Yes, Hiking in the Winter is Possible and Also Fun!

Winter hiking is all about finding joy in the snow, says Alina Lin, a veteran Club Hike Leader and Board member. She was speaking to a Zoom audience of hikers on November 24 who were looking for tips on winter trip planning, clothing, and accessories like icers and gaiters. She was joined by Hiking Director Tom Swales who advised newcomers on how to use our hike registration system, what types of group hikes the Club runs.

Winter hiking can be very pleasurable, says Alina. It gets you outside for much-need exercise, you burn more calories in the cold weather plus the photo opportunities abound, she adds. Those new to winter hikes should be aware of certain safety measures, Check the weather before you go and choose a familiar route. Remember that daylight is limited so start early and finish before 4 p.m., Alina advises.

Avoid hiking alone, because the risks are greater in colder weather if you break an ankle or get lost. Pack an extra coat and a flashlight just in case and remember in snowy conditions, you can’t walk as fast so choose a shorter distance, Alina says. Bring extra snacks and stay hydrated because you burn more calories hiking in winter conditions.

Clothing is very important, and it is best to wear layers that you can take off if you get too hot and sweaty. Choose a base layer, a mid-layer shell followed by an outer puffy jacket. Cotton clothing absorbs moisture so instead purchase fleece and synthetic wool items. You can buy specific winter boots for comfort which are good on slippery conditions. and hiking poles help with stability, she says.

Icers on the bottom of your boots are a must for added traction when the trail turns to ice or hard-packed conditions. Gaiters can be purchased that will keep the deep snow from getting into your boots while keeping your ankles warm. Snowshoes are fine for short distances and very deep snow, but you can’t travel long distances with them – at least not at a fast pace, Alina says.

Use a good backpack with the proper suspension and back support. If you go to a reputable outdoor store, a customer rep will help you fit your pack to your torso size, she says.

Tom Swales outlined the types of maps available through the Bruce Trail Reference Guide and the Bruce Trail Conservancy App for your phone. The App has the advantage of updating you on trail route detours or changes in real time as well as measuring the distance of your hikes and planning your routes, Tom says.

The benefits of going on group hikes organized by the Toronto Club are many. You can learn about the geography, plants and history from the hike leader. You don’t have to worry about trip planning and it is a great opportunity to socialize and meet new people, he says.

There are four types of hiking programs run by the Club: urban hikes, car hikes, bus hikes and a winter coach program, Tom says.  Urban hikes are typically in the city and are accessible by public transit. Car hikes are when you drive to a location and meet up with others. You might hike a loop trail or shuttle cars to the finish. Bus hikes are available from April to December and members pay $25. The bus hikes may go to different regions of the Bruce Trail and the benefit is someone else does the driving. The winter coach program lasts from January to March and destinations are usually winter resorts or parks where people can cross-country ski or snowshoe with hike leaders, says Tom. Members pay $34 and non-members pay $40 (+ applicable trail fees/park fees) for the Winter Coach trips.

If you have any questions you can contact our Hike Director Tom Swales at