Hiking in the winter can be a very rewarding experience. During winter months, many trails transform into solitary, snow covered landscapes with breathtaking scenery, overwhelming silence and glimpses of wildlife that are not present during the warmer summer months.
These ten winter hiking destinations offer the best winter has to offer.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
Be sure to check out Yosemite Falls during your hike. The base of the waterfall forms an ice cone that can grow to be 330 feet tall and covers four acres! Winter wildlife like coyotes, Sierra hares and several bird species can be seen more easily in the snow covered landscape. The good news is that the bears are all hibernating!
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING
Winter is a great time to view the popular Old Faithful Geyser. Crowds are rare in the cold months and the contrast between the hot springs and layers of snow and ice add an interesting dimension to the park that can only be seen this time of year. Your hike could get you a few pictures of trumpeter swans, coyote, bighorn sheep and elk.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO
Visiting the Rockies in the winter provides you with spectacular views of snow capped mountains, pine trees laden with mantels of snow and herds of elk.
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK, OREGON
In the winter, Crater Lake is a breathtaking vision of sapphire blue surround by a blanket of pristine white snow. The contrast adds a dramatic feel to the landscape and local wildlife flock to the lake to drink. A Weekend in the park includes ranger-led snowshoe hikes through the Crater Lake region.
SMOKEY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, TENNESSEE
Because of the heavy snowfalls and bitter cold temperatures, hiking in the Smokies is often reserved for the summer months, but winter hiking in this park offers a multitude of waterfall trails and cascading streams that are just as beautiful in the winter as they are in the summer!
HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK, OHIO
This state park offers an annual winter hike every year in January. The trails are kid and pet friendly and the waterfalls have been known to freeze solid!
SAN GREGORIO LAKE, NEW MEXICO
This rarely traveled winter hike offers contrasting landscapes of flat, open meadows and dense forest areas as you travel to San Gregorio Lake, framed in a layer of snow blanketing the surrounding meadow.
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE
This national park boasts views of the Atlantic Ocean from the snow covered trails. White-tailed deer, red fox and the pristine white snowshoe hare all thrive in this winter habitat.
DENALI NATIONAL PARK, ALASKA
Winter in Alaska may mean fewer daylight hours but it also means natural light shows from Aura Borealis. These Northern Lights are a sight to behold!
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, NORTH CAROLINA
Hilton Head Island is less crowded in the winter months and hiking between the sound and the Atlantic Ocean provides glimpses of wild horses, ducks, birds and a multitude of other non-hibernating wildlife. The quiet of the sound contrasts with the roar of the breaking waves just a short hike away.
Winter hiking takes a great deal of planning and carries an added risk of hypothermia and frostbite to the usual hiking dangers like encountering wild animals, falls, injuries and getting lost - just to name a few.
WARNING - Using compasses and maps of the area are essential, and are important items to carry at any time of the year.
Before setting out on a winter hike, be sure to prepare properly, let someone at home know where you will be and read up on winter hiking tips and precautions. Happy hiking!