If you're tired of building snowmen and sledding, enjoy time outdoors with your family with a winter hike. Winter is a great time to experience the beauty of nature up close.
Let the National Park Service help you find a park close to your home or choose a state park for your hike. You can also just head to one of your local parks.
Always check current trail conditions before attempting a winter hike. If you're hiking in a national park, check the Backcountry Update and Closures page for the park. If your hike is in a state park, check with the park rangers.
Check the weather forecast before you head out to hike. The days are short and winter weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared and dress in layers.
Even for a day hike, pack plenty of water and adequate food. Plan to eat twice as much as normal during a winter hike. Salty foods are especially helpful when hiking.
Bring a map and compass. Even if your trail is well-marked, it's always a good idea to bring navigation tools along when hiking.
Dress in waterproof layers and pack a change of clothing in case you get wet. Be sure to keep your extremities and face covered to prevent frostbite. The first warning signs of frostbite are a tingling, then numbing feeling.
Avoid deep snow hiking and use hiking poles to help keep your footing on icy trails. Hiking in deep snow causes fatigue and leaves holes that are hazardous for skiers and snowshoers.
Waterproof boots are essential when winter hiking. Over-the-shoe traction devices will help you if you hit a long stretch of ice on the trail.
Pack a first aid kit, flashlight with spare batteries and whistle to use if needed. You may not plan to be out after dark, but be prepared in case darkness comes before you're out of the woods.
Some trails are more difficult to navigate than others during winter. Check the park's website or a hiking guide and stick to the easier trails.
Winter hiking with kids can be a lot of fun when you plan ahead. Hike a family-friendly trail and let your kids experience the beauty of winter in the woods.