Winter hiking is a beautiful, peaceful beast waiting for its unleash into your outdoor life. So many people forget about their natural roots when the darkness grows longer and the temperature drops, but if you’re anything like me, you crave that organic connection to mother nature. There are so many reasons to hike this winter, and we don’t want you to miss out on a single second of the cold, crisp sunshine!
Let me Convince You…
If these three reasons to get outside and hike this winter don’t convince you, nothing will.
1. Trails are often desolate; few people want to brave the cold temperatures or own the proper gear to do so. Some of the busiest landscapes become barren beauties at first snowfall.
2. Your senses will be surprised by new smells and sights on the same ‘old’ trails you usually hike! Snow and biting temperatures vastly change your favorite trails making them seem almost brand new.
3. Bug phobia? Fear of woman-eating animals? Don’t sweat it under winter conditions. Enjoy the lack of bug deterrent, bear spray and bug bites when you hike during this season.
Find the Perfect Outfit
When winter hiking is brought up, especially in the snowy parts of the world, many people’s first response is “But it’s cold.” Although they’re not wrong, proper layering is a beautiful thing that can make or break your adventure. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to apparel.
Let's start from the bottom up.
FEET: Insulated, waterproof winter hiking boots are an absolute must alongside wool socks (pack a spare pair!). I prefer my boots have ample ankle support since I’m often snowshoeing to my destination on winter hikes or worrying about the dreaded sneaky post-hole. And seriously, toe warmers are a woman's best friend. As an individual with terrible circulation, toe warmers have been the key to my winter hiking success.
LEGS: A bottom wicking layer, usually leggings made of synthetic fabric for this chick, help to pull the moisture away from the skin. Depending on the temperature, you may choose to go straight to hard-shell water and windproof pant OR add a soft-shell fleece layer in between. I own a great pair of Eddie Bauer hiking pants that are water and wind resistant and fleece lined; these are my favorite for winter hikes.
TORSO: The top half is very similar to the bottom. A wicking layer first (wool works well on top or any synthetic fabric that pulls moisture from the skin) followed by fleece and finally a wind and waterproof outer layer or shell. I find that for a challenging ascent in decent winter temperatures, a base layer, a fleece, and my Cotopaxi windbreaker do the trick until I descend! I also carry a packable down jacket for extra warmth on the summit or overlook; wearing a vest over your mid-layer (weather dependent) is also an option I fall back on for warmer days but ALWAYS pack a full outer layer just in case.
HANDS: I prefer mittens for my hands so I can put my hand warmers in with my fingers since my circulation is awful. Always pack two pairs of gloves; I wear a lighter pair for the more strenuous part of the hike such as a mountain ascent and save the hard-shelled, warm and toasty pair for the return trip. While you’re working hard your extremities won’t feel as cold but after a few accidental hands in the snow, or hard earned sweaty palms followed by potential downtime on a windy summit you’ll want a quick change.
HEAD: Wear a warm hat as well and be sure to pack an extra for when the original cap gets sweaty. Fleece lined caps with ear flaps can be an absolute lifesaver. Other items I like to wear or bring along include a buff to cover my nose and mouth but still allow for airflow; sunglasses or snow goggles to protect your eyes from wind and the UV rays off the bright white snow are very helpful as well.
Don’t Leave Home Without This Gear!
Camp Blanket/ Emergency Reflective Blanket
First Aid Kit
Snacks, and Lots of Them
Headlamp(s) (Spare Batteries!)
And a Comfortable Pack to Throw it All in!
A Few Additional Tips
Remember to be up to date on weather conditions; as you climb in altitude, the climate completely changes and is often colder, windier and less forgiving.
Always tell someone where you’re going to be and what route you plan to take; check back in with them at the end of your hike, so they know you’re okay! Similarly, make sure to sign into and out of all appropriate trail registers.
Look up and be aware of trail conditions. Water crossing dangers and other less than ideal winter conditions should cause alarm and potential rescheduling. Your favorite trails will look entirely different when they’re barren of leaves and full of snow; be sure to brush up on your navigation skills!
Don’t ever be afraid to turn back! It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
This blog was written by Danielle Deering from The Adventure Project
When the leaves have all fallen and winter is nipping at our heels here in Colorado, there exists a small, perfect, little window for wild ice. A time when the temps have dropped just enough to freeze Maroon Lake, but not cover it in snow quite yet. There is something magical about taking part in something that only happens a handful of days out of an entire year. So much so, that our little adventure family was not going to miss out.
We had heard that there might be some epic skating up at Maroon Bells this time of year. We were also told to keep our ear to the ground for the local buzz that would occur when the lake froze. Pulling up to the Maroon Bells parking lot in winter, one would think it would not be quite as crazy as when the tourists are in full swing during summer and parking is non-existent. Well, not so much the case. The parking lot was overflowing with Colorado locals draped in skate gear. This must be the place, we thought.
We geared up ourselves, mom, dad, and our little ripper - 6 years old and full to the brim with adventure! As we caught glimpse of the bells, I don’t know which was more beautiful. The towering peaks that take your breath away every time, no matter how many times you’ve come to visit them. Or, the skating scene nestled below these mountains.
The ice was packed! There were organized hockey games, plenty of onlookers who just came for the show, and even a lone figure skater pulling out all the stops for a small audience that had gathered. We quickly found a corner of snow to set up camp on and popped our camping chairs up. It was one of those bluebird Colorado days you just live for. Not a cloud in the sky, sun beating down and an entire day to play. And, play we did.
Hitting the ice, we glided past pick-up hockey games, kicked a puck around ourselves, and watched as the glacial water below moved slightly when our weight was applied. We heard a group of people yelling about trout under their skates, but weren’t one of the lucky ones to see them in action. We skated until lunch time and then hit camp for some cold pizza and hot cocoa. I know, we keep it real fancy around here.
We got a few more hours in on the ice before the sun dipped below the Bells, and the temps dropped considerably and the wind moved in. We walked out of that sacred place, gear on our backs, smiles on our faces, knowing we’d just experienced something so insanely special. The beauty of the Bells draped in the background, sacred ice under feet. It was the perfect collision of elements coming together, just so. I don’t know about you, but we’ll be back next year.