Getting outside during the winter has its own rewards, among them crowd-free trails, fewer insects, and scenery you can only see when the weather's right. Whether it’s the novelty of desert mesas dusted with fresh powder, or a waterfall frozen into columns of pale blue ice, or simply the peaceful vista of fields blanketed in untracked snow, the charms of winter are worth the effort.
Not that you'll need crampons and an ice axe to enjoy any of these ten easy day-hikes. Sure, you'll have to prepare for the weather, maybe even add snow chains to your tires for the trip to the trailhead, but these trails and hiking areas were chosen for their high ratio of scenic value to difficulty. Any reasonably fit person can tackle these in a day.
Dressing warmly in multiple layers is only the first part of the equation. When hiking in the winter you’ll get wet from both sweat and snow. Be prepared for getting wet from the inside. Your base layer should be sweat wicking to keep moisture from collecting and sapping heat from your body. Clothes should be loose fitting and you should always avoid cotton. On top of an insulating mid-layer and a puffy coat, a wind- and water-resistant outer shell is a good way to keep from getting soaked from the outside as even sunny days can bring snow falling off trees.
Depending on the trail conditions, you may need extra traction on your boots or even snowshoes. If you are using snowshoes, it’s good to use trekking or ski poles fitted to your height and snow conditions. You don't use the same length pole as when Nordic skiing, after a day of doing it you'll know why! Bring some good quality duct tape and a couple of six-inch pieces of PVC pipe for emergency repairs.
White Clay Creek, Delaware and Pennsylvania
Under an hour's drive from Philly and only half an hour from Wilmington, White Clay Creek State Park is a rustic respite from city. The Penndel Trail, a converted rail trail along the creek that begins on the Pennsylvania side is the prettiest. On your drive back to Philly stop by Vala Vineyards, a little winery that has a great tasting with cheese in a beautiful setting.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs
Pike's Peak looms over vertical red rock spires in Garden of the Gods Park, on the western edge of Colorado Springs. With names like ‘Kissing Camels’ and ‘Three Graces’, these natural snow-dusted formations make a peaceful backdrop for 15 miles of trails. One great choice, the Chambers-Bretag-Palmer loop, is a three-mile trail encircling the entire park with rolling, rocky terrain and less than a 250-foot climb.
Appalachian Trail, 'Velvet Rocks' Section, Hanover, New Hampshire
Hiking the Appalachian Trail is typically a summer activity, but this small stretch that begins at the Vermont-New Hampshire border is an easy winter hike through snow-blanketed fields, hardwood forest, and up a rocky granite ridge with views of the town below. Snowshoes may be necessary on this five-mile out-and-back, and trekking poles are a must.
Kincaid Beach Trail, Anchorage
Just over a mile south of Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage is Kincaid Beach, a secluded sandy beach on Cook Inlet with views of Mount McKinley and the Alaska Range. Technically a spring hike, you get there via a mile-long access trail through the hilly old-growth forest of Kincaid Park, where you're likely to encounter moose and the occasional bear.
Robert Frost Trail, Mount Holyoke Range State Park, Massachusetts
The southernmost section of this 47-mile trail, named for the poet, passes through the Mount Holyoke Range, a rare east-west ridge in central Massachusetts with ravines, caves, valleys, deep woods and 360-degree views, all potentially, on the same hike.
Brockway Summit, North Lake Tahoe
Whether you live in the area or are visiting one of Tahoe's several ski resorts, this small section of the Tahoe Rim Trail just off of Highway 267 near Truckee, California, is a great way to take in views of the entire lake. A healthy climb (about 800 feet), this up-and-back sometimes requires snowshoes and takes about an hour for those acclimated to the mountain air, or two hours for ‘flat-landers’.
Kanawha State Forest, Charleston, West Virginia
Only seven miles from West Virginia's capital is a 9,300-acre spread of Appalachian forest crisscrossed with 25 miles of marked hiking trails of varying difficulty. Not only is the varied terrain less crowded in the winter, hikers are less likely to encounter the mountain bikers who flock there in the summer.
Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo, Texas
Nicknamed the ‘Grand Canyon of Texas’, this huge red-rock canyon outside of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle has similar scenery to the actual Grand Canyon, if not quite at the same scale (it's sometimes called the second-largest canyon in America). Go when the weather's right for views of the frosted desert as far as the eye can see.
