Winter Hiking in the Adirondacks

National Take a Hike Day is observed annually on November 17. In the Adirondacks, winter is usually well on it’s way by mid-November. So, here are some tips and tricks for hiking this season.

Be Prepared

Before you even strap on your boots, the first step for winter hiking is being prepared. Start with shorter hikes and less demanding trips before attempting one of the 46 high peaks. Not only does this allow you to test your ability, you can also make sure you have the right type of gear. In addition, education is key. The Adirondack Mountain Club offers several workshops such as The Winter 46 High Peaks Workshop, Winter Survival 101, and Backcountry Snowshoeing for Beginners.  They also publish a terrific guide to winter hiking. 

Gear

Photo Credit: Alice Donovan Rouse / Unsplash

While much of the gear you have broken in on summer treks can be useful for winter hiking, you’ll need to add some key pieces to your gear list for a winter hike. Depending on the depth of snow or accumulation of ice, you will likely need snowshoes, cross-country skis, microspikes and/or crampons.  In the Adirondacks’ High Peaks, snowshoes are required by law. Clothing and how you layer is also essential. It’s as important to stay cool and dry as it is to stay warm. Sweat is not your friend on long winter hikes. You’ll need to be able to remove layers when necessary to avoid it. Proper head gear is a must as are mittens and gloves. Due to shorter days, you’ll also want to carry a headlamp and extra batteries. Plastic water bottles, like the Nalgene brand, are better than bladders where water can freeze in tubing or mouth pieces. For safety, you’ll want to make sure your first aid kit includes additional items for winter like heat blankets and fire-starting supplies. The best resource for the newest and best winter hiking gear is an outdoor equipment store like EMS, REI and, locally, The Mountaineer.

Food and Hydration

Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

Because your body is working harder to keep you warm in cold weather, you’ll need extra food and water when hiking during the winter months. Everything in your pack is likely to freeze during long winter hikes. Keep this in mind when choosing and packing food. It’s much easier to eat frozen granola or an energy bar that it is to eat a frozen banana with frozen peanut butter. Water can freeze in your pack, as well. So heat water before you leave and insulate it with wool socks or insulated neoprene covers. Pack extra water and do not expect to rely on the availability of fresh water on the trail. It’s likely frozen or covered by ice and water pump filters can freeze quickly.

BASE CAMP

After a long day hiking in the elements, a warm fire, hot meal and friendly faces welcome you at the Hotel North Woods.  Feel free to crawl into our warm beds or, if you’re up for it, enjoy a meal and live music at Delta Blue – one of our two restaurants on property.  We look forward to being your home-away-from-home for your next Adirondack winter hiking adventure!

Tracy Smith