Chautauqua Ranger Cottage. Photo by Isaac Nagel-Brice

7 Winter Hiking Tips in Boulder


As the saying goes, there is no bad weather. Only bad equipment.

You can (and should) hike in Boulder year-round. But when the temps drop and the snow falls, you will need to take a few extra precautions to make sure you remain safe and enjoy yourself.

Chautauqua Ranger Cottage. Photo: Isaac Nagel-Brice

1. Get informed.

Stop by the Chautauqua Ranger Cottage to grab a free trail map and talk to rangers. Ask them for trail recommendations, based on your own abilities and goals, as well as the weather and trail conditions. For example, some trails may be closed due to snow, ice, mud or general repair.

2. Check the web.

Visit the Open Space and Mountain Parks online map of trails to check for alerts and trail closures. Trails that are red are closed. Red and white dotted lines are temporarily closed for construction.

Note: A handful of trails are still closed for reconstruction after the 2013 flood in Boulder.

3. Dress appropriately.

Wear hiking boots or shoes (waterproof, if possible). Don’t hike in your flip-flops or Keds. Dress in layers, with a wicking layer closest to your skin to absorb sweat. Even if it’s cold out, you are likely to sweat while hiking. Cotton and denim are awful in snow and sweat. Toss a fleece jacket or vest on top for extra warmth. Wicking socks layered with wool socks are effective at battling cold toes, a common problem with snowy activities. A hat, gloves and scarf are all small to pack but can make a big difference if a gust of chilly wind hits. Bring a day pack to hold extra water, snacks and clothing layers. Bring some hand and foot warmers, just in case.

4. Get traction.

Pick up a pair of Yaktrax or MicroSpikes, little spikes you can attach to your shoes to provide extra traction and grip during inclement conditions. Also consider renting or buying a pair of hiking poles to help you make it through icy patches. You can find outdoor gear at many shops in Boulder, such as REI, Christy Sports and Neptune Mountaineering. Twenty bucks for extra traction is much cheaper than a broken hip from a fall.

Remember to always stay on the trail, even if it’s muddy. Boy Scout May’s Trail Photo: Isaac Nagel-Brice

5. Respect nature.

If you set out on a muddy trail, commit to it or turn around. Don’t veer off the trail to skirt the mud or snow. This widens the trails and doesn’t make Mother Earth happy. Be prepared if you want to take on the messy trails.

6. Stay hydrated.

Even in wintertime, you can get dehydrated. Proper hydration can also help combat altitude sickness.

7. Check out a group.

There are many hiking groups in Boulder. Even if you don’t want to join one, it’s worth it to check a few out online and see what other hikers are talking about, recommending and avoiding. This is an easy way to get inside info from locals on winter hiking. The Boulder Hiker Chicks Facebook group is a great place to start.

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