RVers love hiking, and for good reason! While summer and fall are popular seasons for hiking, there’s just as much beauty to be seen on winter hikes. And usually without the crowds! So if you’re heading out for a cold weather RV trip, we have some hiking trails to explore when you want to enjoy the beautiful winter landscapes.
National Park Winter Hiking Trails
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to stop hiking! In fact, visiting the National Parks in winter will mean less crowds and beautiful hikes. Below are a few of our favorite hikes that just shine during the cold season. Just remember, safety first! Since you’re at the mercy of the weather, be sure to pack your gear accordingly and check the with the park about weather, road, and trail conditions and any closures before heading out.
Yosemite Winter Hikes
Lower Yosemite Falls
Yosemite National Park is amazing all year, but there’s a magical beauty about it in winter. If you’re visiting during the colder months, Lower Yosemite Falls is a great trail for families. It’s paved, pet friendly, and wheelchair and stroller accessible. Walk along Yosemite Creek to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls, the final 320 feet of North America’s tallest waterfall. It may be icy, especially near the waterfall, so be prepared for slippery conditions on this beautiful hike.
Yosemite Valley Loop
For a longer and more advanced winter trail, you can hike the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail. This 11 and a half mile moderate trail through the meadows and along the valley floor following some of the original wagon roads. Begin at Lower Yosemite Falls and hike along the granite walls. Depeding on the weather the trail may be icy or covered in snow, so be prepared for a slippery hike and bring a map.
Rocky Mountain Winter Hikes
Colorado has tons of great winter hiking trails, and Rocky Mountain National Park is home to several. Emerald Lake is one of the park’s most popular trails in summer. But during the winter the crowds thin out, making this a beautiful and serene hike with fantastic opportunities to spot wildlife like elk, deer, and birds. This out and back trail is just over 3 miles and is a great snowshoeing trail that takes you past several frozen lakes. If you don’t have your own pair, snowshoes can be rented in Estes Park.
Chasm Falls is a magical waterfall hike that’s fun to visit in the winter months. The falls can be reached by following the Old Fall River Road. The road is closed to traffic during the winter, so you can park at the Endovalley Picnic Area Parking and hike up the road to the viewing area about one and a half miles in. It makes for a round trip hike of just under three miles, with a cool view of the possibly frozen waterfall.
Grand Canyon Winter Hikes
South Rim Trail
You might think Arizona is warm all winter, but at 7,000 ft elevation it gets cold and snowy at Grand Canyon National Park. While the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is closed during the winter, the South Rim is open and brings beautiful views and less crowds on the trail. For an easy hike along a paved trail, the Rim Trail is open all year and provides guests with beautiful views of the canyon. There are even shuttle busses that continue to run along the trail during the winter months.
Bright Angel Trail
For hikers that want to go below the rim, the Bright Angel Trail down to the canyon floor is open. Take care on the upper parts of the trail, it’s often snowy and icy, but as you head into the canyon the temperature warms a bit and the snow starts to melt. Trekking poles and traction devices for your shoes are definitely recommended.
Mount Rainier Winter Hikes
Edith Creek Basin
Mount Rainier National Park offers some fantastic winter hikes in Washington. A popular winter hiking trail in Mount Rainier is the trek to Edith Creek Basin. A favorite for snowshoeing, this trail starts at Jackson Visitor Center and follows Edith Creek to Edith Creek Basin. Don’t want to head out on your own? Mount Rainier occasionally offers Ranger guided snowshoe walks from the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise. Check with the NPS website to see when guided walks are offered.
Zion Winter Hikes
Canyon Overlook Trail
Dying to see Zion National Park but don’t want to deal with the crowds? Visit in winter! Many of the hiking trails are still open throughout the winter months, although several can become difficult with ice and snow. For a great hike that’s not too strenuous, head to the Upper East Canyon to explore the Canyon Overlook Trail. It’s about a mile round trip and offers some amazing views, especially if there’s snow on the canyons.
Winter Hiking Gear
Winter hikes require more gear than warm weather adventures. The most important thing about gathering your winter hiking gear is to stay warm and dry. Besides your year round hiking gear, below is a basic list of things you’ll need to bring for cold weather hikes. For a more in-depth list and plenty of tips for winter hiking, check out our article Cold Weather Hiking Tips & Essentials.
Cold Weather Hiking Gear:
- Base layers of clothing that wick away moisture
- Mid layer clothing like fleece or puffy jackets
- Outer layer clothing that’s waterproof and windproof
- Daypack or backpack for water, snacks, gear, and somewhere to stash your extra layers
- Hat, gloves, scarf
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Wool Socks
- Waterproof winter hiking boots
- Snowshoes or traction devices that go over your shoes
- Trekking poles
- Whistle or signal mirror
- Hand and toe warmers
- The rest of your normal hiking gear like food, map, compass, first aid kit, multitool, etc. You can find a list of some of our favorite hiking gear here.
Looking for an RV to get you to your favorite winter hiking destination? RVshare has you covered with great RV rentals across the country.