By: Danielle and Willow, Love Maine Adventures
When you live in Maine, you can choose to hibernate during the winter (nothing wrong with that!) or you can embrace the glorious solitude of the great outdoors and explore nature’s beauty without all of the crowds. I’m talking about winter hiking!
Getting out on the hiking trails in the snow takes some preparation! Although beautiful, hiking in the winter can be dangerous, and should be treated as such. The risks are certainly worth the reward, and if you prepare accordingly, you will have an amazing winter adventure!
Want to give winter hiking a try? We recommend Mount Kineo or Borestone Mountain, both in the Moosehead Lake region, as great beginner hikes. Before you hit the trail, read our top 5 winter hiking tips below to ensure you have a fun and safe adventure….
Winter Hike Tip #1: Plan
Plan your trip in advance and have a backup plan. Your original destination might not be where you end up if the weather changes, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t adjust your plans. There are plenty of great winter hikes available for all level of fitness. Make sure you watch the weather by using the National Weather Service site – Weather.gov – and check your summit forecasts. Use the AllTrails app to find out where you can park and make sure that the trail head is reachable once the snow flies!
Winter Hike Tip #2: Prepare
Ever heard the saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear? This is very true for winter adventures! Cotton can be very dangerous in the winter, so make sure you’re layering up with polyester, wool, or dry fit materials. We recommend wool and waterproof for all layers. Vests can add an additional layer of warmth and allow for body heat to release during high intensity climbs. When we hike we usually wear a base layer or two, a vest, a puffy jacket, and a waterproof outer shell.
As for your bottoms, a wool base layer along with athletic tights or water resistant hiking pants are our picks. A beanie or wool headband is a necessity. Waterproof gloves (with an ETip, so you can access your cell phone) are also necessary. A buff, or neck warmer, can provide additional warmth as one of your layers. Wool socks and waterproof boots, as well as gaiters (to stop the snow from getting in your boots), and some traction (we recommend microspikes) are also things you should not leave home without.
Winter Hike Tip #3: Pack
Packing for winter hikes requires a larger bag than a traditional summer hike, so you’ll want to make sure you have enough room. In your bag, you will store your layers if you are not wearing them, and you can also store extra emergency layers (in case one of yours is compromised), an emergency blanket or pocket blanket and other safety items. Hand warmers, a waterproof bag for your maps, and waterproof matches are just a few things you should have in your winter first aid kit. And don’t forget to pack plenty of water! It’ll take you longer to hike the same trail in the winter than in the summer, so judge the amount of water you’ll need accordingly!
Winter Hike Tip #4: Be Safe
Take all necessary safety precautions. Tell someone where you plan to be hiking and when you plan to return. You should also make them aware of where you will be parking. You might not have cell phone service in the area where you are adventuring, so if you get stuck, they can send help to your estimated location. Your cell phone will also lose battery power quicker in the cold, so bring a battery backup just in case.
Once you’ve planned and prepared, the world is your oyster! Enjoy your experience and take in all that Mother Nature has to offer. Make sure to bring along a camera or smartphone and share your photos with us on Instagram by using the hashtags #LoveMaineAdventures and #MaineHighlighlands.
Written by Danielle Dorrie and Willow Sherwood from Love Maine Adventures. They work to build a hiking community throughout the state.
Photography by Danielle Dorrie and Cait Bourgault