Aside from a Polar Vortex freezing the country, you can have the time of your life hitting the snow covered trails with your kids. After a spring, summer and fall season filled with miles of fun hiking adventure, don’t let old man winter put a stop to your kid’s active outdoor lifestyle. Most parks have the lowest visitation in the winter which means you can avoid the stampede of hikers and bumper to bumper traffic, but you need to be prepared for the winter elements which increase your risk of exposure, hypothermia and frostbite. By adding some safety winter survival skills, proper gear, clothing, flexibility, and common sense, you can build fun winter hiking memories with your kids.
Winter hiking can have serious and fatal consequences without the right skills and gear. As I wrote this, news broke that three adult hikers were air lift rescued from the Great Smoky Mountains along the Appalachian Trail. They didn’t have shelter, proper clothing and winter survival skills; and they were treated for hypothermia. They are very lucky their cell phone even worked; cell phones are unreliable in the backcountry (WBIR.com; Citizen-Times.com). In November, 2013 a family with three young kids survived two days in snow covered subzero Nevada wilderness huddled in their overturned Jeep until rescuers found them. They used their wits and survived by staying together, building a fire and using their vehicle as a shelter. They had just gone out for a day of play with the kids in the snow (Reuters.com; RSJ.com). Unfortunately, many other situations don’t have such rosy outcomes.
Seasoned hikers carry the ten essential items recommended by the “Seattle based Mountaineers” and they know how to use the gear they carry. Overnight winter hiking requires a hearty soul and should be left for the seasoned hikers. Here are a few tips to keep your winter day hikes fun and safe.
Winter Gear Considerations:
There are detailed lists and guide books of recommended gear, clothing, food and water you should have whenever you hike. A big part of making a hiking adventure fun for kids is keeping them warm, dry, hydrated and fed. Here are a few items and tips to keep your winter family hike fun and safe in the extreme cold, snow and moist conditions. Some of these items are recommended elsewhere, such as the ten essentials:
Before you go:
Fun Activities on the Trail:
If weather and trail conditions are not ideal (extreme cold temperatures, snow storm, sleet, heavy rain, etc.), come up with an alternate plan. Your mantra should be to keep everyone safe, have fun and stay active. Here are a few alternative activities:
Please note: You will need more gear and clothing than what is mentioned in this article before hiking; and depending on your level of experience, you may need more preparation before heading out on a winter hike. You can find all my family hiking tips in my book, Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun! https://jeffalt.com/get-your-kids-hiking/