult to see wildlife because they are most active during the twilight hours of the day. Early in the morning before the sun comes up and late in the evening as the sun goes down is the best time to see wildlife.
Why is that? Well, large game animals like deer, elk, and moose prefer cool temperatures as they have a lot of fur insulating them from extreme cold conditions. When it’s hot out, they tend to move only during the coolest parts of the day and stay still in the shade during the warmest parts of the day.
But during the winter, it’s cold all day long! This means that animals are more active, which will give you more opportunities to be in the right place at the right time.
- No Bugs!
The best part about hiking during the winter quite frankly is the fact that you don’t have to deal with bugs. Mosquitoes no longer have any control over the air! You don’t need to layer on bug spray to keep from getting bit! It really is wonderful not to have to inhale bug spray or have it drip into your eyes from sweat washing it off of your head.
Top Trails to Hike in the Winter
Now that you’re on board for hiking in the winter, it’s time to start planning some trips! Here are 3 trails that you should check out around the US this winter.
The Colorado Trail, CO
The best part about the Colorado Trail is that there are several sections to choose from that will allow you to choose the best experience for you. If you’re a beginner to winter hiking, definitely start at Waterton Canyon. The trail here is fairly flat, there’s plenty of parking at the trailhead, and you’ll get a lot of opportunities to see Colorado’s state mammal, the big horn sheep!
The John Muir Trail, CA
John Muir is one of the most revered naturalists in the entire hiking community. People from around the world are familiar with his writing and his conservation efforts, especially in the Yosemite Valley. The John Muir Trail is a large section of the Pacific Crest Trail that makes its way through Yosemite National Park, which is home to some of the most impressive granite monoliths in the world. There’s really something quite magical about seeing Half Dome and El Capitan covered in snow!
Moscow Mountain Trail, ID
If you find yourself in the northern panhandle of Idaho this winter, a great place to go hiking to view as many moose as your heart desires is Moscow Mountain. Located just north of the hometown of the University of Idaho, Moscow Mountain provides solitude like no other trail can during the winter. Snow dusted Douglas Fir and White Pine trees transform the mountain into a winter paradise!
Now that you’ve got a good idea of why the winter is the best season for hiking, it’s time to start planning your trip! Whether you decide to check out one of the suggested trails or one of your own, you’ll be sure to love your adventure.
Remember to go prepared with the right clothing and equipment. And always hike with a partner and let someone know where you’re going before you leave as well as when you intend on returning. That way, you’ll have someone to call for help in the event you find yourself in an emergency situation!
Where will you go hiking this winter? Let us know in the comments below!