When the days get shorter and the mercury drops most people head inside. We suggest grabbing a pair of snowshoes, a thermos of hot chocolate, and hit the road to discover our national parks under fresh powder. Here are eight winter hiking trails to get your season off to a great start.
Lone Star Geyser, Yellowstone NP
This premiere hiking trail is a wonderful day hike in summer and makes for a secluded adventure in winter. Beginning at the trailhead located just beyond the Kepler Cascades parking lot strap on snowshoes and hike in along the old service road that follows alongside the Firehole River. The turn around point for this hike is the actual Lone Star Geyser- a 12 foot coned geyser which erupts roughly every three hours. Try to time in right and arrive to watch the eruption with a backdrop of snow covered trees and the steamy Firehole River in the background.
Distance: 4.8 mi roundtrip
Time Needed: 2-3 hours
Trek with us: Inn-Based Snowshoe Tour
West Rim Drive, Crater Lake NP
Crater Lake is a 2,000 foot deep lake that was formed after a large volcanic eruption. Because there are no streams feeding into the lake, it retains a deep blue color. For an unforgettable day hike begin at the Rim Village and hike the road, West Rim Drive, clockwise. You will see stark views of Wizard Island and look out across the lake the whole time! Make sure to pack layers and check weather conditions. Turn around whenever you like, otherwise the full hiking trail around the lake is 33 miles in total. We suggest you aim for the Watchman–a snowy peak that is 3.6 miles clockwise up the snow covered road and brings you hiking past Wizard Island.
Distance: 3.6 one way
Time Needed: 4-5 hours
Fairyland Road to Fairyland Point, Bryce National Park
Hiking in Bryce National Park in the winter is top notch if you are looking for awe-inspiring views, zero crowds, and crisp high plateau air. Bryce receives on average 95 inches of snow per year, coating the red sandstone hoodoos in a stark blanket of white snow. Due to the steep gradient of the amphitheater that Bryce is, some trails are closed in winter due to the risk of avalanches. Make sure to check with park staff before heading out! A popular hiking trail to do in winter is the road leading to Fairyland Point. During winter this road is left intentionally unplowed to create a winter hiking option. Cross country skis or snowshoes are recommended on days of fresh powder. Admire the snow covered conifer trees and inspect the forest floor for fresh animal tracks. Add on some of the Bryce Rim Trail for further adventure on a flat surface.
Distance: 2 mi roundrip
Time Needed: 1-2 hours
Trek with us: Bryce and Escalante Inn Based Tour
Cottonwood to Marble Canyon, Death Valley NP
It is totally ok to want a warm hiking trail in the winter time, trust us, we know. If you need a break from the winter snow and are craving a breathtaking backpacking trip, head to Death Valley. The Cottonwood to Marble Canyon route is best done as a multi-day backpacking trip. Keep on the lookout for wild horses, jack rabbit, and owls on this 26-mile journey, no snowshoes required! Water can be found at various seeps and springs but make sure to check with park officials before hiking in. This hiking trail is not for the navigation newbie; some of this hike requires route finding and overland navigation skills.
Distance: 26 miles
Time Needed: 3-4 days
Trek with us: Cottonwood to Marble Canyon Backpacking
Lake Blanche, Wasatch Cache National Forest
This is one of our favorite hiking trails if flying into Salt Lake City. Easily accessible from the downtown area, Lake Blanche is a challenging hike in the Wasatch Mountains that ends with sweeping views of an alpine lake and Sundial Peak. Drive up Big Cottonwood canyon roughly 4.6 miles and park at the Mill B parking area. Traction devices or snowshoes are a great option in the winter if the trail is not packed down. Moose are a common sight near the stream on this trail. Bring some hot chocolate to enjoy once you have reached the lake!
Distance: 7.1 mi roundtrip
Time needed: 3.5-4 hours
Great Read: Off-the-beaten-path hikes in the Western USA
Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon NP
The Bright Angel hiking trail is a top notch hike located on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. This is a popular hike, but visiting in winter tends to see less crowds. The beauty of this hike is that you can turn around whenever you would like and are still guaranteed some epic views and a taste of the inner canyon. The hike begins at 6,850 feet, and descends into the canyon, so be prepared for a cold beginning and warming up as you travel down. The trail is steep yet a well maintained dirt trail. There are resthouses 1.5 miles down and 3 miles down. Both spots are a solid turn around point. If you are looking for a more challenging winter hike, plan on turning around at Indian Garden, which is 4.5 miles down the trail. Remember that you are hiking downhill first, so plan to take longer on the way up! Traction devices are a good idea in winter as this trail can get very icy.
Distance: 9.0 mi roundtrip
Time Needed: Full day (early start!)
Trek with us: Indian Garden Backpacking Trip
Delicate Arch, Arches NP
If you are in need of a family friendly hiking trail, the Delicate Arch hike is a wonderful option in the winter. The first section of the hike is a well defined trail, then it merges onto a wide slickrock surface heading uphill towards the arch. Follow the cairns on the slickrock to arrive at the most well known arch in Arches National Park. Since the trail is wide, kids can have a wide berth to explore the wildflowers, and check out the swirls in the slickrock while not blocking the trail from other hikers. There are a few sections with exposure so make sure to keep a close eye on the little ones. The hike terminates at Delicate Arch and has sweeping views of the arch with the La Sal mountains in the background.
Distance: 3.2 mi round trip
Time Needed: 1.5 hours
Trek with us: Best of Moab Inn Based Tour
Wildland Trekking Hiking Adventures
Wildland Trekking is the premiere perennial operator of hiking tours in the USA and of international hiking vacations and walking tours. To learn more about our fantastic winter hiking tours, or for tours of any season, visit our website or reach out to our Adventure Consultants: 800-715-HIKE!