If you’re like most casual outdoor enthusiasts, you hang up your boots at the first sign of frost.
“Many people think that when the cold comes, hiking season is over, but that’s definitely not the case,” says Jeff Vincent, a backcountry guide with Scribner’s Catskill Lodge in New York who has hiked the Appalachian Trail in one multiseason stretch.
“In the winter, trails are less crowded, and there are views that you’ll never see during the summer.” Imagine trekking through a giant snow globe with fields of white-dusted Douglas firs and silence so deep it warms your soul. It’s like that.
You might be surprised to learn that winter hiking takes just slightly more planning than the warm-weather version. “Keep in mind that the days are much shorter in the winter,” says Vincent. (Make time for these 6 workouts you can only do in the winter.) “If you’re doing a longer hike, it’s a good idea to start as the sun is rising to give yourself plenty of time to finish before nightfall.” And factor in the change to your usual terrain: “You may cover two miles an hour on a summer hike, but don’t be surprised if that speed is cut in half—or more—in wintry conditions,” he says. Always share your route and ETA with someone in civilization. (Here are more survival skills you’ll need.) As for dressing the part, start with a sweat-wicking base layer, followed by one or two layers of wool or fleece insulation with a waterproof outer shell.