5 Reasons To Keep Hiking in Winter
by Jessy Shouse, Girls Who Hike Colorado Ambassador
Sure, its 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. Winter could quite possibly 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. Forrest floors are encapsulated by a fluffy white blanket. A silence so serene.
Why winter hike? Why not! The rewards are huge.
Here are my top 5 reasons to keep your hiking boots out of the closet and laced up year round.
1. Winter hiking provides new ways to explore and new challenges.
Winter hiking does require a bit more preparation and some different gear. Traction devices such as Yaktraks or 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 spiltboards deep into the back country. 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. The opposite is also true, some areas become accessible only via a steep climb up a frozen waterfall.
2. 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 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. Winter hiking rewards with views that promise not to disappoint. One of my most favorite things to do is photograph the same landmarks in different seasons and compare them side by side. Just make sure to freshen up on your navigation skills before you head out in case the worn trial is hidden and landmarks appear different.
3. Solitude, solitude, solitude!
Ever tired to go hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park on a weekend in July? I don’t recommend it unless battling for a parking space and trial space is your idea of fun. (I’ll give you my top-secret tips for visiting Rocky 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 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 surround by all that cottony white stuff.
4. Winter hiking is great for your physical and mental health.
Sometimes 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 Mac truck. I believe the soft surface of snow provides more cushion. Many of those rough & 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 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 more fat than when hiking in more traditional conditions. Marching in snow will add in some extra resistance to 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.
5. Hot drinks and food taste even better after a winter hike.
Who doesn’t love a nice cold beer after a nice 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 snow 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 trial after a nice 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 crisp sting of icy winter air on my face.