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Hiking in the winter? You bet!



Hudson Valley treks can be just as much fun in cold weather

The Hudson Valley is famous for hiking, but when the last leaf falls and the “peepers” all head home, what’s left for us locals over the winter? Winter hikes can take your breath away (and not just from the cold temperatures) with pristine snowscapes and frost-glazed forests.

I’ll never forget waking up to a white Christmas last year and taking my family out for a hike at Poet’s Walk in Rhinebeck. I wrapped up the baby in her carrier while my husband took off through the snow with our older daughter. We spent that Christmas morning building snowmen and mini snow castles for my daughter’s new Little People toys (a Santa, an elf, and a reindeer). With the cozy gazebo nearby and the sweeping vista of the Hudson River and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge in the background, the snow transformed the hike and our morning with its wintry magic.

READ MORE: The best cold-weather hiking spots

The whole world looks different in winter, and our favorite trails are no exception. Snow-covered trails provide great opportunities for observing and identifying animal tracks. Bare trees open up viewpoints covered by the canopy during the other three seasons.

With a little preparation and the right gear, there’s no reason for your family not to enjoy hiking just as much in the winter as in any season.

Lots of layers

Becky Copenhaver, a Tillson mother of three and co-owner of Wright Naturals, loves hiking in a fresh snowfall. She fondly recalls the experience of wrapping her first child in a carrier and walking through the snowy trails with her sleeping baby. Becky recommends lots of layers and advises parents to bring along extra mittens and socks. Her family loves Smartwool socks and “a pair of Wright Naturals Cozy Hands in our pockets to keep little fingers warm.” And, she adds, “hat and scarves are non-negotiable.”

Pleasant Valley mom of two Kerry Schwarz agrees there’s no need for snow to forestall a winter walk in the woods. She cites the Scandinavian expression, “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing” and declares, “We love all-weather fun.” On her blog, The Adventures of Chicolini and Company, she encourages parents to experiment with different baby-wearing methods to make hiking and nursing with little ones easier and enjoyable for the whole family.

READ MORE: How to dress your baby for the cold

Kid-friendly hikes

That’s also the purpose of one local dad’s website Hike the Hudson Valley. An experienced outdoorsman from Hopewell Junction and father of two, the site’s creator Mike Todd provides “step-by-step trail guides to 52 (and counting) of the best hikes in the area,” and the green pins on the site’s map indicate hikes that work especially well with children in tow. Some of Mike’s favorite area hikes with his kids include Dover Stone Church, Burger Hill, High Falls Conservation Area, Falling Waters Preserve, Poet's Walk, and Peach Hill Park. Mike recounts a frightening fall he took while hiking with one of his children in a back-carrier, and offers his No. 1 tip for parents who baby wear: “Use a pair of trekking poles. They're extremely handy for giving you extra stability, since stumbling is not really an option.”

Armed with these tips, you and your family can enjoy winter beyond downhill skiing or sledding. Some trails allow for snowshoes or cross-country skis, but many are accessible with good walking shoes or boots.

Erin Wyble Newcomb hikes, writes, runs, reads, plays, and loves with her husband and two daughters in the Hudson Valley. She teaches literature and composition at SUNY New Paltz and escapes into the forest with her family every chance she gets.