So you’re a fair-weather hiker. It’s OK; lots of us are. The good news is that it’s easy to learn to appreciate winter forays into the wild.
Dip a toe into the semi-glazed pool with these mellow trails that will leave you wanting more, not wondering whether or not your nose is still attached to your face.
Craggy Pinnacle Trail, Barnardsville, North Carolina
The image above only hints at the magic that is hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Craggy Pinnacle Trail in the wintertime. The popular out-and-back path is just less than a mile long, rises 272 feet and opens up to 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Square Ledge, Pinkham Notch Scenic Area, New Hampshire
For an easy amble with rocking views, Chris Hayward -- a registered Maine guide and the Gould Academy‘s director of experiential learning -- recommends the Square Ledge Trail near Gorham, New Hampshire. Just about a mile round-trip, the trail climbs only 154 feet in elevation and is accessible year-round.
The short hike culminates in spectacular views of the famed Presidential Range and 6,289-foot Mount Washington, which are especially majestic when blanketed in snow.
Shoshone Point Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
It can be hard to find an off-the-beaten-track, er, track when you’re in a park that receives more than 5 million visitors each year, but the Shoshone Point Trail, located on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, is reportedly just that. A popular spot for weddings and engagements (at least according to Instagram), the overlook at trail’s end affords hikers incredible views of the mile-deep chasm.
During the winter, the trail -- 2.2 miles round-trip, with 190 feet in elevation gain -- travels through snowy forest.
Manzanita Lake Loop and Sulphur Works, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
A perfect intro to Lassen Volcanic National Park and winter hiking, the Manzanita Lake Loop is easily accessible from Highway 44 and painlessly climbs just 65 feet in elevation.
“The loop is a little over 1.5 miles long and has the pretty, postcard view of Lassen Peak,” says park guide Todd Jesse. “The southwest corner of the park [offers another great option]: snowshoeing up the snow-covered park highway to Sulphur Works. You start at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and travel 2 miles round-trip, through the inside of a hollowed-out volcano, to a hydrothermal area where mud boils out of the ground.”
Tahquamenon Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan
Michigan is not exactly known for its gentle winters, but this well-marked trail near Lake Superior in the state’s Upper Peninsula is an easy hike with exceptional payoff. It climbs only 252 feet over 1.7 miles, and its views of one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River are rendered even more epic by a frame of ice and snow.