Who says winter has to mean giving up one of your favorite activities? There are lots of places where you can still get out and enjoy some spectacular scenery without the snow, and in some places simply bundling up a bit may be all you need to do to get out there on the trail. These are some of the world’s top winter hiking destinations to consider.
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Argentine Patagonia, Argentina
Anywhere you go south of the equator you’ll be able to enjoy warmer weather during the southern hemisphere’s summer season, but if you want to be surrounded by some of the planet’s most spectacular scenery, consider Patagonia. Near the town of El Chalten, the over 11,000-foot-high Mount Fitz Roy, the highest spire among the granite peaks of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is ideal. While the average hike is around 40 miles, the treks aren’t too strenuous and the best time to go is late fall through early spring.
Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
You can enjoy the tropical weather in Hawaii and explore one of the world’s best places to hike. Volcanoes National Park is home to Kilauea volcano. A guided hike is your best bet for safely viewing the scenery up close.
Cinque Terre, Italy
A hike through the five fishing villages of Cinque Terre in the winter may be ideal for hiking with afternoon highs averaging in the low 50s. The scenery will be as amazing as ever and there will be few other tourists to bump elbows with on the trail. Trail No. 2, or the Blue Trail, links the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso, stretching for seven miles. After a hike, you can enjoy other outdoor adventures nearby or relax in one of the many restaurants or cafes, sipping a glass of fine Italian wine paired with a delicious meal.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
Winter in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park means you’ll need to bundle up with temps typically in the upper 30s to low 40s, but you’ll be able to gaze out at the iconic hoodoos in their array of orange, red and purple colors contrasted with a dusting of snow and nearly always bright blue skies. If you visit over President’s Day weekend, you can enjoy the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival too.
Winter in North America means summer in New Zealand, one of the best times to hike iconic destinations like Tongariro Crossing in Tongariro National Park. The volcanic alpine landscape looks as if it’s an entirely different planet with emerald crater lakes dotting the perimeter of the volcanic complex while geothermal vents add to the dramatic effect. It begins at Whakapapa Visitor Center, leading to Taranaki Falls, and will bring you through untamed forest and scrubland, across the lava line of the volcanic eruptions that took place centuries ago. Of course, throughout both the North and South Islands there are countless other scenic routes to hike too and stunning natural wonders to explore.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California
The Pacific Crest Trail enters Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, offering options for day hikes, and the best time of the year to explore this section is in late February and March when the desert scenery is blanketed with colorful wildflowers. Temperatures will be pleasant – come spring and summer, it gets far too hot. With San Diego less than a two-hour drive away, you might want to visit the city’s famously beautiful beaches too, with the year-round mild weather making them enjoyable anytime.
While deep snow is rare in Sedona, this desert oasis is especially magical during the winter months when those fiery-red rock formations are dusted in white. The days will be perfectly mild while few tourists are out on the trails to interrupt the solitude. During the day, you can hike through Sedona’s breathtaking scenery and search for the vortexes to soak up their healing energy. After dark, the night skies provide one of the best light shows on the planet with the haze-free and often cloud free-skies making stargazing a must.
Ocala National Forest, Florida
Winter is the dry season in central Florida, making it the best time to hike in this wooded sanctuary that’s part of the Florida National Scenic Trail. The main route provides access to miles of footpaths, with spurs that lead to natural springs. Watch for the abundant wildlife, with everything from deer and black bear to armadillos.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
On the Oregon coast from December through January as many as 20,000 gray whales pass by as they migrate from the Bering Sea to lagoons along the Pacific Coast in Baja, Mexico. There are lots of hikes that follow this breathtaking stretch in northern Oregon and one of the best is the 2.4-mile single-track along the Cape Falcon Trail which brings jaw-dropping ocean views from a 100-foot outcrop. As it’s close to a marine reserve, the water here is especially nutrient-rich drawing the animals closer to shore. In the town of Cannon Beach, you can enjoy oceanfront dining, unique shops and lots of art galleries too.
Sierra de la Laguna, Baja, Mexico
In Southern Baja, just a little over an hour’s drive from Cabo San Lucas, winter in the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains is the ideal time for hiking through what can often be a very lush oasis in the desert. In fact, this area receives far more rainfall than any other part of the peninsula, most between July and October, providing a drastic change in scenery from the desert below. There are waterfalls and even natural hot springs to discover, but you’ll want to go with a guide as the trails can be difficult to find and follow.