As fall becomes little more than a memory and the visitors leave for warmer, flatter places, the first taste of winter often arrives as morning frost and then snow on high ground. At this time of year, the hiker seemingly has the forest all to his or her self. Only wildlife tracks can be found in the snow, and only wind and distant elk calls break the silence. When the valley floor is dry and the peaks are covered in snow, a steep hike feels much like visiting another world.
With good equipment and timing, it's possible to experience sights that very few people ever see. Depending on the snow depth, a typical hike takes 50-100% longer than it would in summer. A simple jaunt that might take 2 hours in July now takes 3-4 hours in snow, so it's important to stay in shape if you want to reach the more rugged destinations.
Hiking the same trail in two different seasons results in two very different experiences. The scents of the forest are not as strong, the colors of flowers and leaves are replaced with a monotone palette, but the ground tells a story of the last few hours. Tracks from every forest inhabitant, from squirrel to moose, show that the wilderness is still full of life, and the quiet hiker has a chance to catch a glimpse.
Want to experience the fun of a winter hike today? Here's a recent video from my Colorado Wilderness Walks series: