If you reside in a region that endures harsh winters, you know that as the cold weather approaches, there are significant changes to come. Some prime examples of these changes are outdoor activities, as volleyballs, golf clubs and kayaks get exchanged for skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles.
What people often forget, however, is that hiking is still a viable and practical option in the winter. Winter hiking can offer a completely different outdoor experience to a once-familiar landscape. It can also offer reprieve from unbearable summer heat, and it can offer solitude from the once-abundant tourist crowds.
If you’re looking for a rewarding hike this winter, here are the Ten Most Scenic Winter Hikes in the U.S.
Arizona: Sedona, Bear Mountain Trail
This is a strenuous trail not suited for many hikers. It is in the desert sun with no water along the trail. The hike is a five mile round trip with a vertical climb of 2000 feet from the creek bed to the true peak (as measured on USGS Topographic Maps). If you decide to take this trail you need to leave early in the morning and plan for an all day hike. Take lots and lots of water and energy bars, along with sunscreen and a wide brim hat.
Washington: Olympic National Forest, Mount Ellinor Trail
Mount Ellinor is a strenuous, 6.2 mile in-and-out day hike with 3,344 ft in elevation gain. The trail goes up forested slopes to fantastic views of the Olympics. The trail can also be approached via an upper trailhead which shaves off 1,300 feet of gain and 1.8 miles (3.6 round trip).
Texas: Big Bend National Park, South Rim Loop
This challenging trail is well worth the 2,000 foot gain, as midway are the stunning vistas from the South Rim. Ascend either the steeper Pinnacles or more gradual Laguna Meadows Trail. During Peregrine Falcon nesting season, the Northeast and Southeast portions of this trail are closed.
Florida: Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida National Scenic Trail
One of the wildest places for a backpacking trip east of the Mississippi, the Florida Trail through Big Cypress National Preserve is not your typical hiking destination. It weaves through the heart of the rain-fed Big Cypress Swamp, a vast shallow river also known as the Western Everglades. Within the Big Cypress Swamp, hikers experience broad, open sawgrass prairies, underlain by slippery marl mud.
Utah: Bryce Canyon, Fairyland Loop
Montana: Glacier National Park, Red Eagle Lake Trail
Red Eagle Lake is definitely among the list of popular Glacier National Park hikes. Located in the St. Mary Area, this pleasant Glacier Park day hike takes you through scenic meadows and also through an old
growth forest that had succumbed to fire in 2006. This Glacier Park hike is still very pretty, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom, and the views of the surrounding mountains such as Curly Bear Mountain, Split Mountain, Norris Mountain, Red Eagle Peak and Red Eagle Mountain are quite nice.
Washington: Mount Rainier National Park, Mazama Ridge
A variable length ski or snowshoe tour (usually less than 6 mi) with variable elevation gain (usually between 1,500 ft and 2,000 ft). This tour takes you to a broad ridge that sits above Paradise with views of the Tatoosh Range, Stevens Canyon, and Mount Rainier.
Alaska: Kenai Fjords National Park, Harding Icefield Trail
A long day hike in the Exit Glacier area of Kenai Fjords National Park to an overlook of the Harding Icefield. Start early and pack a camera and plenty of film for this hike to the edge of the Harding Icefield, where dark peaks poke out of a sea of ice. The trail climbs gradually through forest and brush, alpine wildflower meadows, and finally rock and snow to an overlook of the icefield.
Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park, Odessa Lake
Odessa Lake is located 4.15 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. It lies in a steep valley hemmed in by The Little Matterhorn, The Gable (11,939′) and Joe Mills Mountain. Hikers will enjoy alpine landscapes and excellent fishing at Odessa Lake.
Maine: Acadia National Park, Gorham Mountain Trail
This is a wonderful loop hike that will take you along the shore of Newport Cove past powerful Thunderhole and then up over the open ledges of Gorham Mountain. You will have beautiful ocean views along the entire route. When you come down Gorham Mountain to the north you can also run up the Bee Hive if you have the energy. After you descend back to Sand Beach spend some time out on the sand relaxing!