Even though it may not feel it, it is that time of year: winter hiking is here! Early season conditions still exist, so there are a few things to keep in mind when heading out on the trail this time of year.
Are you ready for hiking in the cold and snow?
Although a very beautiful time of year to hike, winter brings with it some challenges and risks that you just don’t have to deal with in other seasons. It’s time to bone up on the skills needed to get outside safely while still having fun.
Not to worry, GMC has you covered:
- There is variable snow and ice cover on trails and summits. See current snowfall totals for Mansfield here, and consider searching the weather report of a nearby ski resort to get a sense of conditions on your trail of choice.
- With thin snow cover, traction footwear is especially important, as trails will be icy.
- Remember to stick to the trail as much as possible this time of year. With less than two feet of snowpack, alpine plants are still quite susceptible to damage from our footsteps, especially when wearing Microspikes. If you can follow blazes or string, do so; if not, take care to stick to rock, puncheon, or other durable surfaces. More on Leaving No Trace in Winter.
- Preparedness, proper layering and gear, and safety are paramount this time of year. Read our exhaustive Winter Hiking Preparedness Parts I and II blogs for information on gear to carry and conditions to watch out for. More of a visual learner? Rewatch our Intro to Winter Hiking workshop.
- Brush up on safety tips from Vermont’s former search and rescue coordinator, including things like layering, weather, and best practices.
- Ready to find someone to hike with? Check out all the GMC outings run by our fourteen regional Sections around Vermont and beyond. You can join even if you’re not a GMC member. If you’re looking for likeminded folks to hike with, Facebook groups are a great place to start; we like Long Trail Hiking — GMC Community; Hiking in Vermont; and Hiking Friends VT & NY
- If you’re ready to head out on your own, check out some GMC staff favorite winter hikes. Then plan your own trips with GMC guidebooks and maps. Here are a few choice winter hikes by level of difficulty:
- Thinking about a winter thru-hike of the Long Trail? It’s not recommended. See how one attempt went on our blog.
- Or are you more of a skier? Check out some overlapping adventures on the Long Trail and Catamount Trail.
Have fun out there!
Do you have any other tips to add?