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8 Reasons Why You Should Hike This Winter

Pack a thermos and hit the trail.

By: Will Russell + Save to a List

Now that we're deeply settled in the winter months, I think a good hike is in order. Winter hiking is often overlooked in favor of hitting the slopes, ice skating or hibernating with a cup of hot chocolate, but nothing beats a good hike in the snow. Seeing the forest in its doldrums, covered in a blanket of the cold stuff, is blissfully quiet and can really reset any stress you may be feeling. Shed that heavy coat - you’ll work up a sweat - but put on a double layer of socks and get out there!

Hike to Summit Lake | Photo: Nick Lake

1. Less crowds, more trail

We all love an open trail, but in the warmer months we can only get that in the early mornings or the middle of the week. The cold weather keeps the crowds out and gives you a private trail. This is your reward - enjoy it.

2. Photo ops are stellar

Think "likes on likes on likes" for your next gram. The natural glow the snow provides is a photographer's dream, allowing you to shoot like a pro, even if you’re just snapping pictures on your iPhone. I love getting on the trail in the morning when the sunlight is brilliant and clear, making those bluebird days sing for the camera. Be ready for a #nofilter post.

3. Seriously quiet

With the leaves all gone and the tree branches weighted down by snow it gets really quiet on the trail. Like wearing noise canceling headphones in a church quiet. If you're feeling any stress - get ready for it to melt away.

4. Double the workout

Between the unstable ground and the resistance that deep snow creates, your legs will be doing some double pumping. A rule of thumb I always stand by for hiking in deeper snow is you'll cover half as much ground as you normally do. Good to keep in mind when picking your trail.

Hike Bear Peak | Photo: Kathleen Morton

5. Dogs can hang longer

We all know our furry pals love the snow and the colder weather keeps them from overheating. I used to worry that their paws would get too cold after being out there for a while, but unless it's -35 degrees out, they'll be all good. Those paws are as amazing as they are cute.

6. Lighter pack

I always pack less water when taking off on a winter hike with snow on the ground. A quick cool off or a refilled water bottle is just a handful of snow away. Just make sure it's all white (watch out for excited dogs). This applies mostly to shorter hikes. If you're out on a longer hike where you'll be working hard, be sure to bring plenty of water and hydrate beforehand.

7. No bugs

Need I say more?

8. New perspective

You may have a favorite trail you hit a few times every summer, but seeing it in a new light refreshes the mind and can renew a love for the outdoors. Trails that lead to waterfalls offer the most dramatic change in the winter. Seeing that falling water frozen and hanging off the fall reminds me that life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it (thanks, Ferris).

Winter Hike Flattop Mountain | Photo: Eric Schuette

Cover photo: Nick Lake

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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