Winter hikes can be some of the most rewarding hiking you’ll ever do. Of course, winter can be cold, but if you’re willing to bundle up, it can also be a great opportunity to enjoy the wilderness from an entirely new perspective. While a fireplace, hot cocoa, and a warm blanket are usually the stars of winter days, there’s something that’s so special about hitting the trails when the weather is biting that brings the beauty of Mother Nature sharply into focus. It’s also a great way to get a big dose of sunlight for vitamin D and increased endorphins!
Best Spots for Winter Hikes in the USA
From the deserts of Utah to the gorgeous mountains of Colorado, the destinations below are all must-visit locales if you want to experience the beauty of nature during the winter months. In these areas, you’ll take in vast scenery that’s nothing like you’ve ever seen if you’ve never hiked during the winter.
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park is home to more than 2,000 natural archways, unique rock formations, and huge red rock mesas. It’s an otherworldly landscape that will make you feel like you’ve stepped onto the surface of Mars as you soon as you enter the park.
Despite the low temperatures, a trip to Arches National Park during the winter months is a treat for the senses. Hiking this area during this time affords you views that combine the Martian-like landscape with the beauty of a snowy blanket over all of it, leading to an experience you won’t soon forget.
In addition, you’ll have those gorgeous views mostly to yourself. While the temperatures in the summer can reach over 100 degrees, and the crowds during the fall and spring almost choke the trails, winter hikes in the park give you the chance to experience some of the most unique views in the country without the crush of crowds or the oppressive heat.
Recommended Winter Hike:
At almost 8 miles, The Devil’s Garden Loop is the longest trail in the park and a must-hike if you want to cover as much ground and take in as many views as possible while on your hiking expedition. While hitting the trail, you’ll see some of the most iconic arches to be found in the park as well as truly unique vistas made even more spectacular if you time it so that it’s just snowed in the park.
Telluride is an interesting dichotomy when it comes to winter. Although it’s famed for its snowy slopes, the area actually boasts about 300 days of sun throughout the year. This postcard-worthy town in Colorado is home to jagged mountain peaks; lush, wooded valleys; and some of the best hiking trails in the world, let alone the United States. A few of the trails are closed during the winter months due to the possibility of avalanches, however, a few are considered safe enough to remain open throughout the snowy season.
Winter hikes are an epic experience here, beginning with the hikes themselves, where you’ll take in vast views of mountains and woodlands all blanketed in snow. When you’re finished taking your wintry hike, hit one of the many hot springs in the area, or return to the town or nearby resort to end your day with a steaming cup of hot cocoa.
Recommended Winter Hike:
Take the Jude Wiebe Trail to experience a bird’s eye view of the incredible beauty of the area and still remain close to town. It’s about three-quarters of a mile long, making it the perfect length for a hike during the winter, especially if it’s an exceptionally cold day.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Another fantastic place for winter hikes is the Rocky Mountain National Park. During the summer months, it’s absolutely packed with throngs of visitors, however, the winter is blessedly devoid of those same crowds. During the winter, a heavy blanket of snow creates enchanting views of mountains and woodlands, while the cold weather means no crowding!
While hiking this area during the winter offers majestic views, some planning is in order. Be sure to bring along lots of layers, snowshoes, and microspikes, and be sure you check the avalanche forecast before hitting the trails and taking in the gorgeous views.
Recommended Winter Hike:
The Emerald Lake Hike is an excellent trail for taking in magnificent views with relative ease. At 3 miles long, the trail isn’t overly long, and it’s also an easy hike, making it more about the views than the physical labor. Along the trail, you’ll experience three of the most iconic lakes in the park. Take in the views of Emerald Lake, Nymph Lake, and Dream Lake as you hike the 3 mile long trail, experience the true beauty of the winter along the way. While the trail is usually packed with people during the warm months, you’ll almost certainly have the views all to yourself during the winter.
Death Valley National Park, California
A winter hike is just about the only kind of hike you’d ever want to take at Death Valley National Park. During the summer, temperatures can skyrocket to well over 100 degrees, making summer hiking both uncomfortable and downright dangerous for the uninitiated. However, when winter settles in, temperatures drop, making it the perfect time of year to take in the views by foot.
Despite its macabre name, the park is actually quite vibrant with life. It’s full of color and odd-looking trees, along with hills and rocks that looks like they were splashed with paint and vast salt flats.
Recommended Winter Hike:
One of the best winter hikes to take in Death Valley is The Golden Canyon and Glower Gulch Loop. As you make your way through the golden sandstone canyon, you’ll take in the badlands of the Amargosa Mountains, canyons walls, and landscapes that make you feel as if you’ve left Earth and stumbled into an entirely new planet.
Sequoia National Park, California
Home to almost all of the world’s sequoia trees, you’ll find Sequoia National Park on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. During the warm months, the park is packed with visitors who come to see the towering Sequoias, the largest trees in the world. Hiking trails are overflowing with travelers who come to take in the views, making everything tight and claustrophobic.
During the winter, however, all of that changes. During the cold months, you’ll have the trails mostly to yourself, and you’ll be treated to amazing views of the sequoias’ red bark against the white powder of the snow as you navigate the trails through this packed and towering wilderness.
Recommended Winter Hikes:
There are two excellent winter hikes to be enjoyed at this national park. The Big Tree Trail is a short, 1.3-mile track that offers views of gargantuan sequoias coated in powdery white snow. Congress Trail is another excellent hike that offers the chance to experience the third-largest tree in the entire world, along with a gargantuan grove of these massive trees known as The Senate.
Winter Hikes are More Beautiful Than You Can Imagine
Whether you’re taking in Death Valley while the weather is cool or marveling at giant sequoias, these winter hikes have something to offer everyone. If you’ve never experienced winter hikes before, you absolutely owe it to yourself to give any or all of these hiking destinations a try. You’ve never experienced anything like winter in these national parks.
If you are thinking more warm weather, check out 7 OUTDOOR PLACES TO EXPERIENCE IN FLORIDA
photos courtesy Colorado Tourism Office and Visit California