The expansive views and less crowded trails make for enjoyable hikes, but the colder temperatures are not without challenges.
“I think sometimes people don’t realize it’s easy to dehydrate in cold, dry weather, not just the hot weather,” Hess said. “Wearing appropriate warm-weather gear is important, but it’s also important to wear layers in case you get too hot once you start hiking — again, dehydration.”
Hess also suggests hiking with a friend and having a fully-charged cell phone in a safe, dry, secure location that you can easily access.
A little preparation can go a long way toward having a safe and enjoyable winter day outdoors.
“And if the trails are too muddy or icy, maybe skip your walk that day or walk somewhere that is safer,” Hess said.
Ready to bundle up and hit the trails, MetroParks staff weigh in on some of their favorite winter walks.
Sugarcreek MetroPark, 4178 Conference Road, Bellbrook
“The Orange Trail at Sugarcreek is one of my favorites in the winter,” said Chris Buck, MetroParks special events coordinator. “The Osage Orange Tunnel is magical covered in snow. You also get pretty close to Sugar Creek, which is beautiful after a snowfall. Just be careful, these trails get muddy when it snows on them and a lot of traffic has gone through.”
With more than 600 acres, Sugarcreek sports a variety of landscapes from wooded trails to expansive prairies. The orange trail includes the towering, ancient “Three Sisters” oak trees as well as the Osage Orange Tunnel.
Germantown MetroPark, 6401 Boomershine Road, Germantown (trailhead)
“The Wetlands Loop, one of our Heart Healthy Trails, is a lovely, flat trail for winter hiking that provides prairie views,” said Angela Moore, MetroParks outdoor recreation specialist. “You can choose to add variety by extending your hike and following the purple or orange trails.”
With more than 15 miles of wooded trails and a variety of terrain, there are options for hikers of all experience levels.
Hills & Dales MetroPark, 2471 Deep Hollow Road, Oakwood (Paw Paw Camp)
“The typography of the Adirondack trail is great – hilly, but not too strenuous,” said Mike Cooper, MetroParks trail manager. “You can stop and look at the tower along your hike, which looks really cool in the winter. When it’s covered in snow, the park looks really nice, as well. To hike there in the snow, you don’t need a special shoe, a snow boot or hiking boot will work fine.”
With paved and natural trails as well as a picturesque pond and wetland boardwalk, this urban gem hosts a variety of unique features and manageable trails for novice hikers and families.
Taylorsville MetroPark, 2101 U.S. 40, Vandalia (East Park)
“Hiking down by the river on the orange trail, you get great views, cool reflections and a chance to hike a few hills,” said Jordan Hart, MetroParks outdoor recreation coordinator. “Also, you get to walk along some great rock outcroppings.”
A little more than three miles and with some elevation, the orange trail can provide a workout. And frozen terrain means hikers can avoid the sometimes-muddy trails along the river.
Englewood MetroPark, 4361 W. National Road, Vandalia (East Park entrance)
“I particularly love the green trail at Englewood because it’s long enough (3.8 miles) that you feel like you’ve had some movement for the day and if it gets cold enough for a pretty long period of time, the waterfalls freeze, which is really cool because it’s like a giant wall of icicles,” said Lauren Lemons, MetroParks marketing coordinator.
With multiple short trails — less than a half mile — Englewood is ideal for a short winter hike. With woods, wetlands, meadows, waterfalls and even a swamp forest, every hike offers a unique experience.
Winter hike safety tips from Five Rivers MetroParks Chief of Public Safety Mark Hess
- If hiking or going outdoors alone, let someone you trust know exactly where you are going and when you expect to be back. If you’re going hiking, identify which trail or trails you’ll be hiking and the name of the park. “If you become injured in cold weather, it is imperative that we know where to start looking,” Hess said. “Time is of the essence in cold weather.”
- When participating in any outdoor activity, make sure to dress in layers so you can control your body temperature. You don’t want to sweat too much in the sun and then get very cold in the shade. Make sure you have high-quality hats, gloves, socks, clothing — and especially boots or other cold-weather-appropriate footwear.
- “If the trail looks too challenging, or gets too challenging, cancel for the day and go back to your car,” Hess said. “You can still spend time outdoors: Take a walk in the neighborhood instead.”
- Have a fully charged cell phone and keep it on you in an inside pocket where it will stay dry and warm. “Keeping you phone secured in an inside pocket keeps you from dropping it or losing it if you fall,” Hess said. “Cold weather also drains the battery more quickly.”
- Bring water. It is easier to dehydrate in the winter than you might think, as the cold air is often very dry.
- Don’t walk across frozen creeks, rivers or lakes. “You may think the ice is thick enough, but the thickness can vary widely and the water current under the ice might be strong,” Hess said.
- Most injuries in the winter come from falling. Wear good boots and watch your step. Don’t make any sudden or risky moves on the ice.
- “Don’t overdo it,” Hess said. “The cold weather and cold-weather activities can put a bigger strain on your body and drain your energy more quickly.”
- Take regular breaks and check on one another often. This is especially true for older people.
- Call for help as soon as you think you might need it. “Don’t wait,” Hess said. “Again, time is of the essence in the cold weather.”