Vermonters love being outside all year round. In the winter, we bundle up and enjoy those sunny days, even when the temperatures are only in the 20s. Not everyone who lives here skis or snowboards. Many people simply take walks. Snowshoes can help in deep snowy trails, but they are not necessary for all adventures. Here are some tips and ideas to help you get outside on those sunny, but still cold, winter days in Rutland County.
Walking under the freshly fallen snow can feel quite magical. I personally love it when the boughs hang heavy with snow and create a canopy over the trails. If there is a dusting of snow on the branches and a bit of wind, the snow will blow into the air and if you’re lucky, the sun will make it look like it is sparkling as it falls to the ground. Admiring the snow is one activity to do while walking. Signing your name in the snow, usually with a stick or hiking pole, to tell others on the trail you have been there is always fun. And a classic favorite for both kids and adults is making snow angels. Pro-tip, make sure the snowbank is soft and there aren’t any sharp rocks or tree stumps below before you plop down in the snow.
Most hiking trails do not close in Vermont during the winter months. But the trails you hiked in the summer can feature different elements in the winter like slippery rocks and ice, making the hike longer and harder. If it is your first time hiking in the snow and ice, I suggest trying an easier hike than you would normally do. Pine Hill Park in Rutland City and the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Rail Trail in Castleton and Poultney are great, easier options. One of my favorites in Rutland County is Deer Leap Trail in Killington. The All Trails app rates this hike as moderate, so it might not be the best for winter hiking beginners. But with proper footwear like boots, snowshoes, or spikes, you will be fine. If you do come to ice, take it slow. Look around to see if there are trees or rocks you can use to help keep steady. Sometimes dropping your center of gravity by getting lower to the ground helps. And if all else fails, you can slide on your butt, though this is not the best tactic. Speaking of making sure you have the right footwear, make sure you wear clothes you will be warm in, but not too hot. Getting sweaty while hiking can be dangerous. If you are wet from sweat, you lose body heat much faster and become at risk of hypothermia. I like to wear fleece-lined pants, a hat, gloves, and a few warm layers I can easily take off.
During the winter, snow can melt and leave muddy spots along the trails. It is best to avoid walking through these areas. Hikers walking on wet ground can damage the surrounding vegetation, widen trails, and prevent natural drainage of the trail. Another rule, leave no trace. Whatever you bring for your hike, be sure to bring it out of the woods with you. Hand warmers are a popular tool to keep your fingers warm, but sometimes they fall out of gloves and onto the ground. Keep an eye out for wrappers that may fall out of a backpack or pocket, and please help by picking up any you find along the way.
Once you get to the top of the mountain, the view will be incredible. I love sitting at the top of Deer Leap Trail, which overlooks Pico Mountain. From here, you can watch the skiers and snowboarders, and look beyond at the mountains to the West. It can be cold because of the wind, so bring an extra layer to cover up. If you want more tips on winter hiking or suggestions on where to go, connect with us here! We love sharing fun ways to get outside in this beautiful region we call home.