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Hiking in the winter can be challenging for many, especially if you’re new to hiking. Between the cold temperatures and the snow and rain, it can be intimidating. And living in Ohio, we have to deal with this type of weather for the majority of the year. I feel it’s even more important to get out and hike during the days of gray skies and darkness before 6pm. I’m sharing helpful tips for hiking in the winter, plus a few products* that could help you get you started on conquering hiking in the winter.
So if you’re thinking about starting to hike in this less than ideal weather, fear no more! I promise it’s not as bad as it looks when you’re staring outside your window.
Download the AllTrails App.
When you’re not only trying to figure out where to hike, this app is also helpful in that you can figure out the trail conditions. Details like whether the trail is gravel, dirt, grass, etc. can help you determine how easy or hard it may be to hike on a particular day. If the area is typically muddy, there is usually a note about that too. People leave reviews so you can see the most recent review from a hiker, and they usually share trail conditions (see example below – she mentions the trial was icy). Not sure where to go? I shared my favorite trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park – maybe start your trail search there!
I think this one is pretty obvious, but always make sure to layer up your clothing! Even in the winter I still tend to break a sweat, but I like having layers on so that I can take items off if I need to without getting cold. I prefer clothes using polyester or nylon because these fabrics typically dry the fastest. Also make sure you have a sturdy, warm pair of socks. My favorite brand of hiking socks is Darn Tough. They offer a lifetime warranty so even though they are pricier, they will last you a long time!
Watch Out for Ice.
Because trails don’t get salted like our roadways, ice is bound to be on almost any trail if it gets cold enough. I think this is one of the main reasons people are intimated to hike in the winter as well – no one wants to slip and fall! For this reason there are two products I highly recommend: YakTrax for your shoes. These are super easy to fit to the bottom of your shoes and help provide an extra grip. Leki hiking poles (pictured below) for helping with stability as you walk. Any brand of hiking pole will do, or even a stick if you don’t want to spend the money. I love the Leki hiking poles because of the grip/strap they offer for your hands and the lightness and compactness.
Wait for the Snow.
I know this tip may sound off, but the best winter hiking is after a good snowfall. Unfortunately winter hiking usually means a lot of mud, ice and brownness everywhere. After a good snow fall, the wintery landscapes are so magical you’ll feel like you’re in a dream. It may be a bit colder, but it will definitely enhance your hiking experience to walk through a winter wonderland. And if you’re a photographer like me, having snow covering the ground and trees can make for some incredibly compelling images – especially if you can find a pop of color to create a contrast!
Bring a Change of Clothes.
I always like to have a spare set of clothes in the car once I’ve finished hiking to help warm me up faster. This is especially helpful if you do plan to go after a snowfall and your feet/ankles may get wet. Some dry, warm clothes are a hard hike can be a great reward!
Find a Waterfall.
Winter hiking can be a lot of fun if you choose a trail that features a waterfall. Because even if there isn’t snow, if it stays cold long enough the water will freeze over making for a really cool view. Check out a post I wrote for Ohio.FinditHere on some of the best frozen waterfalls to visit in Ohio.
Now I know staying cozy and warm sounds inviting, but I promise you – you will not regret taking the time to bundle up and spend some time in the great outdoors, even when it’s cold. The winter can be long here in Ohio so try to make the most of it!
Have you heard any other tips for hiking in the winter that you like?