Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Plenty of good reasons to day hike during winter months

This article originally was written for and appeared in a slightly different form at Seattle Backpackers Magazine.

Day hiking season isn’t over just because temperatures have dropped and snow has fallen. Many days during winter, especially in the southern United States, sport pleasant weather, and even in northern climes sometimes just some warmer clothing is needed.

In fact, winter offers several advantages over summer for day hiking:
g No bugs – Annoying insects like mosquitoes and ticks generally are gone after the first freeze. They won’t be back until a significant portion of the snow melts next spring.
g Smaller crowds – National, state, and county parks generally see lower attendance during winter months. That means you won’t have to jostle for position to see the sights.
g Increased visibility – In fact, you’ll see more on the trail during winter than summer. With green leaves having fallen off vegetation, you’ll have a better chance of seeing wildlife and geological formations.
g Entirely new environment – How a forest or wetlands appears in winter compared to summer is quite different. The animals inhabiting those areas also can change with migrations and hibernation.
g Snow offers options for new activities – You can’t build a snowman or go sledding in summer. But there’s more to do than that: animal tracks often are easier to spot in the snow, and snowshoeing allows you to go a little off trail in the thinner vegetation (not to mention the latter will keep you quite physically fit).

So don’t hang up your hiking gear just because autumn is almost over. Get out and enjoy a day hike this winter!

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.