Winter hikes in the mountains intimidate us. Not so much the hiking itself — who doesn’t love tromping through a forest carpeted with snow? Rather, it’s simply getting to the trailhead. The prospect of icy mountain roads, of road closures, of other drivers who don’t know how to drive on icy roads. Why run the risk?
We love winter hiking. Why? We’ll refer you to this post from two years ago to explain why. Today, as we do every year at this time, we trot out our tips for how you can take the perceived discomfort out of winter hiking, making it possible to better appreciate what to many hikers is the sport’s lost season.
Saturday’s GetHiking! Winter Wild hike at the R. Wayne Bailey-Caswell Game Lands near Yancyville was cold, really cold. But the brilliant blue sky more than made up for the 28-degree temperature. If I had a nickel for every time someone on the hike said, “What a beautiful day!”, I’d have a dollar thirty-five. A little sun can make up for a lot of cold.
Take the winter off from backpacking?
Not when you live in part of the country where you can experience a rare coastal forest escape, hike on the country’s most iconic trail, and explore a high country oasis all while enjoying the cold embrace of the season, minus the threat. Sure, it can get cold and there can be snow. But not to the extent you need extreme weather gear to survive. Rather, winter here offers a stark beauty that can be enjoyed in solitude. And if you really don’t like the “cold,” but can tolerate cool, winter backpacking at the coast offers an experience you can’t have any other time of year.
First thing: Saturday — Christmas Day — is the one day North Carolina State Parks are closed. All of them. So let them have their day of peace and instead take a hike on your own. And if you have little or no experience doing that, well, Happy Holidays, friends — we’re here to help.