Winter Wonderland

Although extra planning and precautions are needed, winter hiking in Maine offers a unique outdoors experience.

When most people think about hiking, they usually don’t envision themselves trekking through snow and ice as winter winds whip by. But winter hiking is a unique experience that offers unexpected sights, sounds, and smells. Jenny Ward, a Registered Maine Guide, a Wilderness First Responder, and a longtime employee at the Appalachian Mountain Club in Greenville, is a proponent of winter hiking. “In the wintertime, I shift my mind toward exploring and not so much setting that goal to get to the top,” says Ward. “It’s a different sort of hike.” Because the leaves have fallen off trees, you see sights that aren’t normally there, and the trails are significantly less crowded.

Colder temperatures pose an additional risk, but proper planning and education can make winter hiking as comfortable as a summer hike, even if you’re a beginner. As you would in the summer, pack the ten hiking essentials, but go further: bring more layers, more food, and more water. “Be prepared. You’re going to warm up quickly,” says Ward. Take care to keep your innermost clothing layer dry to reduce chances of hypothermia. (Wool’s moisture-wicking properties make it well worth the investment here.) Because conditions will be varied and somewhat unpredictable, pack snowshoes and micro spikes for added traction. Before you go, be sure to check if trail access has changed, and always tell someone where you’re going—leave a note on the dashboard of your car, too, says Ward. “It will help direct resources to you in the event that you get into a little trouble.” With the right preparations in place, winter hiking is a great and experience snowy vistas like never before.

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