Top 5 U.S. Winter Hikes
With snow on the way for some of us, the opportunities for outdoor activities begin to change and we start thinking about swapping our surfboard for skis. Hiking, however, is the perfect activity to enjoy alone, with friends or the family without having to worry about running into perilous snow conditions. It’s also ideal for shaking off the winter blues, breathing in the crisp air of the countryside and seeing the nation’s stunning landscapes in a different light.
If this all sounds appealing to you then read on to discover some of our favorite winter hikes for everyone from casual ramblers to seasoned hikers.
Boulder River Trail, Boulder River Wilderness, Washington
Within Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Boulder River Trail is a gentle and relatively flat 8.6-mile (13.8-kilometer) loop trail suitable for all levels. Grandiose fern trees line the trail and moss drips like drizzling rain from rocks. Spot waterfalls through cracks in the trees and stop at lookouts to watch them tumble down a sheer canyon. During extremely cold temperatures, the waterfalls often freeze over and mushrooms break through a carpet of soft snow. Bring lunch and a thermos filled with coffee or soup and linger a while at the picnic site.
Canaveral National Seashore, Florida
Credit: Michael Warren/iStock
You’ll probably be familiar with this area of Florida because of the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. But just north is Canaveral National Seashore, a tranquil barrier island that is a natural habitat for fascinating wildlife. Here sand dunes rise up on one side of a long sweep of virgin golden sand as rolling Atlantic waves crash onto the shore. Spot migratory wading birds and waterfowl at the lagoon and keep an eye out for the endangered Northern Atlantic right whale. Time your visit well and you might witness the sound of a rocket launch momentarily interrupting the solitude of the seashore.
Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Credit: Galyna Andrushko/iStock
Head to this Alaskan national park for a challenging hike amid extreme weather conditions and breathtaking scenery. Throughout the winter season the Harding Icefield Trail is classified as a mountaineering route, thus is recommended to experienced hikers only. The reward for tackling this 8.2-mile (13.2-kilometer) loop track is uninterrupted views of Exit Glacier and a far-reaching icefield interspersed by the occasional solitary peak. Be sure to stick to the trail, bring climbing equipment and check before leaving for avalanche warnings. And watch out for the free-roaming black bears, too.
Mirror Lake Trail, Yosemite National Park
When everyone else is making their way to Yosemite’s ski area, grasp the opportunity to stretch your legs in the park’s fairytale snow-covered environs. Mirror Lake Trail is an easy and ideal-for-all-ages round trip that’ll take up to 3 hours, depending on how far you go. It’s worth it alone for the views of Half Dome rising above the lake and pine trees. There’s a ton of other things to in this area of the park such as walking to iconic waterfalls like Bridalveil Fall and Vernal Falls.
South Rim Loop, Big Bend National Park, Texas
Credit: Dean Fikar/Shutterstock
Texas is painfully hot during the summer months so come in the winter if you want to hike in the state’s barren desert landscapes in more comfortable temperatures. The South Rim Loop is also great if you aren’t overly keen on trudging through snow, because here there isn’t any. It is a 12 to 14.5 mile (19.3 to 23.3 kilometer) strenuous trip so plan an entire day to complete it or break it up by camping overnight. Along the way you’ll ascend the Chisos Mountains, from where you can drink in dazzling desert sunrises and sunsets.
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