Another winter quickly approaches, and as the cold wind blows across the United States and Canada, the snow falls, blanketing it’s precious flakes everywhere. At this point, many run for their warm houses in an attempt to get away from the freezing temperatures, the wet snow, and the slippery ice. The fire gets turned on, and many lose any motivation to go outside and participate in outdoor activities such as hiking. Many throw their camping and hiking gear into the corner and don’t touch it until spring time again. We’re here to change up that notion that hiking in winter is not rewarding nor does it take a lot of specialized gear. Winter hiking has many perks including: the less crowded trails, hardly any insects, and the gorgeous snow covered scenery. We’re going to list off some wonderful hiking trails that any reasonably fit person can take on with minimal gear.
Dog Mountain Trail – Vancouver, Canada
Is located in the North Shore portion of Vancouver which travels onto Mt. Seymour and is a five kilometre round trip. The trail has minimal elevation gain, but does require careful steps along several sections that have slippery tree roots. The trail is considered an easy to intermediate level, with relatively flat terrain. It travels through a thick wooded area and about 1.1 kilometres in you will hit First Lake which offers an amazing view during the winter time. The trail is peppered with streams and bridges, and once you hit the peak of the trail you will be able to look down onto Vancouver. The whole trail takes about two hours to complete and is located about fifty minutes outside of Vancouver by car.
Sugarbush Trail – Quebec, Canada
Is located in Gatineau Park and is a relatively short and family friendly hike. What makes this trail stand out and earn a spot on this list is the fact that it is stroller accessible, is groomed once a week, and is next to a visitor centre. If you have a family who wants to try out hiking but doesn’t want to get into anything that requires more than an hour to complete, than this is a huge winner. It takes about forty minutes to complete, has no steep inclines, and during the winter time they have a “warm-up” hut with a wood stove.
Johnston Canyon – Alberta, Canada
Is located west of Banff which is located in Banff National Park. The trail-head provides hikers with two different options. Either you can take the 1.1 kilometre one way to the Lower Falls, or you can take the 2.7 kilometre one way to the Upper Falls. What makes this trail incredibly fun to hike through is being able to travel into the depths of the canyon along walkways or being able to travel to the spectacular thirty meter high frozen Upper Falls. But you don’t have to stop there, if you choose to go the Upper Falls route, than you can take another 3.5 kilometres and travel to Inkpots. It is highly recommended that cleats are used when hiking these trails as it can get slippery. The hike should not take any visitor longer than two-three hours in total to complete, and there is little elevation gain.
Hoodoos Viewpoint – Alberta, Canada
Is located near Banff in Banff National Park and also has two different options for hikers who are looking for variety. Either you can take the one way hike from Surprise Corner to Hoodoos Viewpoint which consists of a 5.1 kilometre hike starting at Tunnel Mountain Drive. The other option is a shorter route, that consists of a one way, 2.3 kilometre hike on the Douglas Fir trail to Hoodoos Viewpoint. If you decide to take the Surprise Corner route, than you will be hiking through forested areas with a lot of wildlife. If you do decide you want to make a loop, or return to town, than you will need to hike along Tunnel Mountain Road.
Seven Hollows Trail – Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas
Is located in Petit Jean State Park which has a standalone mountain overlooking the Arkansas Valley. The Seven Hollows Trail is a four mile loop trail that travels through very unique geological formations and thick hardwood forests. The beginning of the trail goes through some small canyons, so the hikers will be surrounded by rock walls on either side for the first portion of the trail. These rock walls will give away though to a side trail that will take you to the Grotto which is a rock formation that marks the half-way point. On the way back, you will come to the Natural Bridge formation which is a large rock arch that overlooks the trail. This is one of the many day-hiking trails that are offered at Petit Jean State Park.
Old Speck Trail – Grafton Notch, Maine
Is a wonderful place to hike during the winter because of the scenic beauty that the Appalachian mountains provides. This trail is recommended for those who like to snowshoe, as the snow is always very stable and hard packed. The Old Speck Trail is located in Grafton Notch and combines with the Grafton Loop. The Old Speck Trail is a 7 miles, which connects with the 38 mile Grafton Loop. Now this isn’t a trek for just anyone, as the reasonably fit are going to be weary of the elevation gain which is considered challenging. But if you want a spectacular view of the Appalachians, than this is the hike you are going to want to take. The Grafton Loop is perfect for those who want to do a winter backpacking adventure.
The Outer Mountain Loop – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Is located in Big Bend National Park which if famous for its large diversity. The park has extreme ecological and geographic differences as it shares three distinct environments. The park expands across the Rio Grande River, the Chisos Mountain and the Chihuahuan Desert, making it one of the warmest places to go winter hiking at. In addition to this, the actual Outer Mountain Loop Trail is for winter and spring hiking only and is closed during the summer time. It consists of a 30 mile loop that provides hikers with the full experience of the 800,000 acre park as hikers get to experience all three different ecosystems while travelling the loop.
So rather than putting away your hiking boots and camping gear, perhaps think about taking some time out of your winter haven home and spending it on some of these gorgeous trails. Not only do you get to experience unique wildlife during the winter time, but you get to avoid large crowds and enjoy trails of all difficulty levels. The trails on this list are considered easy to moderate in hiking standards, so you will not need a lot of specialized gear to complete them successfully and they are family friendly. A lot of the trails are day-trails and are thereby accessible only during the day. Some of the trails do have camping options, and some of them are back-country trails, meaning they may require snowshoes to complete as actual trails may be lost under the snow. Don’t miss out on some amazing experiences just because it is cold outside! Get out there and enjoy the snow, take some gorgeous pictures, and take a day to go on an adventure.