15. TIMBER CREEK OVERLOOK TRAIL, KOLOB CANYON, ZION NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
“Affectionately known as the ‘quiet side of Zion’, Kolob Canyons is a spectacle of fire and ice with a dusting of snow on the crimson cliffs. Five towering formations of iconic Southern Utah red rock rise to greet you as you round the corner of the 5-mile scenic drive. No matter how many times you visit, it still manages to amaze. From the Timber Creek Trail, visitors enjoy sweeping views of these cliffs, overlooking the Zion Wilderness. The trail is only one mile and doesn’t require snowshoes.”, Kaylee Pickering, Visit Cedar City, tells us.
However, for those interested, the winter hiking opportunities in Kolob are plentiful. Taylor Creek is a five-mile roundtrip hike that wanders through a narrow box canyon to a double arch, while La Verkin Creek Trail, a 14-mile hike, introduces you to the solitude you can find in the Zion Wilderness if you search. Ice forms along these trails in the winter (and Taylor Creek freezes), so be sure to bring your traction device.
16. KASHA-KATUWE TENT ROCKS, JEMEZ SPRINGS, NEW MEXICO
The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks almost look like an alien landscape. As you wander these hoodoos, your eyes widen and your imagination runs wild in this fairy-tale landscape. These cone-shaped formations resulted from volcanic eruptions long ago, when pumice and ash piled a thousand feet thick. Now, hard rock on the top protects the rest of the tower from eroding. In the winter, light snowfall blankets the trail and sneaks its way into the nooks between the rocks. Slot canyons turn into refrigerators if the weather is cold, so bundle up and bring the microspikes.
This National Monument is on Cochití Pueblo land, so please be sure to travel mindfully and respect this monument as a place of cultural significance. *Please note that at the time of publishing, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is closed due to COVID. Check the website before you plan to visit, and sign up with the day-use reservation system when it becomes available.
17. MOUNT CAMMERER, GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
The Great Smoky Mountains are such a great winter hiking destination, we wrote a whole blog post about it. Hikers can still access many of the trails in the park, but one stand-out winter hike is Mount Cammerer. This low-elevation summit is usually tree-covered but gives you expansive views when the leaves fall in the winter months. Plus, this popular mountain is much quieter under snow cover. You’ll work hard to reach the lookout tower on the peak, but once you’re there, settle into the stone-crafted shelter for a picnic lunch. Trekking poles and microspikes are helpful when the trail is covered in snow or ice, so check the conditions before you go!
Feeling bold? Join us on a winter backpacking trip to experience the best the Smokies have to offer in a new season.
18. ROSE RIVER FALLS, SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, VIRGINIA
To watch waterfalls cascade down a rumbling stream in a designated wilderness area in Shenandoah National Park, hike the Rose River Falls Trail. This 4-mile hike is fantastic at any time of year, but when the temperatures drop, ice forms along the sides of the river. The trail culminates at a 67-foot waterfall which continues to run in the winter. “Shenandoah National Park is open year-round and winter offers hundreds of miles of back-country hiking opportunities, from frozen waterfalls to rock scramble summits, plus a 100+ mile segment of the Appalachian Trail, which follows the ridgetops of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” says Kathy Moore of the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association. If you do hit the trails after snow has fallen, look for animal tracks for the chance to see wildlife. Bobcats, white-tailed deer, and owls are still active in the winter months, and their presence is obvious when you see their footprints across the path.
Keep in mind: “During periods of heavy snow, Skyline Drive (the only road through the park) can be closed for safety reasons”, Kathy says, “Although the rest of the park will remain open.”
19. FLORIDA NATIONAL SCENIC TRAIL, FLORIDA
Looking to escape the snow altogether? Hike the Florida National Scenic Trail—a 1,500-mile long-distance trek that weaves its way through cypress forests, swamps, and shorelines from Big Cypress National Preserve to Gulf Islands National Seashore. When the rest of the country is experiencing freezing temperatures, you’ll be navigating through one of the most biologically diverse areas in the country. Alligators frequently cross your path and panthers even lurk in the brush. The entire thru-hike should only be attempted by those that are fully prepared, but casual day-hikers can hike sections of this trail without much equipment.
YOU CAN WINTER HIKE WITHOUT SNOWSHOES
In addition to the 19 trails listed above, there are plenty of trails across the country that you can winter hike without snowshoes! Just layer up, pack some snacks, and grab your microspikes. If you are hiking in the winter, you may want to lower the difficulty level of your excursions. If you would normally hike six miles in the spring, summer, or fall, choose a four-mile relatively flat trail for your first winter outing. Or, join us at Wildland for a fantastic winter hike or backpacking trip.