Sun. Feb 25th, 2024
How to go on a safe winter hike

During the snow season, parks can feel like our personal winter wonderland. Winding through snow-covered trails and frozen forests can make for a fantastic day outdoors.

Here’s how to have a fun and safe time on your icy foray:

Dress appropriately

The most important safety tip for winter hiking is to make sure you dress appropriately for the weather.

Family smiles in the snow.

Like any outdoor winter activity, it’s all about layering. Start with a good base coat, add a mid coat and then a coat on top. You can always take off a layer while you warm up during the hike. You should feel a little cold before you start moving.

Don’t forget to cover your head and neck too! You will also need sturdy, waterproof footwear with good tread.

Get prepared

Here are some suggested items to bring during your hike:

Flashlight or headlamp: It gets dark earlier in the winter, so bring a light source just in case. You don’t want to get stuck on a dark, unlit trail!

Extra clothes: Bring a puffer jacket or extra layers in your backpack in case you get cold.

Smartphone: Having a cell phone is important in case you have an emergency while on the road. Plus, you can document your hike with photos! Be sure to protect your battery from the cold by keeping your phone close to your body heat.

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Hand warmers: These can make all the difference on a cold day. Try putting some on your boots too!

Snow rackets: Snowshoes are a great option for areas with deep snow and unpaved trails. In northern Ontario, snowshoes are a must for accessing trails in deep snow.

Plan accordingly

Hiking in winter is more challenging than in summer. You may not be able to walk that far in the cold and snow. Plan to start with a shorter walk to test your ability.

Wooded trail in winter

You should also start your hike early in the day.

Walking in the snow can slow you down and it is best to leave with plenty of time before it gets dark.

Be sure to check weather conditions before hitting the trail. No one likes hiking during a snowstorm!

Know your park

Man and woman looking at trail map in winter

Be sure to look at a map of the park before you head out, or bring one just in case. As you walk the trail, pay attention to all the signs you see.

You should also check with park staff before leaving. They can tell you what facilities are available and what areas of the park are best for a winter hike.

Full tank

Winter hiking is hard work! You will burn tons of calories throughout your walk. Make sure you bring a snack to refuel.

Woman eating candy

Don’t forget to bring plenty of water too. Hydration is as important in winter as in summer. You may not realize how much you sweat during a winter hike.

bring a friend

It is safer not to walk alone during the winter. Plus, hiking in a group is always more fun! Bring your friends and family for an enjoyable and healthy winter activity.

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Group of three standing on gazebo in winter

Don’t have a friend available? Be sure to let someone know where you’re going, what route you’re taking, and what time you’ll be back before you leave.

Take care of your feet!

Stay away from slippery surfaces and fast-moving water.

Bridge over the river in winter

Avoid traveling on ice unless absolutely necessary. Remember that the ice must be at least four inches thick to walk on.

Spending time outdoors is good for you all year round, so take a hike this winter!

Not a hiker? There are plenty of other ways to stay active in the cold!