Get Out There

Winter Hiking Tips from the National Park Service

We’re always telling our customers to get outside. It’s a wonderful way to boost your spirit and get exercise and vitamin D. Being outdoors is important for the body and mind.

While you may think hiking is impossible in winter, it isn’t! However, in winter, it can pose dangers. It comes with a different set of challenges you have to prepare for.

Some challenges are the same all year round. It’s important to always remember to stay hydrated. You might not feel as thirsty in the winter, but you still lose moisture as you work out. Another problem that is as real in January as in July is sunburn! UV rays always hit your skin when you are outside, even on cloudy or cold days. Wearing sunscreen can prevent painful and dangerous burns.

The National Park Service (NPS) wants people to be safe when visiting this season. So, they have been giving tips.

Hiking in winter can be a beautiful thing, there’s nothing like the hush that falls while snow blankets a forest,” said NPS. “But remember when you head outdoors you leave behind the established comforts of home: food and water; shelter from the sun, wind and weather; and easy access to emergency services.”

While walking poles are good in the summer, snowshoes and poles are recommended in snow and ice. Not all paths are well marked, so knowing your route, having a map and possibly using a route finder app is good practice. You shouldn’t rely on other people’s tracks as they may have been lost! Ice on rivers and lakes can be thin, and you shouldn’t walk on it. You should check in with the park about avalanche risks. You need to be prepared and willing to turn around if the weather changes when you are out, and you should be aware of wildlife.

Our advice for visiting the National Parks in any season is to remember that you are in a wild place. It’s not a theme park. The animals aren’t pets, and nature isn’t a well-manicured, well-maintained space. It can be dangerous. You must research what you are getting into before you go to learn how prepared you need to be. Then you can find an activity that matches your skill and comfort level.

The lovely thing about the parks this time of year is that they are quieter. There aren’t the huge crowds. And You won’t be boiling hot like in the middle of the summer! Visiting in the winter is a different, beautiful experience. But you do have to be equipped with the right gear and dressed appropriately. If you do that, it really can be a walk in the park!  

Banner image: Paxson Woelber via Unsplash

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