With snow flurries striking, it may feel like all of the outdoor activities—at least those that don’t involve careening down an icy slope—are over for the season. But don’t resign yourself to the treadmill just yet.
All over the country, winter hiking trails are open and ready for you to come and make snow angels—or sand castles, depending on how far south you go! Read on for a list of 5 awesome winter hikes in the U.S., and make sure you don’t forget winter gear if you are heading out in the snow and ice.
1. Acadia National Park, Maine: Gorham Mountain Trail
A total of 3.5 miles, the Gorham Mountain Loop can be found on Mount Desert Island in Maine’s Acadia National Park. A combination of both forest and rocky terrain, at its peak elevation of 525 feet, the trail boasts panoramic views of the island as well as the Gulf of Maine and Frenchman Bay.
If you’re looking for something a little more exciting than a traditional hike, Down East, the “Magazine of Maine,” suggests grabbing a pair of snowshoes before hitting the trail: “The gradual incline is ideal for snowshoeing, [but be sure] to pick your way carefully—look for cairns as the underfoot trail blazes will be snow covered—and be prepared for ice.” And, according to Dri the Droll, the Gorham trail is perfect for beginners. But, if you aren’t comfortable heading into the winter woods alone, guided tours are available through Acadia Mountain Guides and Down East Nature Tours.
2. Big Bend National Park, Texas: South Rim Loop
If trudging through snow isn’t for you, heading to Texas might be a better choice. Winter hiking in Texas—especially the southern half of the state—is a great way to see all of the desert views without the dangerous summer heat. Plus, according to Backpackers.com, trails tend to be less crowded during the off-season months, which can make your hike a little quieter and more relaxing.
As for the hike itself, the South Rim Loop is a 15-mile round trip—depending on which forks you choose to follow—and can be completed in one day-long hike, or by camping overnight. The trail ascends approximately 3,185 feet in the Chisos Mountains and offers breathtaking views of sunrises and sunsets. Plus, if you plan to hang out in Big Bend for a few days, you can reward yourself with a trip to the hot springs on the bank of the Rio Grande.
3. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska: Harding Icefield Trail
On the other hand, if you’re seeking a full-immersion winter hiking experience, the Harding Icefield Trail in Alaska may be just the place for you. According to the National Park service, the Harding Icefield trail is a strenuous 8.2-mile hike in which “hikers gain approximately 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. Additionally, during the winter, the trail is considered a “mountaineering route,” and should only be tackled by hikers with experience and equipment.
Some of the “necessary skills” advised by the National Park Service include “route-finding, steep snow climbing and descending, self-arrest, and avalanche terrain recognition and rescue.” Additionally, the dense vegetation along the trail is home to black bears and their cubs. If none of those skills or warnings serve as a significant deterrent to you, then you can enjoy an incredible view of the Icefield, as “a window to past ice ages.”
4. Boulder River Wilderness, Washington: Boulder River Trail
Starting on an old logging road, the Boulder River Trail is most frequently visited during the spring, summer, and fall—although the hike is equally worth a visit in the winter as well. Coming in at an 8.6-mile round trip and a 700-foot gain, the trail has a gentle grade with beautiful views of waterfalls scattered up and down the trail.
Depending on the weather, you may be able to spot the beautiful ferns and mushrooms poking out from under the snow, and if temperatures are cold enough, you’ll be lucky enough to see some of the waterfalls frozen over. The hike is far from strenuous, and it makes the perfect trail for winter hikers of all levels to enjoy.
5. Myakka River State Park, Florida: Myakka Hiking Trails
Consisting of over 35 miles of loop trails, the Myakka River Trail in Florida is considered an ideal trail for winter hiking. According to Florida State Parks, the trail can be accessed by multiple backcountry roads, “allowing hikers to shorten or lengthen their hiking trips.” Safe from the high temperatures and mosquito swarms that are common in the summer months, winter on the Myakka River Trail is the perfect time for finding a little “relief from life’s daily hassle.”
With wetlands, prairies, and pinelands, the park and its miles of trails are the perfect destination for any winter hiker looking to spend a few nights camping in the backcountry. One of the most popular hiking destinations in the State Park, Bee Island serves as a primitive campsite nestled in a grove of palm trees. Although it isn’t quite the winter wonderland that you might expect for a winter hike, it’s the perfect time of year to explore the park and catch up with the local crocodiles, alligators, and pink flamingos.
Whether you’re all about the snow or prefer to stick with warmer climates, there are hundreds of trails that are perfect for hiking this winter. So grab your snowshoes, or pack the car for a road trip—the trails are waiting!