Hocking Hills, Ohio
Ohio isn't normally thought of as hill country, but the sparsely populated Appalachian foothills creep well into the southern and eastern parts of the state. An hour south of Columbus are the Hocking Hills, an especially rugged section marked by cliffs, gorges, caves and waterfalls. This popular outdoor recreation area has fewer visitors in the winter, but the state park system there has over 25 miles of marked trails that are open year-round, and the scenery, from frozen waterfalls to huge sandstone caves make it a rewarding place to hike even in cold weather.
Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming
This scenic spur of the Rockies rises from the Great Plains all the way past 13,000 feet, but inside the one million-plus acres of Bighorn National Forest are 1,500 miles of trails, many of which you don't have to be a mountaineer to enjoy in the winter.
Epic nights under the stars are often followed by not so epic mornings. If you’ve got to get up and on the trail for more adventures, you’ll need a good breakfast to banish the hangover and set you up for a great day out. Even if everything still tastes of tequila there’s only one thing for it.
Let’s say the worst case scenario happens, you lose the creature comforts of your happy camp and suddenly you’re strangers in a strange land. What do you take with you when the pressure’s on?
You hopefully have some great ‘every day carry’ camping tools, and manage to grab your survival kit. But the thing that matters more than anything in a pinch, and that you can’t drop in the confusion of an emergency, is field skill.
Before you set off on your adventure, think about what you could be up against if things go wrong, and what you can do about it. Your survival kit should be a lot more than a little tin full of fish hooks and matches.
The glass is always half full
It starts with a state of mind and a plan, and finishes with a bag of tools and the knowledge and judgement of how and when to use them. At this point it’s hard not to sound like a survivalist. Let’s just think of it as having a Plan B for when Plan A doesn’t work out. Plan A should be to have a good time, all the time, and Plan B shouldn’t be too far from that.
A positive mental attitude is going to give you the best approach to any difficult situation, no matter how bad. Time and again the survival case studies and instructors tell us the difference between success and failure came down to the attitude of the people involved. Add a little planning, training and experience, and you’ve got a much better chance of making your Plan B work.
Your new best friends
A good knife in the right hands is a tool that can make so many useful things in the wild. It might be your new best friend. Find a good bushcraft instructor or knife maker and you’ll be on your way to learning how to put a good knife to its greatest uses. Keep it in tip top condition and hair-popping sharp. Knowing how to use your tools is the best start to a survival kit you can get.
So what’s in the bag…
The main ingredients are going to be used for signalling help, navigation, fire starting, water storage, food preparation, and first aid. It comes down to knowing how to do as much as possible, with as little as possible for as long as possible. A survival kit should contain the best equipment you can afford to keep stashed away in the hope of never needing it. Do the research, get some training and collect the most resilient and versatile kit you can. Pack it all tight and seal it against the elements. Check and maintain it regularly, and above all, don’t leave it behind. Ever.
…and what do you do with it?
The plan should be to get rescued as soon as possible. Researching how the emergency services set about finding people will tell you how to help yourself get rescued, but until then it’ll be all about clean water, food and shelter. Learn ways to signal for help, find water, practice making fire every way you can, forage and eat what’s safe where you are, and make tools and shelter. Above all, stay positive, stick to your plan, and use your kit wisely.
So you’ve planned an epic adventure and the gang are ready for their great escape. Get together and talk about Plan B. The best thing you can do is not get yourself or anyone else into a situation where you need to be rescued, but be prepared for it, and make sure your friends know what to do to help. Approach the situation with a positive attitude, remember you’ve got the skills and kit to adapt to different challenges, and you’re going the right way to get out of trouble as fast as you can get into it.
Don’t practice to get it right, practice so you can’t get it wrong
We’ve met all kinds of amazing people on our Tentsile adventures, and there’s always more to learn about living out there in the wild. If you want to share your wisdom and experience, or need to add to your knowledge and you think we can help, get in touch and let’s see what we can do together.
If you want to escape, really escape and see your world from a totally new perspective, go tree climbing. Once you’ve gained the skills and experience to pretty much do everything you can on the ground, only high up a tree, then it’s time to start sleeping up there, and get set up in a tree tent.
Tentsile started off as a string sculpture, held up by books in a London living room back in 2002.
