The weather forecast is in the single digits, the sky is cloudy and dark, it seems like a terrible time for hiking in winter, right? Why on earth would you want to go hiking in that weather? Quite apart from the weather, there’s the extra work to go to, in cleaning off muddy boots and scraping ice of the windshield… some days it seems so much easier to stay inside in your pyjamas and slippers.
Stay with me here, because there are some amazing things about hiking in winter.
Less people on the trail
When the weather’s cooler, its easier to get a park at busy spots, and there’s more opportunities to see wildlife, as they are less likely to be scared off by other hiking groups. The good news is that the people you do meet tend to be more friendly too! Animals that tend to avoid the middle of the day such as wombats are also more often found throughout the day in winter – so keep your cameras handy!
While the trail might be muddy and slippery, you often get to see some unique experiences – the forest disappearing into the mist, sunlight shining on a spiderweb, the smell of moss on the rocks. Often during summer, a creek might be a muddy pond, but during winter you might see rapids, clear water with fish in it, and beautiful rushing waterfalls. Unique creatures such as the endangered carnivourous Otway snail are rarely seen in the heat of summer, but love the cool of winter.
Less worry about water
While winter hiking does require the right gear, one of my favourite things is not having to carry 2-3 kilograms worth of water. One litre of water is more than enough for most day hikes, as you’re not sweating so much. Also, you might be carrying less water, but you’re also worrying less about how much water you’ll need for the rest of the day.
Boosting your mental health
A lot of us feel down in winter – while we might not not experience the severe depression and withdrawal of Seasonal Affective Disorder, many of us feel listless, down and sleepy. Getting outdoors and exercising when its cold is a good way to stave off the winter blues, and turn around our emotional state.
Building up tolerance to the cold
Since I’ve been hiking all year round, and not just through the warmer months, I’ve found that my internal thermostat deals much better with the cold. Our modern, climate-controlled lifestyle often results in rushing between heated cars to offices to homes, we miss out on actually experiencing the cold, when we actually do get used to feeling the cold, it becomes much easier to cope with during the rest of our lives.
Giggles on the trail
In the cooler months, getting stuck in the rain is going to be a bit miserable. It’s actually going to suck. But when you’re with friends, some amazing things happen. When you choose not to fight the miserable weather, and the cold, and the wet, and have fun regardless – when you choose to embrace that suckiness and just jump in, have some giggles, see some beautiful surroundings and challenge yourself to go beyond what’s comfortable.
Getting warm at the end of the day
One of the best parts for me about hiking in winter is the warmth and satisfaction of stripping off your cold wet clothes and change into dry ones (Protip: bring an old towel and a change of clothes for the car), and getting home to look at the photos of your adventure, and tuck into some soup or stew that you’ve had going in the slow cooker all day.
So that’s it! My reasons for hiking during winter. What have your winter experiences been? We want to hear about them!
Also, coming up we have some helpful tips about pitfalls of winter hiking, and what gear you might need.
Have I convinced you that hiking in winter isn’t so bad? See what winter fun is coming up for Escaping Your Comfort Zone members on Meetup!