Another storm has come and gone, leaving its icy mark on much of the United States and many of us wondering if spring will ever arrive.
Alas, there’s still more than a month of winter left, and, depending on where you live, the dispiriting likelihood of sub-freezing days stretching well into March (or beyond for northern folk).
But just because your city streets are covered in slush and you have to don a few extra layers beneath your parka, doesn’t mean you have to wait till spring for that first hike of the year. 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 the novel sight of desert mesas dusted with fresh powder or a waterfall frozen into columns of pale blue ice, or simply the peaceful sight 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 13 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.
There are a couple modest summit climbs and at least two sections of the Appalachian Trail (depending on how you slice it). A couple trails can be as flat as you want them to be. None are more than moderately strenuous, and all showcase the best of the season. They may even make you wish winter would last just a bit longer.
Well, maybe not longer. But once you breathe the fresh air on one of these hikes, you might not mind the wait for spring so much.