What’s better than hiking? Winter hiking. This is just my opinion. The scenery is beautiful in the summer but magnificent in the winter.

This blog post is for the beginner out there without much to any experience. I will give you great resources for more advanced information, but this is what helped me get started.

I like to prepare for winter hiking by ensuring that my pack has all the essential items to ensure I am safe. If something happens while you are in the winter, it’s much different than in warmer months. Do your research. It could save your life. I recommend visiting “Let’s Talk Safety,” where I cover the ten essentials. This is an all-year-round recommendation of items. Since cold and varied weather conditions happen in the winter, we will cover other helpful things to get you out and started on the winter trails.

Now, you don’t have to be a hero and go for the biggest, badest mountain out there. There are PLENTY lower, shorter hikes that give such a bang for the effort. With anything, there is a learning curve. The first several times you go out, things will inevitably not work as you want, and that’s okay. It’s better to find out on a short trail than 10 miles into the wilderness.

Safely tip: Always tell 2-3 people where you are going, what trailhead you expect to start, and an estimated time to finish. Stick to your plan. Turn back if you ever come into a space where you aren’t feeling safe. The mountains will be there. It’s also essential to check trail reports.

How to dress:
When getting ready for winter hiking, it’s crucial to keep your body temperature under control. If you tend to get hot quickly, starting the hike feeling slightly cold is best. Remember the phrase, “Be bold, start cold.” For my winter hikes, I typically wear a base layer top, hiking pants, gaiters (to protect the top of my boots from snow), and, depending on the temperature, a hat and gloves. If it’s freezing, I’ll wear a base layer and an insulated layer (such as a fleece or heavier active top) on top of that. But avoid cotton as it’s not suitable for winter hiking. Remember, “Cotton kills.” When I take a break to eat or reach the summit, I’ll put on a puffy coat. This is to keep me warm while I’m not moving. I hardly ever wear it while I’m hiking to avoid overheating. You should also have some form of waterproof outer layer, such as a shell. Wear active socks with either synthetic fabric or wool. Sturdy hiking boots that fit well to you. I wear Salomons, and I go .5 size larger than I typically wear. For example, I wear an 8, and I get an 8.5 to give space to my toes. I usually have 2-3 options for hats and gloves. You’ll want to keep your layers dry if it’s raining or snowing. As you practice this more and more, you’ll discover what works best for your body temperature regulation. Check out REI’s excellent article on Tips for Basic Layering and available options.

Gear Beginner Basics:
Micro Spikes– Microspikes are used to gain traction on icy surfaces and challenging snow-packed trails. I start carrying my microspikes at the end of September.
Snowshoes– These will help you from sinking deep into the snow and prevent you from posting holing, which is dangerous for you and others who come after you on the trail. Please, don’t be a postholder. It’s difficult for you and for others who hike after you.
Trekking Poles– Trekking poles help to give you extra points of contact.

Now you know the basics of dressing your body and what gear you want to bring, let’s get trekking!

How to pick out trails
I suggest doing a quick self-assessment.
How much hiking experience do you have?
How well do you do in cold temperatures?
How active are you in general?

If you are new to all of this as I was last year, these are the trails I did to begin with:
Cobble Lookout
Van Hoevenberg East
Mt. Arab

After you have your “winter legs and lungs,” you can try to up the level a little:
Blue Mountain
Loon Mountain
Hurricane (South trail, north is closed in winter unless you don’t mind adding distance to walk to trailhead)
Bald (Rondaxe)

If you want to get some more challenge and go for a bit more elevation
***Other equipment is likely required for these hikes. ie, crampons, ice axes, ropes
Cascade and Porter
Whiteface and Esther

This is just a very black-and-white basic outline to get you started. If you have questions or opinions on where to start based on your experience, I’m happy to help! Just reach out to me, and we can schedule a chat. If you found this blog and are more advanced but looking for advice, I am happy to set you up with a more experienced hiker who can help you. If you would rather go out for your first winter hike with someone so you aren’t alone, but your friends don’t want to go, I offer beginner hiker guide services (NY State Hiking Guide #9092), and I would set something up for you.


Additional Safety Resources:
DEC Winter Hiking Safety
REI Mountaineering Skills
Winter Tips 46/46 Podcast
Views From The Top
Lake Placid