Winter is a great time for hiking. While winter hiking was not a favorite activity of mine when living in the Midwest, once we moved to the Southwest, winter weather just can’t keep me indoors. In fact, at least once or twice every week my husband and I find ourselves headed out for a hike.
But when hiking in the winter, it is important to be prepared and to have the correct equipment. Winter conditions can be unpredictable, so a reliable source of weather information is essential, as is common sense. Even if you have a hike planned for the day, if the temperature is too cold or a serious storm is brewing, put it off until another day. While it can be magical hiking in light snow, it is not worth taking your life in your hands if the snow is heavy, which could make it impossible for you to get back safely, or if it is accompanied by high winds.
My ever-trusty hiking poles are something that accompany me on every winter hike, and most hikes the rest of the year. I do not include a photo of them here as I have included one in several posts over the past few months, most recently 12/15/13.They can make a marked difference when the trail is slippery or covered with sheets of ice, as we encountered on one recent hike. Unable to gain any traction over one area of the trail that appeared to be covered by a glacier, our poles were lifesavers in that situation.
YakTrax are also handy to have on your shoes when hiking in winter. They slip onto your boots or hiking shoes and the coils of wire on the bottom will prevent you from slipping on even icy areas. A strap slips up and over the top of your shoe to attach with Velcro so they will not slip off while you are hiking. Check out the photos provided for an illustration on how they work. Crampons are a heavier duty version and another option, but for many instances, YakTrax are all that you will need.
In terms of a place to sleep when traveling to winter hiking spots, the same RV or camper that provides a home base for you in summer can provide shelter in winter as well. Many areas that provide winter outdoor recreation opportunities will allow you to park a camper or RV in their parking area while you are using their facilities. The Taos Ski Valley, one of our favorite winter skiing and hiking facilities, is one place that outdoor enthusiasts may park an RV in the parking lot and simply enjoy the out of doors.
So don’t use winter as an excuse to stay inside. Venture out and behold the wonderful winter wonderland at your disposal. You may find that, with smaller crowds and less competition for trail space, that you enjoy it even more than in milder weather.
Read more about New Mexico camping and things to do in New Mexico.