Two things about me: I love winter, and I love snow. I know this season isn't everyone's favorite, but I love it. Maybe having a birthday in January helps my situation. Seeing falling snow kindles some kind of childhood magic within my soul. After a good snow storm, I love getting outside and playing in the snow with my little ones. It's exhilarating to get all decked out in snow gear and pretend to be a kid again, building a snow man or a sledding hill.
Another thing about me: I love getting out of the house and doing things. I can't stay cooped up for too long in my house with my kids. Getting out is what keeps me sane as a mother. Even when I'm five months pregnant (which I currently am).
This past month, the Wasatch Front has been blessed with some pretty awesome snow storms, covering everything in sight with fluffy white stuff. A few weeks ago I decided I needed to get out of the house and try a hike in the snow with two of my kids, while my oldest was at school.
I picked a sunny, mostly inversion-free day (thankfully we haven't had to deal with too much inversion during this winter), dressed my girls and me in our warm winter gear, and headed to the nearest trail head, which happened to be at the top of the Avenues in Salt Lake City (drive all the way up "I" Street to the top of the Avenues and you'll find the trail head to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail).
With a kid backpack (youngest kid inside) strapped to my back (did I mention I was 5 months pregnant? And that this was a monstrous undertaking?? This tells you how desperate I was to get outside on a hike . . .), and my second oldest as my hiking companion, we set off on the snow-covered trail. We decided to conquer a steep hill in order to see the view of the Salt Lake Valley from the top. We took it easy, with plenty of breaks, and managed to make it up the steep incline (which you don't have to do to accomplish the goal of the view of the valley - we just wanted to tackle a big hill. There are easier trails to get you to the same place.). My 3.5-year-old was a trooper and didn't complain once. (I wanted to complain heartily because my 18-month-old in the backpack was so ridiculously heavy. I made a mental note to never wear the kid backpack again while being pregnant.) Once we'd seen the breathtaking view of the Salt Lake Valley, we headed down the snowy path, my 3.5-year-old sliding most of the way on her rear. She declared that she LOVED this hike and wanted to do it again soon.
Here's a list of my top 10 tips on what has made our winter hikes so fun and worthwhile, and some things I learned along the way:
1. Wearing snow clothes (gloves, hats, snow pants, boots, etc.) meant that we could literally crawl up the hill without worrying about getting dirty or anything like that. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to get down on all fours and do the same thing in the summer sans snow. How fun is it to be able to crawl/scoot up a trail?
2. Wearing snow clothes also meant that we could slide down the trail on our way back down. Seriously so fun! A couple of days after this, my family and I went on a hike up Millcreek Canyon (Desolation Trailhead). I dragged a cheap, lightweight plastic toboggan behind me on the hike up, and my husband held on to the rope while my kids rode in the sled on the way back down. The sledding on the way back sort of makes up for the fact that you might not make it to any sort of spectacular destination (as was our experience on this trailhead, since our kids only lasted so long on the hike up). You can't beat that for a fun hike!
3. Instead of using a heavy kid backpack (like a Kelty brand, which is what I used on this first hike), I tried out my Ergobaby 360 on my 18-month-old on a later hike. Using some sort of lightweight baby carrier was far and away the better choice for hiking (especially when pregnant and when hiking without an adult companion).
4. Keep the hike relatively short when going with little kids (30-60 mins). Winter is cold. Little faces and hands get cold. Big people get cold, too.
5. Wear sunscreen! It's easy to forget to put this stuff on in the winter, because you don't think that you can get sunburned in the cold weather, but it happens.
6. Bring snacks! And water! And hot chocolate! If not for the actual hike, for the return to the car.
7. Snowshoes or Yaktrax aren't absolutely necessary for snow hikes. My family and I do perfectly fine with our regular old snow boots. Because if you fall down on the snowy trail, it's kind of fun.( But we really haven't fallen down at all.)
8. So far, I've tried two different trail heads on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, as well as one trail head in Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake City. Check out the link for maps to all of the dozens of trail heads on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail that you find from the Idaho border of Utah all the way down south to Santaquin! That's a stretch of a few hundred miles of trail head options all along the Wasatch Front, whether you live in Cache County, Weber County, Davis County, Salt Lake County, Utah County or more!
9. Try any of your favorite trail heads that you normally like to hike in the summer. It's amazing how snow changes the landscape!
10. Check the weather and road conditions before you head out on a hike. It's probably best not to get caught on a trail in a blizzard.
Where are your favorite winter hiking spots? Do you have any tips you'd like to share about hiking in the snow? Please feel free to share!
Be sure to #thesaltproject on your winter adventures!