The 6 Greatest Winter Climbing Trails in the USA

Winter can be a cold, if magical, time for backpacking. The crowd is minimal, the air is fresh, and the views are unparalleled. While it is tempting to sit by the fire with a good book, it pays off every time to go outside and experience the beauty of nature. With a little extra planning and the right equipment, winter hiking can be the adventure of a lifetime. And not just a change in attitude is necessary; A shift in latitude often helps by rethinking the wilder options in southern climes with milder winter temperatures. Here we’ve rounded up six overlooked yet enticing long distance hiking and backpacking routes for you to pull the plug, escape the depths of winter, and hike in the adjoining United States.

A cascade on Spirit’s Creek on the Ozark Highlands Trail. Shutterstock

Ozark Highlands Trail

Winslow, Arkansas

Located in northwest Arkansas, the Ozark Highlands Trail begins at Lake Fort Smith State Park and ends at the Buffalo National River. It offers some of the best views the Ozarks have to offer. On the point-to-point trail, hikers can enjoy views of water, waterfalls, rivers, forests and the famous Ozark Mountains. The main time to visit is between fall and spring as the summer months can get pretty delicious. The dog-friendly 160-mile trail covers approximately 23,622 vertical differences and typically takes 10 to 14 days.

Florida Trail

Putman County, Florida

A popular backpacker destination since 1966, the nationwide National Scenic Trail runs from Pensacola Beach to the edge of the Everglades. Most hikers navigate the trail south to north so they can tackle the toughest part of the trail first. Along the way, hikers can expect a variety of areas and ecosystems, including wetlands, lakes, floodplains, sand pine forests, rural farmland, woodland, and coastal views. The Florida hiking season runs from October through April, with January, February, and March being the best months for long backpacking trips. The point-to-point trail stretches 1,400 miles and takes between 60 and 90 days.

Sunset in Dominguez Canyon in western ColoradoSunset in Dominguez Canyon in western Colorado. Shutterstock

Dominguez Canyon loop

Whitewater, Colorado

The Big and Little Dominguez Canyon Loop on the edge of the Colorado Plateau is a great option for backpacking in the winter. While there are a number of scenic day hikes, you can head up Big Dominguez Canyon from the Gunnison River before crossing the sagebrush flats and down Little Dominguez Canyon. The dog-friendly hike offers breathtaking views of the river, waterfalls, towering cliffs, and historic petroglyphs. Although the trip is only 40 miles, it is best for experienced hikers as it requires solid navigation skills to traverse the poorly marked trails. The hike covers approximately 4,500 feet of elevation gain and can be extended as a 3 to 5 day trip.

Black Canyon Trail

Spring Valley, Arizona

The Black Canyon Trail is frequented by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders and is a point-to-point hike that begins in the Prescott National Forest and ends on the Carefree Highway. The single trail path usually hiked from north to south. High desert views include saguaro forests, rugged canyons, and the Bradshaw Mountains to the west. Temperatures remain moderate all year round and fall between 40 and 70 degrees in the winter months. The trail is somewhere in the ballpark of 70-80 miles, covers 5,885 feet of elevation gain, and typically takes seven days to complete at a leisurely pace.

Lone Star hiking trail

Anderson, Texas

The Lone Star Hiking Trail is the longest continuous trail in Texas at 96 miles and offers 32 miles of additional loops and trail add-ons. Located an hour outside of Houston in the Sam Houston National Forest, the trail begins south of Richards and ends northwest of Cleveland. The well-marked path meanders through pine and hardwood forests, along streams and past bayous. Because of Texas’s mild climate, the hike is most popular in winter and spring, but is ideally conquered from January when the hunting season is over. The moderately difficult trail covers 3,576 feet of elevation gain and typically takes 10 days.

Pinhoti Trail

Weogufka, Alabama

The Pinhoti Trail meanders through Georgia and Alabama and is a challenging 350-mile hike. The hike begins on Flagg Mountain near Weogufka, Arizona and ends at the junction of the Pinhot Trail and Benton Mackaye Trail at Mile 72.2. Often compared to the Appalachian Trail, the Pinhoti Trail offers views of green tunnels and ledges, as well as remote wilderness areas and easy access to civilization. The peak season is between October and April as the weather is cooler and the number of errors is minimal. The trip includes 47,930 feet of ascent and can take hikers anywhere from three to five weeks.

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