Braving the Cold: The Case for Winter Hiking

You’ve done it. You’ve clicked on an article about being outside, hiking, in the winter – and you’re still here! Congrats! This isn’t so bad, is it? 

Here in Minnesota, we have a true divide between those who crave the magic of winter and those who despise it with every inch of their being. But, now that the fall colors have reached their peak and are slowly falling off, stores are sneakily hosting Christmas decor sales, and the homes of Minnesotans are flipping from their AC to heat: I think it’s time we talk about it. It’s time to embrace being outside in the winter. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking in the summer when the sun is out, or the autumn when the leaves are falling. But in a season when it’s hard to convince yourself to go outside and it feels like it’s dark nearly 24/7, getting into winter hiking can be really good for your mental wellbeing and overall health

Read more about some of my favorite people who are all about the benefits of the cold.

Benefits of Hiking in the Cold 

  • Our local Minnesotan advocate a few years ago, Eric Dayton, taught us how to love all that Minnesota’s rough winters have to offer by just embracing it and remembering how special it is. It’s part of our culture, after all. 
  • Wim Hof taught me the benefits of cold therapy on the body and its immune-boosting health benefits. It also gives us energy, more focus, better recovery time and connects us to nature. (I’m not taking cold showers yet, but his wisdom has gotten me outside more in the winter.) 
  • Chris Burkard, who famously tackles cold weather for adventure sports, always reminds me that “Anything that is worth pursuing is going to require us to suffer, just a little bit.” Though the outdoors in the winter isn’t always picture-perfect, it shows us how strong and capable we really are. 

Have I convinced you yet? What about the fact that Minnesota’s incredible system of state parks and trails are available for use year-round? My Minnesota Hiking Guide has the best trails, many of which I’ve done (and loved) in the winter. One of my favorite trails in the winter is in Tettegouche State Park, seeing a frozen High Falls – but there are so many good ones! In my opinion, there is something truly magical about hiking when the weather gets colder and there’s freshly fallen snow on the ground. To top it off, there’s a satisfying feeling that comes with knowing you’ve embraced the winter, head-on. 

Don’t knock it until you try it. Winter hiking can change your winters for the better. 

Rachel Enerson

Rachel Enerson