The look and feel of winter hiking is unlike any other season.
With the chaos of the holidays over, the great outdoors offers a peaceful setting to start the new year. The simple beauty of bare branches and easily spotted wildlife in addition to crisp, cool temperatures create a serene backdrop for outdoor adventure.
Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor recreation coordinator Jordan Hart is a fan of winter hiking.
“I like getting out in the winter,” he said. “There are less people and you don’t have to worry about bugs.”
However, there a few considerations before hitting the trail for a cold weather hike.
“Some people don’t think about bringing water when it’s cold, but you need to stay hydrated and many of the outdoor fountains will be closed,” Hart reminded.
Hart also advises hikers to bring snacks to stay fueled.
“And dressing in layers will help you control how much you sweat,” he said.
If cold weather hiking is out of your comfort zone, start small. Many MetroParks offer a variety of trails, some less than .5 miles.
“Start with a smaller loop or short out-and-back,” Hart said. “Pay attention to your body.”
Hart offers some recommendations for scenic winter hikes.
Winter “hot” spots
1. Carriage Hill MetroPark
The park’s four trails vary in length from .7 to 3.4 miles but all offer views of the scenic Cedar Lake. From there, explore the wetlands, prairies or woodlands.
“The yellow trail is awesome because you can see all kinds of things – prairies, forest and the pond,” Hart said.
Winter offers the added benefit of unobstructed views of the Cedar Lake and the North Woods Pond.
Address: 7891 E. Shull Rd., Dayton (Cedar Lake)
More: Visit www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/carriage-hill/
2. Englewood MetroPark
With 1,900 acres of woods, wetlands, meadows and lakes, Englewood MetroPark offers a variety of landscapes year-round.
“I love hiking along the Stillwater River,” Hart said. “And the waterfalls along the green trail are amazing.”
With multiple short trails – less than a half mile – it’s an ideal park for a short winter walk or power through the almost 4-mile green trail and be rewarded by stunning views of three waterfalls – Martindale, Patty and Oaks falls. Englewood MetroPark is also home to the Benedict Blincoe Wildlife Observation, one of the best birding sites in the area.
Address: 4361 W. National Road, Vandalia (East Park entrance)
More: Visit www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/englewood/
3. Hills & Dales MetroPark
The historical urban forest has been a Miami Valley mainstay for more than century. With paved and natural trails, a wetland boardwalk, picturesque Dogwood Pond and waterfall as well as several shelters – some with fireplaces – and even a massive stone tower, Hills & Dales offers a variety of unique features for hikers. This urban gem is just south of downtown and has several conveniently located parking lots.
“I love the Adirondack Trail, back and forth through the entire park,” Hart said.
And at about 1.5 miles each way, a round trip hike is a manageable 3 miles from start to finish.
Address: 2471 Deep Hollow Rd., Oakwood
More: Visit www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/hills-dales/
4. Sugarcreek MetroPark
Wooded trails – complete with a pair of 550-year-old trees – and expansive prairies welcome visitors to the Bellbrook park that spans more than 600 acres. The half-mile red trail offers a short route through Sycamore Ridge while the longer orange trail includes the ancient white oak trees known as the “Three Sisters” as well as the Osage orange tunnel, a living tunnel created by the arching branches of the namesake trees.
“The Osage orange tunnel, especially with a little snow on the ground and the branches, has a whole different look in the winter,” Hart said.
Address: 4178 Conference Road, Bellbrook (main entrance)
5. Twin Creek MetroPark
From the challenging Twin Valley Trail to the peaceful Twin Creek and the High View to the Hopewell Indian Mounds, this 1,000-acre MetroPark is filled with breathtaking vistas.
“It’s amazing to hike along the creek,” Hart said. “There’s also nice elevation so you can really challenge yourself.”
With so many trails to choose from, hikers can venture out for a short hike along the 1.1-mile blue trail or challenge themselves on the 6-mile orange trail.
Address: 9688 Eby Rd., Germantown
More: Visit www.metroparks.org/places-to-go/twin-creek/
ODNR Winter Adventure
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is also celebrating the simple beauty of the season with the Ohio State Parks Winter Hike Series. ODNR staff members have dozens of winter hikes planned in state parks and nature preserves across Ohio.
Explore all Ohio has to offer from frozen waterfalls to snow-covered bridges and abundant wildlife. Share your photos with #ODNRWinter and they may be featured on the ODNR social media accounts.
For more information or to find a hike, visit https://ohiodnr.gov/go-and-do/family-friendly/winter-activities/osp-winter-hike.
Winter Recreation Safety
(Ohio Department of Natural Resources)
Come prepared, be aware and know when to go indoors.
Dress for the Cold
- Dress warmly in layers. Start with insulating fabrics and use a final layer of protective fabrics.
- Insulating fabrics trap the body’s heat. Start with thin layers of polypropylene close to the skin. Add fabrics that retain heat even when wet such as wool or synthetic fleece.
- Avoid 100 percent cotton garments, as they are most effective at drawing heat away from the body.
- Protective fabrics prevent the elements from cooling the insulating layers. Parkas, rain suits, paddling gear and jackets made of nylon, Gore-tex or microfiber are ideal.
- Keep your head, neck and hands covered, and wear waterproof boots.
· Drink water to prevent dehydration and avoid alcoholic beverages.
· Be alert for symptoms of hypothermia: uncontrollable shivering, drowsiness, slow or slurred speech, memory lapses or clumsiness.