Spotting our wintering and year-round wildlife species is also easier without the summer leaf canopy, and tracks are more easily seen in the snow. This is the time to say hi to our winged seasonal visitors before they head home in the spring! Don't forget your binoculars!
While safety is paramount throughout the year, extra caution is needed throughout the winter months. If it is icy out, settle in for a warm cup of tea instead, and venture out another day.
Follow the tips below for a cozy winter walk and join us on the trail for a guided outing, and some snowy exploration.
Dressing for the Weather
The key is to be dry and comfortable. Layering helps you manage your body heat as your outing progresses, so you can have just the right combination at any time. Put this 3-layer system together for a warm and dry outing.
Base/Wicking Layer: This is the layer against your skin, top and bottom, which will wick away your perspiration.
Mid/Insulated Layer: The next layer is usually a polyester fleece or 'thermal' top and bottom to start retaining your body heat but still wick away sweat. If it's very cold, try 2 mid layers.
Outer/Waterproof Layer: The top layer keeps snow from getting into your other layers. Look for a wind/waterproof jacket and pants, plus, look for features like armpit zips, leg zips, 'Napoleon' pockets and adjustable hoods for more versatility. Avoid 'rain gear' as it's not designed for breathability. Gaiters help keep snow from getting inside your boots.
Above all, avoid cotton, even jeans. Cotton absorbs moisture (sweat, snow, rain); chilling your skin and making you work harder to keep warm. Keep the cotton for after your outing.
Boots, Socks, Traction and Snowshoes
When you buy insulated boots, look for the 'active temperature rating'. This gives an idea of how warm your boots should keep your feet, based on how much you are moving.
Always try boots with the socks you plan to wear on your outing, as well as any orthotics or inserts you normally use and give them a good try out in the store. Make sure boots are well above the ankle and waterproof.
A blend of Merino wool with synthetic fibers is a popular choice for socks.
Stay even more trail-ready with boot-traction devices like Icers, Microspikes or Yaktrax, and snowshoes. Some ideas of where to buy: Running Free, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Bass Pro Shops.
Don't forget your sunglasses, sun and lip protection (the sun's still doing it's thing, even now!), a hat, mitts, snacks, water and maybe even a 'sit mat' of closed cell foam when you have a rest. These can go in a small backpack to keep your hands free. And of course, bring your camera to capture the Park's amazing winter scenery and show your friends what they missed!
Use these tips to get ready for winter walking and hiking and you'll hit the trail for a great outing as soon as the snow flies!