It may seem like a crazy question to ask, but is hiking in the Berkshires actually better in the winter? A number of you may jump to defend the sweet wildflowers of spring, the long days of summer, or the brilliant colors of fall, but those in the know will be enjoying the empty trails, sweeping vistas and a completely different challenge this winter, while the rest of you battle cabin fever.
Okay, hiking in the winter is certainly not a walk in the park, though maybe that’s how first-time winter hikers should start. While hiking in the warmer months allows room for the uninformed to tromp through the woods without carrying the 10 essentials, or knowing where they’re going, a mistake in winter can result in, at the very least, an uncomfortably cold day. But with a little knowledge and preparation, anyone who enjoys hiking in the other three seasons can take full advantage of winter hiking in the Berkshires.
Now that the disclaimer is over, what is it that makes winter hiking so great?
- The trails are pretty much empty. If you like hiking in solitude, winter is the perfect time to explore the wild mountains and forests of the Berkshires.
- No bugs! We’ve all been there – questioning our sanity, feeling like a pincushion as mosquitos and/or black flies feast on our limbs. On those sunny 35 degree days this March, with the sun reflecting off the snow, expose those arms and enjoy the freedom!
- Better views. The leaves are off the trees and the vistas open up on just about every mountainside. If you hike for views, you’ll no longer have to wait between rocky outcrops. Every turn delivers a new stunning landscape, especially at higher elevations.
- It’s a completely different experience when there’s a snowpack. Your rhythms change. The sounds change. The rocky scramble that you never noticed, is now something you have to stop and think about. It’ll give you a different perspective on your hiking the rest of the year too.
- Gear, gear, gear! If you want to go wild with new gear, winter hiking gives you that opportunity – gear nuts rejoice! But don’t worry, if you’re on a budget, you can use your summer gear with only a few important additions (like warmer layers and MICROspikes).
Convinced to give it a try? You can get started with your winter hiking preparations by visiting one of our wonderful outfitters, right here in the Berkshires, like Arcadian Shop in Lenox, or Berkshire Outfitters in Adams. They’ll be able to get you started with the gear you need to have fun and be safe hiking this winter. Plus, you’ll surely get some great tips, including some of the shop employee’s favorite hikes, like the variety of trails across the region owned by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council and open to the public.
If you want to be extra prepared we recommend checking out this guide from Camp Smartly about what 30 items you should bring. See you on the trail this winter!