5 Tips to Keep Hiking in the Winter

With shorter days and cooler temperatures (yes, even in here in Southern California … although that’s a relative thing), staying active in the winter can present more than a few challenges.

The vernal equinox is coming up, which means we still have a bit longer before those summer temperatures force us to hike in the higher altitudes. Generally those trails are a little bit tougher, so staying active now is good practice – not to mention a good justification for chowing down on a killer post-hike meal.



All these goodies are on the Modern Hiker Pinterest page

Let’s face it – almost every trip starts with inspiration. You see a drop-dead gorgeous image as you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed, or read a story in a travel magazine, or maybe even just get intrigued by an online hike write-up. Sites like Pinterest

are a great place to get a bunch of quick visuals all at once and you can also organize your favorites into different boards.


planning books and maps

None of that inspiration will do you any good unless you get everything organized and start putting it into action. I’ve already written about my love of getting organized and turning those planned hikes into actual trail time. Google Docs and Evernote are great places to store maps and ideas and organize them into folders for better planning – and browser plugins like Pocket will help you snag quick ideas and inspirations during your daily web-browsing.

Once you’ve got all your information in one place, it’s time to start setting – and sticking to – some dates. It’s harder to break a pre-existing plan than it is to let an ambiguous semi-plan just float on by. I’ve got a lot of hiking to do in the next few months, and I’m already going into my Google Calendar to book those days well in advance!


trunk full of gear

Don’t worry – this was for a month long trip

If you’re hiking in the winter – especially in the mountains – you may need a few pieces of extra gear to make sure you can navigate the terrain safely. Especially here in Southern California, it’s not unusual for the north-facing slopes of mountains to hold onto their ice and snow into the summer, and all that melting and refreezing can make for some pretty slippery trails. Once you figure out where you’re headed, be sure to check in with the rangers or park managers in the area for trail conditions. Most of the time here in Southern California, you’ll be fine with trekking poles and maybe some traction cleats. It should go without saying that you should check the weather, too – especially for wind in the mountain peaks and valleys. If it’s going to rain, you’ll probably hear about it – we treat precipitation like national disasters on the local news.


nature valley 075

Once you’re on the trail, you’ll want to pack some snacks to keep you going – especially if you’re doing a long trek. Generally, you’ll want something with a little bit of fat, some carbohydrates, and salt – and everyone’s got their personal favorite. You can go with the standard good-ol’-raisins-and-peanuts (GORP) or step up your game with something a little fancier like Nature Valley‘s new Nut Crisp Bars, which come in Salted Caramel Peanut and Almond Dark Chocolate flavors. They’re light, just a little on the sweet side, and a nice motivation to make it up just one more switchback before your next break.


group hike in Santa Anita Canyon

Just some of our hiking group in Santa Anita Canyon

One of the most frequently asked questions we get at Modern Hiker is “where can I find a hiking group?” Whether it’s for extra motivation, security, or a shared experience with new friends, hiking in a group is a great way to discover new trails or share your experience and enthusiasm with others. In addition to our monthly Go Hike events, there are dozens of Meetup hiking groups for every speed and flavor of hiker – from slow-paced casual strolls to leg-busters at the break of dawn.


Now you’ve got no excuse to not get out and stay active and energized in the cool season. Remember, what seems like a challenge now will soon become routine, and if you start getting active now you’ll be hiking up Mount Baldy in no time!

Modern Hiker received compensation from Nature Valley for writing this post.

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