Here I share my 5 Reasons to Keep Hiking in the Winter.
By Jessica Shouse
Sure, it’s cold outside, but that’s no reason to stay inside! There seems to be a common misconception that hiking is an activity reserved for the warmer seasons. I respectfully disagree! In fact, winter might be my favorite season to get out and explore the trails: Imagine yourself inside a giant snow globe, surrounded by snow-covered pines and snow-capped peaks. Forest floors are encapsulated by a fluffy white blanket, and silence so serene.
The rewards for winter hiking are huge.
Here are my top 5 Reasons to Keep Hiking in the Winter and keep your hiking boots out of the closet and laced up year-round:
Winter hiking provides new challenging ways to explore.
Winter hiking does require a bit more preparation and some different gear. Traction devices such as Yaktrax and MICROspikes are extremely handy. Depending on conditions, snowshoes can also be very beneficial, as are trekking poles and waterproof boots. Many experienced winter hikers take skis or split-boards deep into the backcountry.
The snow provides a completely different experience. You can explore the wilderness in a whole new way. Terrain also changes in winter. Areas that typically require steep scrambles up rocks become engulfed in snow and are much easier to approach.
Winter hiking provides for new views.
It is not uncommon for trials to shift in winter. If you can take the leap, bundle up and get out on your favorite trail then I promise you will be treated to new and different views that will not disappoint.
Waterfalls and lakes freeze over. Pine and aspen trees become dusted with shimmering white snow. Mountain peaks become snow-capped, as if dipped in vanilla frosting. The change in the familiar will reward you in many ways – just make sure to freshen up on your navigation skills before you head out in case the worn trail is hidden and landmarks appear different.
Solitude, solitude, solitude!
Ever go hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park on a weekend in July? I don’t recommend it, unless battling for a parking space and trail space is your idea of fun (I’ll give you my top-secret tips for visiting RMNP soon!). I am an introvert. I like my space and need time alone to myself. I go to the mountains to get away from people. To connect with nature.
Winter hiking allows a nice, quiet space for reflection and solitude. The winter landscape provides a silence so deep it actually warms and refreshes the soul. And what better way to soak up some precious winter sunlight, which triggers your body’s ability to produce mood-boosting vitamin D than by spending a day outside surrounded by all that cottony white stuff?
Winter hiking is great for your physical and mental health.
Sometimes summer hiking leaves me feeling sore and worn-out. The constant pounding my joints are subjected to sometimes leave me feeling like I was hit by a Mack truck. But in winter it’s a little different. I believe the soft surface of snow provides more cushion. Many of those rocky spots and uneven terrain become buried, making for a much smoother adventure that is much gentler on your body and mind. Hiking in winter can also help alleviate seasonal affect disorder, boost your immune system, and prevent some of the negative connotations winter is so famous for.
Research also shows that hiking in winter burns more calories and fat than when hiking in more traditional conditions. Marching in snow will add some extra resistance to help rev up the calorie burning. Cold temps help out, too – your body has to work a bit harder to maintain 98.6 when temps drop below freezing, which helps burn those calories. [Schlinger, Amy (2018, Nov, 27) Winter Workouts That Burn an Insane Amount of Calories.
Hot drinks and food taste even better after a winter hike.
Who doesn’t love a nice cold beer after a long summer hike? I opt for an ice cold Coke, but you get my drift. It is always nice to reward your efforts. The same is true after spending a day in frigid temps trudging through snow – your piping hot mug of hot cocoa becomes a well-earned treat rather than a guilty pleasure.
I used to despise the cold, snow and ice like a bird flocking to Florida. Then I realized with a little extra prep, there is a whole untouched world just waiting to be explored in winter. There is not much that beats a day on the trail after a fresh dusting of snow. Some of my most memorable hiking moments have occurred on my winter adventures. Getting outside is crucial for me. I’ve found nothing shakes off the winter blues like the crunch of snow underfoot and the sting of crisp winter air on my face.
So do you agree with my 5 Reasons to Keep Hiking in the Winter? Let me know in the comments below.