10 Reasons Why You Need to Try Winter Hiking This Season
By Elissa Bowling | Monday, December 12
Just because it's chilly outside doesn't mean you should stop bagging peaks...
America’s trails are teaming with hikers April-October, but mountains don’t shut down once the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Read on for the compelling benefits of winter hiking.
1. Snow is beautiful
There’s no denying it: snowfall has the power to change an entire landscape. Snow-covered mountaintops and valleys are a divine site to behold. Even well-worn trails that you’ve traveled hundreds of times become new and exciting after a few inches of powder.
2. It’s a better workout
Hiking in general is a terrific endurance exercise, and winter hiking takes that workout to the next level. The snow has more give than a typical dirt or rock path and winter day-hikers tend to carry more gear than their summer counterparts, not to mention the slog through unbroken snow after a big storm. Along with that harder workout comes a greater sense of accomplishment, so give yourself a pat on the back.
3. Break the cabin fever
It’s all too easy to stay inside when a cutting wind is blowing and your cocoon of blankets is all too comfortable. However, if you’re like me, you start going a little crazy after too many days spend completely indoors. Winter hiking is a refreshing break in the 4-walled routine and enables you to reclaim the outdoor spirit.
4. You have the trail to yourself
Winter is a less popular hiking season among the wider population of outdoor recreationists. This means that when you hit the old powdery trail, you and your group will probably only see and hear each others footfalls, the wind in the snow-covered bows above, and the birds brave enough to stick around.
5. No bugs!
This can’t be emphasized enough. If you’ve ever trudged through marshy mosquito-filled trails, you may have questioned your sanity (it’s ok, we’ve been there too). Hiking in the winter ensures that when you take a snack break, you are the only animal around that’s chowing down.
This may not appeal to everyone, but if you’re a gear-head then you should definitely try your hand at winter hiking. It’ll give you an excuse to check out microspikes, crampons, snowshoes, durable gloves, high tech layers and other winter hiking-specific items that will get you far over otherwise exhausting terrain.
7. Greater appreciation for pre-lift skiers and snowboarders
Ski lifts haven’t always been so conveniently located at the base of the raddest mountains around the world. Skiing has been around since the mid-19th century, and the first ski lifts didn’t come around until the 1930s. You think sidestepping up the short hill to the ski lift is rough, try strapping those skis on your back and hiking up a few thousand feet before popping the skis on and soaring down the mountain. Plenty of folks pay homage to those pre-1930s skiers and opt for the pure powder of backcountry skiing.
8. The way back down
Skidding down a snowy trail is a moderate thrill-seeker’s heaven. For those who are up for it, pop off those microspikes and any other gear that provides traction and slide down the trail. 9 times out of 10 you land on your feet or in a convenient snow pile. However, we do recommend precautions for that 1 time out of 10, and you may not want to try this out on particularly icy and rocky trail sections.
9. Hot drink of your choice at the end to celebrate
It’s comparable to taking your boots off at the end of a full day of skiing. Sipping a warm one is provides some well-deserved relaxation and time to reflect the day’s accomplishments. Lounging next to a warm fire is highly recommended.
10. Vibe with the winter
Winter has a lot of haters. People hate the snow, hate the cold, hate the biting wind and slush-soaked socks. But as we know from Yoda and Marilyn Manson, hate is precipitated by fear. Hitting the trails in mid-February with appropriate gear is the best way to get past the perceived fallbacks of winter and appreciate the magic of snow-topped pines and the crunch of packed snow below your boots. Soon that fear and hate will dissipate and you’ll wonder why you and winter ever had a rough patch.