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7 Best Winter Hiking Trails In The U.S.

December 02, 2021

best winter hiking trails in the US

Photo by Joey C on Unsplash

Hiking in winter? Yes, please!

The days may be shorter but they are definitely way cooler. So gear up, because we’ve covered different terrains of varying difficulty for you to explore.

Enjoy hiking in scenic snow-covered landscapes this winter. Explore off the beaten hiking trails with few other hikers. Have fun in the chilly winter atmosphere with your friends and families. Choose any one of these 7 must-see winter wonderland hiking destinations.

Related: Winter Hiking Gear For Beginners

Take your pick and hike to your heart’s content inside these 7 best winter hikes in the US.

1) Brockway Summit Tahoe Rim Trail, Lake Tahoe, California

best winter hiking trails in the US

Photo by Clayton Cardinalli on Unsplash

There’s limited access to some of the trailheads in the Tahoe Rim Trail during the winter. But you can still enjoy some of its scenic hikes in some areas. Make sure to check the weather forecast and find out there’s no risk of an avalanche before you go ahead of your trip.

The popular Brockway Summit trail is perfect if you’re pressed for time. It’s quick and easy to complete. It is only 3 miles for a round trip with moderate difficulty. To get to the summit, you’ll have to pass through a forest with snow-dusted aspens, firs and cedars. You might even get see some some lava flow formations.

At the top, you’ll get to see a glorious view of Lake Tahoe, one of the oldest lakes in the world. So, make sure to bring your camera!

2) Devil’s Garden Trail, Arches National Park, Utah

best winter hiking trails in the US

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If you’d like to see sandstone rocks topped with snow, the Devil’s Garden Trail is the way to go. Some routes are close during this season due to the slippery ice. But still there are a lot of sections worth checking out.

It’s an ideal place to bring your family since there are easy hikes which you can opt for if you’re going with kids. There are also adrenaline-pumping ones for the more daring hikers.

Some of the easy ones include the Landscape Arch which is a very short hike of 1.6 miles for a round trip. It starts to get harder as you reach the Double O Arch which is a 2.5-hour hike. But, whatever you choose, you’ll with the views of the beautiful arches and rock formations.

3) Emerald Lake Hike, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

best winter hiking trails in the US

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If you’re looking for the perfect winter snows adventure then check out the Emerald Lake Hike. This hiking trail goes through the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Many even consider this to be one of the most popular hiking trail in the park. Not surprising since it’s easy to complete and the views are stunning.

It’ll take you approximately 3 hours on the average to finish this 3.6 mile-round trip. Before you get to Emerald Lake, you’ll start in Bear Lake trail head. Later on, you will encounter some nice views of Dream Lake and Nymph Lake.

It’s not rare for the lakes to freeze over during winter. But it’s still important to be on the safe side when walking to the center. Look out for cracks and you may fall as the ice is too thin at some places. Depending on the weather, it might be a bit slippery. There’s a shop in Estes Park where you can rent some snowshoes.

Once you reach your destination, you’ll be able to marvel at the magical views of Emerald Lake. You’ll also be able to see Hallett, Flattop, and Notchtop Mountains.

4) Mount Ellinor Trail, Olympic National Forest, Washington

best winter hiking trails in the US

Photo by Elizabeth Gottwald on Unsplash

Challenge yourself this winter with a hike on the Mount Ellinor Trail. This trail takes you through the beautiful Olympic National Forest. A hike on this trail offers lovely views that make this strenuous trip worthwhile. There’s a slim chance that you encounter a wild animal while hiking here.

Before your trip, check if the weather and avalanche conditions. You should also always focus on your safety and bring necessities like an ice axe and crampons.

To get to the summit, you can choose between the upper and lower trailheads. The upper trailhead is shorter at 2.6 miles for a roundtrip but steeper. But the lower trailhead is 6.2 miles for the roundtrip – longer but easier. You can also see the Cascades, Hood Canal and Lake Cushman as you go up. This means you get to enjoy the views while taking a breather.

5) Swamp Canyon Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

best winter hiking trails in the US

Photo by Andy Wang on Unsplash

The snow-topped red rocks with the clear, blue sky as its backdrop make the Swamp Canyon Trail a joy for the eye. You get the opportunity to check out cool rock formations in this somewhat easy 2-hour hike. But it’s not as popular as the other trails in Bryce Canyon National Park.

And since it’s not crowded, you’ll be able to feel a sense of solitude as you explore this 4.3-mile loop trail. From the junction, you’ll find a field of ponderosa pines when you turn left. Then, you’ll descend a gully until you reach a beautiful canyon with pink cliffs. Upon turning right, you’ll reach a flat path and walk under the rim. Here you’ll be able to feast your eyes on cliffs, hoodoos and a forest.

You’ll then end up ascending the Swamp Canyon after turning right at the next junction. Once there, you’ll be able to see hills of different shades. Finally, after a few switchbacks, you’ll complete the loop and your hiking trip.

6) Arizona National Scenic Trail, Arizona

The Arizona National Scenic Trail, also known as the Arizona Trail, is a very popular hiking trail. It’s famous for its 800-mile trail that takes about 30 to 40 days to finish. It includes 43 passages that spans the north to south length of Arizona. The hike starts at the Coronado National Memorial near the US-Mexico border. And ends in the Kaibab Plateau region near the Arizona-Utah border.

You can choose to complete one passage or complete the whole trail in one season. The passages vary in difficulty with a wide range of terrain. You’ll be able to encounter diverse wildlife and vegetation along the way. But keep your eye out for beautiful views.

The desert temperatures of Arizona can be quite brutal to hikers during summer. So, the cold temperature is a welcome change. But do remember to bring snow shoes and check the weather and snow conditions from time to time. If there’s too much snow, it’s recommended that you stick to the warmer trails.

7) Roan Mountain, North Carolina and Tennessee

best winter hiking trails in the US

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Last but not the least, we have the Roan Mountain which is something you don’t want to miss out on. It has a marvelous winter sunrise that colors the mountainous landscape. It’s well-worth the extra effort you make in waking up early.

Aside from the sunrise, you’ll also love the gorgeous views of the Appalachian Trail. You can see plenty of breathtaking glimpses from the peak of the Roan Mountain.

There are different trails of varying difficulty. So, it’s suitable for people of all age including young hikers. Try the Appalachian Trail if you want to go hiking for 4.7 miles. It’s the top favorite hiking route amongst fellow hikers.


If you’re looking for an adventure this winter season, these 7 best winter hikes in the US are the perfect place to start. Time to lace up your boots and go hiking!

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