Winter hiking in the USA: 11 most popular routes for an unforgettable trip - ForumDaily
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Winter Hiking in the USA: 11 Most Popular Routes for an Unforgettable Trip

Inclement weather can't scare away avid outdoor enthusiasts who don't miss the chance to hike the snowiest and most magical trails. The USA is perhaps the most beautiful and seductive country for winter hiking. OnlyInYourState.

Photo: IStock

Lace up your hiking boots or strap on your snowshoes and hit the trail!

Here are the best, most magical winter hikes in America that will have you packing your backpack.

Sentinel Meadow & Cook's Meadow Loop - Yosemite National Park, California

Winter is a magical time to visit Yosemite National Park, with opportunities for hiking, snow recreation, and sublime solitude. The park's monoliths look even more wonderful in winter, with sparse but snow-covered foliage. The Half Dome rock formation in particular is a striking sight: this granite giant, which towers nearly 1,5 km above Yosemite Valley and 2,6 km above sea level, is the park's own North Star as it is visible from all angles . While climbers train for years to conquer Half Dome, less experienced adventurers can enjoy the spectacle via Sentinel Meadow & Cook's Meadow Loop. This 3-mile trail is an easy walk through two gorgeous meadows that offers wonderful views of various Yosemite landmarks such as Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Chapel and, of course, Half Dome.

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Address: Sentinel/Cook's Meadow Loop, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, USA.

Snowshoe Loop - Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier in Washington State, one of the snowiest places on earth, is a stunning sight during the winter season. The Paradise Area of ​​Mount Rainier National Park in Washington receives over 15m of snow each year, making it a true winter wonderland for hikers. When it comes to specific hikes, the Naches Peak Loop Trail is a favorite among those available (note winter access is limited to weekends). The park has a variety of snowshoe trails such as the 7km Paradise Valley Showshoe Loop.

Address: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA.

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Discovery Point Trail - Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake is one of the Pacific Northwest's most treasured gems. At an altitude of almost 600 m, this is the deepest lake in the entire country, and the azure blue color of the reservoir is due to its purity - the lake is not fed by any rivers and receives all its water from rain and melting snow. Crater Lake gets incredibly busy in the summer, but the winter months are much quieter. The park receives an average of 13 meters of snow each year, turning the place into a winter wonderland. On a clear day the lake looks stunning and is best seen from the trails. This national park has several trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, but nothing beats the views from the famous Discovery Point Trail. This nearly 4km trail is considered easy for most and offers swoon-worthy lake scenery, including the wonderful Wizard Island.

Address: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, USA.

The Watchman Trail - Zion National Park, Utah

The Watchman Trail takes on an otherworldly beauty in winter. If you are at all familiar with Zion National Park, you will immediately recognize the Watchman, which rises majestically above the canyon. The trail makes a 5 km loop around the monolith and is considered easy for most hikers, although it gains about 91 m of elevation along the way. Note that the trail doesn't actually lead to the tower, but to an observation deck that offers breathtaking views of the valley with the Watchman looming in the distance.

Address: Watchman Trail, Utah 84737, USA.

Emerald Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

You'll see three dazzling lakes along the Emerald Lake Trail, a wildly scenic route in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. And while this national park is often filled with avid hikers going on adventurous hikes, you'll be pleased to know that one of its most beautiful trails is actually quite accessible to the vast majority of adventurers. The Emerald Lake Trail is a breathtaking 5-kilometer hike that takes you through the dazzling scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park. This place takes on heavenly beauty in winter. As a bonus, the trail is less busy during the colder months, giving hikers the opportunity to truly escape into nature.

Address: Dream Lake Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Black Elk Peak Loop - Custer State Park, South Dakota

Don't count out Custer State Park during the winter months. It's during the winter that this South Dakota treasure shines brightest. Black Elk tops our list of the best hiking trails in South Dakota for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that the old fire lookout tower boasts the most amazing 360-degree panoramic views. This is one of the best places to watch the sunrise in South Dakota. Please note: this trail is almost 12 km long and can be challenging in some places, so please be careful while hiking, especially in winter.

Address: Black Elk Peak Trailhead, Sylvan Lake - Harney, Keystone, SD 57751, USA.

Cumberland Trail - Cumberland Trail State Park, Tennessee

In Tennessee, you'll find everything from stunning waterfalls and tranquil lakes to mountains and wildlife throughout the state. Among these treasures is the Cumberland Trail. It was originally explored and mapped by Daniel Boone in 1769. Today the trail is over 480 km long and offers some of the best hiking in the country. The topography is truly stunning, with a series of steep ridges and gorges that dot the famous Cumberland Plateau.

Address: Cumberland Trail, Signal Mountain, TN, USA.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Most people view National Lakeshore Pictured Rocks as a summer getaway with its azure waters and dazzling shores. However, don't count out Pictured Rocks during the winter months—the park is open year-round and truly shines at any time of year. During the winter, the cliffs and caves often freeze completely, and when conditions are safe, you can climb down and enter the ice caves for a truly surreal experience.

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Daredevils can even try ice climbing, although this is definitely a more advanced activity. In addition to the ice caves, heavy snowfall creates ideal conditions for winter snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling on the beautiful trails along the shores of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Address: Pictured Rocks, Munising Township, MI 49884, USA.

Breaks Interstate Park Loop Trail - Breaks Interstate Park, Kentucky and Virginia

Breaks Interstate Park covers parts of Kentucky and Virginia. The park is magnificent with its beautiful hills and wide canyons. The centerpiece is an eight-kilometer, 500-m-deep gorge commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of the South. It's a great place to explore, and we're partial to the 9-mile Breaks Interstate Park Loop Trail, which winds through some of the country's best winter scenery.

Address: Breaks Interstate Park, 627 Commission Cir, Breaks, VA 24607, USA.

Reeves Brooke Loop Trail - Harriman State Park, New York

A nature lover's paradise, Harriman State Park is a refuge just a few miles from one of the world's largest cities. New York State Park contains more than 320 miles of hiking trails that range in length from 3 to 32 miles, providing travelers with a true choose-your-own-adventure experience. In the winter, the park is postcard-perfect with frozen Lake Kanawauke as well as Lake Sebago. They are breathtakingly beautiful and seductive. When it comes to hiking, the Reeves Brooke Loop Trail, Diamond Mountain Trail, and Pine Meadow Trail are some of the most popular in the park. Walking along these trails in the silence of winter is truly magical.

Address: Harriman State Park, New York 10975, USA.

Gorham Mountain Trail - Acadia National Park, Maine

There are many hikes in Acadia National Park, and each one offers something special and completely unique. The Gorham Mountain Trail, for example, is the best winter hike in the park—offering explorers sweeping views of the iconic Acadia Coast. The 4km trail leads up Gorham Mountain before returning to the coast and sandy beach. If you thought this landscape was only magnificent in the summer, let's see what you say when you see it in the winter!

Address: Gorham Mountain Trail, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA.

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