Winter hiking fine, but preparation is key

Winter hiking fine, but preparation is key

Although colder weather requires some adaptations, it should not signal the end of the hiking season. Hikes and nature walks should be exhilarating activities in every month of the year.

It’s no secret winter days in Ohio can bounce from almost spring-like temperatures to freezing within an hour or two. Wind has a big impact upon how cold we feel. An air temperature of 40 F on a day with little or no wind can feel like 32 F with a 15-mph wind.

Although it’s important to dress for the weather all the time, it’s especially important in cold weather hiking season. The age-old advice to dress in layers is still valid. The layers provide tremendous versatility and allow you to easily accommodate to changes in body temperature that occur as you hike briskly, saunter at a slow pace or stop to rest.

The base layer is your first line of defense against the cold. Synthetic fabrics or merino wool are excellent base layers because they can wick moisture and dry quickly. Cotton is not recommended for winter hikes because it takes so long to dry. You also need a mid-layer that insulates you from the cold and a shell that keeps out wind and water.

In addition to an insulated coat or jacket, I really like to include two other items for winter walks. First, neck gaiters or scarves are easily packable items that provide an amazing amount of warmth. Beanie-style hats also are very warm and reduce the loss of body heat through the head much better than do ball cap hats.

Be aware paved trails in parks are often not routinely cleared of snow and ice. Footwear designed for slippery conditions is a must.

Treat weather advisories with respect. Although everyone can give an example of a weather warning that did not happen, in most cases these warnings and advisories are spot on. Especially in winter, it’s just not worth the risk to ignore advisories.

Many hikers feel the hiking experience becomes more challenging as the temperature drops below 40 F. Of course, it’s very possible to hike at much colder temperatures, but as the temperature drops below 40 F, you need to be especially well prepared and have researched what is needed to stay safe and comfortable.

Hiking guide

Thanks to local author Emily Speelman, we have the Hiker’s Guide to Wayne County. This beautifully done guidebook gives succinct overviews of 18 local parks and includes maps and photos of these nearby natural treasures.

Our local parks are incredibly diverse. They range from the sports venues at Kinney Field to the boardwalks at the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area.

I got my copy of Speelman’s book at Local Roots Market and Teashop in Wooster, but this great resource also is available at The Wilderness Center bookstore. You also can contact Speelman at for other locations or order the book directly from the website.

The guidebook gives you the times that parks are open, a list of facilities available and the best way to utilize the park. Any special rules such as those pertaining to pets also are included. The maps and location photos also are very helpful.

Wayne County also is a part of the Rails-to-Trails program. According to its website, “Rails-to-Trails of Wayne County is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion, development and conversion of unused railroad and greenway corridors into multi-purpose, nonmotorized, public paths.”

Rails-to-Trails of Wayne County currently has four trails totaling 21 miles. For detailed information about the location and characteristics of local trails, go to the website at

Don’t wait until flowers are in full bloom to enjoy a hike or walk on our local trails. Watching spring arrive in a meadow or forest is a profound experience. It dramatically shows us winter doesn’t triumph. Spring is a beautiful botanical metaphor for hope and renewal.

Upcoming events

Here are several events that will come to the Secrest Arboretum in Wooster within the next few weeks:

Witchhazel Discovery will take place Feb. 17 from 1-3:30 p.m. Witchhazels signal the arrival of spring at Secrest. Come discover the numerous witchhazels in the Secrest collection. Experience the beauty and fragrance of these fascinating plants.

Tree Identification: Conifers will take place Feb. 18 from 1-3:30 p.m. Is it a spruce pine or a fir pine? Learn how to tell the difference between a spruce, pine, fir, hemlock and other common evergreens. Students will look at samples and learn key identifying characteristics.

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