Hiking in the winter with your family can be a wonderful adventure full of memories and fun. Winter hiking can showcase wildlife, animal tracks, beautiful views, and more. Don’t let cold temps and snow stop you and your family from getting outdoors to enjoy nature. We’ve got you covered with ways to stay warm while getting outside. Cold weather and slippery conditions can pose additional challenges, so it’s crucial to be prepared and take extra precautions to ensure that your family has a great time. At Military Wild, an organization that promotes outdoor adventures for members of the military community, we’ve gathered some essential tips and tricks to help ensure a safe and enjoyable winter family hiking experience.

PACK LAYERS AND PREPARE FOR THE WORST

  • It’s always better to be able to shed layers rather than not have enough.
  • Consider layering with a base layer of sweat-wicking material, like merino wool, and avoiding cotton.
  • Next, add a layer of anything insulated, like down.
  • Finish with an outer layer of any material to block the wind and elements. 

This layering technique works well for both adults and children, especially in colder climates such as Alaska, Washington, and Kansas.

Men and women sitting around a picnic table wearing winter coats, reaching into backpacks pulling out food to share

BRING MORE SNACKS THAN USUAL

Typically, in colder temps, you’re carrying a bit more weight than normal from extra layers, which will burn more calories.

Some great family snack options with protein are things like: 

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Uncrustables are a great option!).
  • Trail mix that can include some M&Ms or chocolate chips for extra fun.
  • Or some rice cakes with peanut butter and a chocolate drizzle.

STICK TO POPULATED TRAILS OR FAMILIAR ROUTES

In the winter, especially in areas with heavier snowfall, trails may not be as easy to find or navigate. 

  • Always let someone know when you’re starting your hike and an estimated time back.
  • Download or screenshot a trail map beforehand in case you don’t have service.
  • Stick to more populated trails or ones you are more familiar with to minimize the risk of getting lost. 
  • Apps like AllTrails and Topo Maps are helpful resources to keep on your phone, too.
Man and woman looking over a hiking map

KEEP AN EYE ON THE WEATHER

You never know when the weather can take a turn, especially at higher elevations.

  • Check the radar before the hike.
  • Check in every hour to ensure you’re still headed for safe conditions. 
  • Be prepared for sudden changes in weather. 
  • Have a plan in place in case of emergencies.

MILITARY WILD TIPS AND TRICKS FOR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES WITH LITTLES

  • Pack a hot water bottle (Sanger makes a great leak-proof rubber bag) to keep in the kids’ packs for added warmth.
  • Sing songs or play ‘I spy’ games to keep the hike interesting and engaging for any kids joining the hike.
  • If you’re carrying them in a pack, allow little ones to walk periodically to help them burn off their energy and warm up from the extra physical activity.
  • Bring an animal track identifier book to point out any wildlife tracks you may see along the trail.

Hiking in the winter with little ones can be a fun and rewarding experience as long as you prioritize safety and preparation. By following the tips outlined in this article, such as packing layers, being mindful of the weather, and engaging the kids in the hike, you can create lasting memories and foster a love of the outdoors in your family, no matter the season.

Kids in jackets and hats playing and climbing on a rock in the woods.

If you’re a military family looking for hiking resources and information on outdoor adventures in your area, be sure to check out the Military Wild website at militarywild.com to find a chapter in your area. With a community of like-minded individuals and a wealth of information on local trails and events, Military Wild is a valuable resource for families seeking to explore the beauty of nature together. So, bundle up, grab your hiking boots, and hit the trails for a winter adventure you won’t soon forget!


ABOUT KAILEY

Kailey Brown is a Co-Founder of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Military Wild as well as the Program Manager for the Blue Star Families Outdoor Explorers for All Program. She takes great pride in finding ways to get members of the military community into the outdoors by providing accessible adventures and helping them find connections to others in their communities. When not creating opportunities in outdoor spaces for military families, Kailey can be found hiking around various trails near her home in Raleigh, NC with her dog Hootie and traveling around the country experiencing the incredible parks and trails that the US has to offer.


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