Hiking is typically considered a fun summer or early fall thing to do. But I disagree. Some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen have been ones covered with snow. If you’re prepared, hiking in the winter can be just as grand if not grander than the hikes that you take when it’s warm out.
To help you make the most of your hikes and stay as safe as possible on snowy trails, I’ve put together this tip guide for hiking in the winter. Check out these five helpful tips and tricks!
1. layers, Layers, LAYERS
The best way to hike in the winter is to hike like an onion. Layer yourself in quality clothing that’s designed for holding in heat — anything made of wool or fleece. You don’t necessarily have to be dressed head to toe in wool like a lil sheep, but they are the best for holding in heat.
Layer these pieces of clothing with spandex-like materials. These pieces won’t do a whole lot on their own, but they are lightweight which makes them easy to layer.
You also don’t necessarily need to have every single layer on when you get to the trail head. In fact, you probably should have a few things packed in your backpack to start out with. But you shouldn’t go without them. They need to be on your body or in your bag.
2. Give Yourself More Time than You Need
It’s good to give yourself at least an hour buffer between the end of your hike and when the sun goes down. However, I’d personally suggest at least two if you’re like me and enjoy stopping every hundred feet or so to take a picture.
Even if you only stop for a few minutes, a few minutes every ten minutes can start to add up and suddenly, you could be faced with another mile of trail ahead of you as the sun is dipping below the horizon. In the winter, temperatures dip very quickly once the sun is gone so you’ll want the trail head (or your intended destination) to be insight before the sunset.
3. Go Prepared
You probably don’t think you need a whole bottle of water or a trail map or a fully charged cell phone on that short, one-hour hike, and you probably won’t. But you shouldn’t take a chance, ever. It’s better to be over prepared than under prepared (and that can apply to just about every situation you’ll ever encounter.)
Even if you’re going on a short hike, you should have at least a small bag with you. In that bag, you should have things like…
- At least one full bottle of water
- A flashlight
- Extra clothing (especially socks)
- A granola bar
You never know when one of these things is going to come in handy.
4. Don’t Just Check the Weather – Study It
I know — this seems obvious. But I’m going to say it anyway. When you’re thinking about taking a hike in the winter time, you need to truly study the forecast right up until you get to the trail head. You’ll want to look at the weather for the entire day by the hour to see how the weather patterns are expected to change. Take a peek at the weather radar if you have the ability so you have a visual. Weather can change very suddenly especially in places of high elevation.
I mean this in the least ominous way possible but you should also make sure you’re aware of what the weather is going to be like a day or two after your scheduled hike. God forbid something happens while you’re out there and you can’t get back. In those instances, knowledge like this can mean the difference between life and death.
5. Rethink Going Alone
It’s always best to hike with a buddy no matter where you’re hiking or what time of the year you’re hiking. I can totally understand the impulse to seek out that cathartic I’m-in-nature high that comes with exploring with one’s self, but it’s just not safe.
If you’re hellbent on going alone, at least make sure that your phone has 100% battery before you leave. Even do some digging into the cell reception of the area that you’ll be hiking in.
Okay, that was pretty heavy. BUT hiking in any type of extreme weather conditions can be dangerous and that includes snow, extreme heat, rain, etc. But if you follow these tips and make sure that you’re prepared, it is totally worth it!