America's Best and Most Beautiful Winter Hikes

From Colorado to Oregon to Maine, these incredible winter hiking trails offer beautiful views and fewer crowds.

Venturing along a groomed winter trail near Telluride
Photo: Matt Inden/Miles

If you have a habit of stashing your hiking boots the moment cooler temperatures arrive, you've been missing out. In the winter, the nation's best hiking trails clear out and you can walk for miles without seeing another soul. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and stomp across glittering, white fields, or avoid the snow entirely and head south, where you'll find plenty of dry terrain that's too hot to brave in the summer.

The secret to winter hiking is making sure you have the gear necessary to stay warm, kick through snow, and outsmart the sun. Appropriate footwear and versatile lightweight layers are key — we like Patagonia's Nano-Air Hoody, which stuffs into a bag easily, leaving plenty of space for extra hiking snacks.

If you’re worried about the weather, a good rule of thumb is to keep as much of your skin covered as possible to avoid frostbite once the temps drop below freezing. Also, make sure you always check weather and trail conditions before you lace up those boots. And since the days are shorter, you'll want to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to finish your hike before darkness falls and the views you came for disappear. To get you started, here are some of our favorite winter hiking trails.

Jud Wiebe Trail in Telluride, Colorado

From the top of this trail, which starts and ends right in town, you can watch skiers conquering the slopes at Telluride Ski Resort or imagine life in this charming mountain town. Telluride may be known for its snow, but thanks to Colorado's 300 days of sunshine, this approximately three-mile hiking trail remains relatively dry year-round. And if you happen to visit after a big snowstorm, strap on a pair of microspikes and bundle up — the hike is just as beautiful under a fresh layer of powder.

Cumberland Trail in Cumberland Trail State Park, Tennessee

The in-progress Cumberland Trail (now 200 miles long) will encompass 300 miles once it's finished, traveling across Tennessee from north to south. To get your feet wet, head to this popular trail in the winter, when hikers tend to clear out. If you have a full day to spare, take on the nine-and-a-half-mile Possum Creek section, where you can ogle waterfalls as you walk along the picturesque, wooded creek.

View of Zion National Park from the Watchman Trail. Photo taken during a road trip across Utah in the winter of 2019.
Conrad J Camit/Getty Images

Watchman Trail in Zion National Park, Utah

The dry heat of southern Utah that typically deters hikers in the summer is long gone by the winter months. The Mars-like landscape of Zion National Park is just as beautiful in the winter — and more so if you happen to catch it with snow.

In an easy three miles round-trip, this trail transports you to a land of sandstone spires and prickly pear cacti that bask under the desert sun year-round. If you want to get cutesy — and support national parks while you do it — sport some Zion gear from Parks Project, a brand that gives to national park conservation efforts.

Cape Falcon Trail in Oswald West State Park, Oregon

If you need more than stunning vistas to get you out and about in the winter, head to Oregon where you might glimpse a pod of gray whales midway through a winter's day. On the approximately five-mile Cape Falcon Trail, you'll reach a panoramic outcropping where you can pull out your binoculars and monitor the water for their telltale spray. Your chances of spotting a whale are best in December and January when they're migrating from the Bering Sea to Baja, so make sure to pack an extra layer and enough fuel to keep you motivated for the hike back.

Gorham Mountain Trail in Acadia National Park, Maine

There's more to Maine than golden summers filled with lobster rolls and double-scoop cones. While it can be a chilly place to visit in the winter, the stark weather empties popular routes like Gorham Mountain Trail, giving winter hikers the chance to see the coastal splendor without the crowds. You'll be rewarded for your efforts with stunning views of the rocky coastline and Cadillac Mountain in the distance.

For this challenging, uneven three-and-a-half-mile loop, you'll need a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis, so you can float on top of the snow as you climb through a spruce forest and over snow-covered granite.

Mazama Ridge Near Paradise Mount Rainier
Mark Hatfield/Getty Images

Mazama Ridge Snowshoe Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

It's practically impossible to visit or live in Washington without noticing Mount Rainier. The massive (and active) volcano tops out at 14,410 feet above sea level and seems to dominate the landscape. You can play at the foot of Rainier, where you'll find beautiful wildflower meadows, year-round, but there's something a little extra special about getting out when the peak is covered in snow. Strap on a pair of snowshoes and conquer the six-mile Mazama Ridge Trail, which offers near-constant views of the majestic Mount Rainier and the Tatoosh Range.

Florida Trail in Suwannee River State Park, Florida

The wonderful thing about living in a country that has everything from mountains to beaches is that a winter hike doesn't have to feel wintery — in northern Florida, you can hike in 60-degree temperatures.

From the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, hike past cypress trees and limestone bluffs on the nearly eight-mile trip to Holton Creek River Camp. Explore a white sand beach and the sinks, swales, and sloughs found within the 2,500-acre Suwannee River Water Management District. 

If you want to mix it up, consider taking on the return trip to Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park by boat (you can rent any equipment you may need from a local outfitter). Either way, pack a sun shirt and sunscreen to keep you protected from all angles.

Roundabout Trail in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

This cowboy ranching town has produced more winter Olympians than any other spot in America, and once you're there, it's easy to see why. The town lives for winter — and while Steamboat Ski Resort is family-friendly, it has its fair share of expert terrain.

When it comes to winter hiking, you'll need a pair of snowshoes to explore one of the many snowshoe trails departing from the on-mountain Thunderhead Lodge (which sits at an impressive 9,080 feet above sea level). We recommend starting with the flat, one-mile Roundabout Trail, but if you're feeling strong, continue on to Duster, which leads to the Rendezvous hut at 9,325 feet.

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