Winter Hiking Tips For Beginners

As Canadians we’re expected to be winter loving folk. A quarter of our year is spent under snow. So, we must love skiing, tubing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Truth is not all of us “winter”. Many of us actually hibernate. I was one of those people. But this winter I’m making an effort to get out and make the most of it.

After a great year of hiking last year, I knew I had to continue through the winter. And if hiking was difficult through snow I do have snowshoes. And after a few winter hikes and snowshoe adventures under my belt, I thought I’d share my winter hiking tips, to not only ease into winter hiking but also how to be safe and make the most of winter by getting outdoors.

Winter hiking

Winter Hiking Tips

1. Know the Trail

Knowing the trail is important year round, but especially in winter conditions. With snow covered trails there may be hazards off trail like crevices, depressions and other obstacles that could cause injury. It’s a must to not only know the trail but to stay on it.

Related Post: Top 10 Hiking Tips for Day Hikes

If you’re heading out snowshoeing be sure to check trail conditions online before you go. Most parks post trail conditions on their website, whether they’re groomed or otherwise. Also note that not all trails are snowshoe friendly.


crevices at Nottawasaga Bluffs

2. Dress Accordingly

Be sure to check weather conditions in the area you’ll be hiking or snowshoeing. Will it be mild or cold? Will it be snowing or clear? It’s best to know ahead of time so you can dress accordingly. If it’s snowing you’ll want to be sure to wear a water-repellent or waterproof coat to avoid getting wet.

Note: Not all clothing is created equal. Water-resistant means the fabric will resist water penetration to a degree, but not wholly. Whereas, water-repellent isn’t easily penetrated by water and because of treated fabric the water will bead off. And waterproof means fluid will not pass through the fabric.

In winter it’s best to layer up. This way if you do warm up you can easily shed a layer. Also, make sure to wear either comfortable waterproof boots, whether they’re winter boots or hiking ones. Another great item to bring with you is packs of hand warmers. These can used in your gloves, shoes and inner pockets.

3. Don’t Forget to Drink

It seems easy to remember to constantly stay hydrated in the heat of the summer. But in the winter we may forget. So, it’s even more important to remember to drink on winter hikes, so as to avoid dehydration.

Eugenia in winter

4. Bring Snacks

Just as in the mild months, it’s important to bring snacks on winter hikes and snowshoe adventures. Whether its nuts, dried fruit, trail mix or energy bars, be sure to bring snacks with you. You may not realize it but you’ll be, most likely, burning more energy in the winter with your body trying to stay warm and trudging through the snow. So, it’s key to keep your energy up.

5. Know Your Limit

Unless you’re an avid winter hiker it’s best to know your limits – especially when you first begin winter hiking. In frigid, icy cold weather it could be detrimental to be outside for an extended period of time. Know the temperature forecast for the day.

Eugenia hill

scaling steep hillsides

Also remember the same distance in the summer will be much different in the winter. Trudging through snow, whether with hikers or snowshoes, will exert more energy than clear trails in the summer.

If you’re just starting winter hiking/snowshoeing start small. Go on short to moderate length hikes to begin with and build your stamina and ability for longer hikes.

There are a few other things to consider when discussing winter hiking tips. One is to be aware of road conditions. Some roads may be closed in the winter due to blowing snow or poor conditions. It’s best to err on the side of caution.

Another good idea is to not wear your jacket, gloves, hat and other extra warm clothing on your drive to where you’re going to hike. It will feel much cooler getting out of the toasty, warm car and into the cold if you don’t.

Also be aware of parking conditions. Non-operational parks do not plow their parking lots, so you’ll have to park on the side of the road. And, this can be dangerous on main roads that are packed with snow. There may be no safe place to park. Check ahead for parking options before you go.

Are you an avid hiker? What are your top winter hiking tips?

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Winter Hiking Tips


I'm a Canadian gal with a passion for wildlife, the great outdoors and travel and hope to inspire others to feel the same way! Travelling mostly solo I love to explore Ontario Gems in my own backyard as well as exotic cities around the world.

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14 Responses

  1. Hannah Logan says:

    Love visiting my cottage in the winter and taking my dog for walks through the trails. So clumsy though in all the snow- I usually fall on my butt (or face) at least once!

    • Stephanie says:

      That’s where we all start! lol And, I still remember my first time on snowshoes, I’m pretty sure I fell a half a dozen times.

  2. C-Ludik says:

    Great tips ! Winter… The weather outside is frightful, but the trails are so delightful… I usually dress like an onion and take an experienced friend with me 🙂 And I add some comfort to my trip by making tea, coffee, or cocoa in a lightweight portable stove, or carrying it with me in a thermos.

  3. Penny says:

    This was really interesting. I’ve never been in snow till a week back. We walked through a park and went of course. We only realized it when we landed up waist deep in snow!

    • Stephanie says:

      WOW, waist deep! That’s a lot of snow! I always say, know where you’re hiking – conditions, snow levels and stay on the trail. Unless you want to dig your way out of waist deep snow lol!

  4. So many good points!! Another good thing is to let someone know where you are heading, in case you run into trouble. This way they’ll know where to start if things really go south!! I need to get out and do some more winter hiking!

    • Stephanie says:

      Another great tip Lindsay! Even if you think it’s only a short hike, you just never know and it’s always better to be safe in knowing someone knows where you are, than being sorry.

  5. Cathy says:

    I started winter hiking because I couldn’t stop after a great year of hiking too:) We bring a thermos of warm water to drink, great for if you get really cold. Always have hand warmers in your pack just in case. We have microspikes for icy conditions that also go in our pack. A saying here for New England hikers- cotton kills- never wear it on winter hikes:)

  6. Alice Chen says:

    How interesting! I definitely haven’t thought of hiking in the winter before. Thanks for the guide!

  7. Lorraine says:

    Thanks I found your blog. I was planning to have hiking with friends. We are looking for best tips to stay outdoor. I’m so grateful to have this blog.

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