I wanted to make a structure that used pure tensile strength from 3 points to create usable space as I thought that a collapsible treehouse could be an interesting option for those who love treehouses but didn't want to by limited to their backyards to enjoy it!
I was still an architecture student at the time and figured that the principles were so simple that someone would have done it by the time I finished school so...it never happened; no one was looking at that space.
I got made redundant after the crash of 2008 and so I thought I would put some time into seeing if the model could be scaled up to hold some real weight. I put a cat in the next one (that was about 3 foot wide) and when it proved workable, I got started on making a full scale version.
The Spider and Giant Tentsiles were huge. Spider had a 10m / 25' diameter and Giant had a 15m / 35' diameter. They were impossibly hard to make as the dodecahedron centre could only be created by painstakingly adjusting the cords that pulled it part. Each cords was attached to a “loom” with 7 ratchets on each. It was like tuning a 28 stringed guitar from a ladder 5m / 20' in the air.
Slowly we managed to put a water tight skin on the structure and insert suspended hammocks into the “arms”. We worked but it was big, heavy and expensive. They did however, allow us to get some marvellous photos and the whole thing went viral when Inhabitat posted our picture. 40,00 hits in one day and boom, we were running.
That is when Kirk contacted me. We met for a coffee (out of all the crazy tent designers in the world, he happened to be 4 miles away) and his product design background became instantly essential. Together, we refined the designed, made full scale prototypes and tested all kinds of materials to make it work. We worked on final tweaks for more than a year after we soled the first one, incorporating customer feedback and designing out reoccurring problems.
Now we have a list of new models that Tentsile will be making over the next few years, each will have a slightly different focus (playful, extreme, ground based... ) watch this space...
Here's the deal: We love trees. In fact, we're down right passionate about them (in a healthy way, we believe). Some look at them and see timber, pulp, and dollar signs. We see trees and our hearts pump faster…. Trees are things of beauty, majesty and inspiration. You can hide away in the trees, shelter within their carpet, survive among them, nourish your soul and feel part of the living landscape.
I was six when I first saw the Ewok Village. I knew then that I wanted to build things in trees and so spent the time to get certified as an architect. I thought that by qualifying, my peers could not look down on treehouse architecture! It's a real thing! I have been lucky enough to have worked with many of the top treehouse design and build teams in the world and could see that they had so much fun working up in the tree tops. That's where I want to spend my time!
The Treehouse Industry and Turning it Around..
Treehouse companies seem to reach a plato in terms if size. The problem is, treehouses are very elaborate to design and completely unique to build! All the companies I worked with were aiming to develop a one-size-fits-all solution. None of them managed to get to that point.
I decided that it would be my mission to make a back packable treehouse. A lightweight, portable structure that employed trees to created a stable a firm framework that could support two or more people. There seemed no point in stepping on the hammock industry's toes – I like hammocks!
After teaming up with Kirk, things moved pretty fast. Kirk's product design background helped refine the Tentsile concept and after 6 months we had created a truly compact and immensely strong design, capable of sleeping 3 people in suspended comfort. We call it Stingray.
What have we started?
We brought Stingray into the world so that everyone can enjoy all the happiness and joy that hanging out in trees brings; an experience to share; a shelter big enough to move around in covered space during those long rainy afternoons; a way to sleep in the woods in supreme comfort over any ground conditions, away from bugs, away from water and mud. We gave Tentsiling to the world because we believe that if we are all hanging out in trees, they can't chop them down....
For That All-Important First Tent
By MARIANNE ROHRLICH
The chipmunks might think U.F.O.’s have arrived. A new generation of campers who are tired of finding their sleeping bags laying on sharp rocks has taken to tents that, instead of being staked to the forest floor, hover over it, suspended from trees. Other sleeping shelters sit up off the ground on legs that resemble a caterpillar’s.
Tree tents are a key ingredient in “glamping” — glamorous camping. Think of it as roughing it, minus the roughness. Glamping is for those looking for more comfort (no fear of creepy-crawlies, at least not the kind likely to invade a ground tent) while sleeping out under the stars.
For those who prefer not to tote their own tents, there are glamp grounds that rent treehouses, yurts and pods that hang from trees.
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"So whether you want to make your backyard into a floating campground, or hike out into the woods and live atop the trees, the Tentsile Hammock Tent transforms camping into an entirely new adventure." FoxNews