Make Friends With Winter: Iconic Treks for Finding Cold-Weather Adventure


This article was produced in partnership with Fjällräven

You don’t have to like the cold to love hiking in winter; you just need the right gear. Instead of fretting over frigid temperatures, wind chill, and snow-slicked terrain, suiting up with the proper attire allows you to comfortably appreciate the solace and solitude that comes with winter hiking.

One of the benefits of getting outside in winter is that during the colder months, the trails are less busy (the fairweather hikers stay home). That means you’ll get peace and quiet as well as space to take your time and enjoy the journey. By slowing down your pace, you can fully appreciate the winterized landscape: trees frosted with powder, creeks frozen over, sounds amplified, and wildlife contrasting against the stark winter sky.

Even if your adventure takes you somewhere with temps above freezing, you’ll want to layer up for maximum comfort and protection. To help you choose the most appropriate gear for your winter explorations, we’ve matched three iconic U.S. trails with Fjällräven trousers that are perfect for the conditions on each route. Hiking in snow? There’s a trouser for that. Hiking in the dry desert? There’s a trouser for that, too.

Franconia Ridge Traverse, New Hampshire
Vlad G / Shutterstock

Franconia Ridge Traverse, New Hampshire

The sun isn’t up yet when you strap crampons to your boots at the trailhead for the Franconia Ridge Traverse in New Hampshire. It’s winter and unbelievably cold at dawn—so cold that you consider curling back up in your car and blasting the heat. But you keep getting ready.

You’re prepared for whatever lies ahead, even if the fog rolls in and winds pick up, because you’re wearing your trusty Fjällräven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Trousers. The 9.3-mile loop in Franconia Notch State Park near Lincoln, NH, traverses the second-highest range in the White Mountains. You gain 3,800 feet along a knife-edge ridge with commanding views of the valley, and you bag three 5,000-foot peaks in the process: Little Haystack Mountain, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Lafayette.

Fjällräven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Trousers.
Nothing keeps you better protected like the waterproof three-layer shell design of the Bergtagen Eco-Shell Trousers. Courtesy Image

Its challenging nature makes it one of the most rewarding hikes in the Northeast. Between April and October, it’s packed with hikers taking advantage of mild temperatures and hoping to see the cascading 80-foot Cloudland Falls. But winter is also one of the trail’s best seasons: The crowds thin and the snow frosts the birch, beech, and red spruce trees, creating incredible views.

This route starts across Interstate 93 from the Lafayette Campground, where you can find restrooms. You can either hike the loop clockwise to reach the American Mountain Club’s Greenleaf Hut first (it’s closed in the winter but open other times of the year), or go counterclockwise to spot Shining Rock, a huge rock slab visible from far away. Each direction takes an average of seven hours—possibly more depending on conditions.

Red rock mountains in winter
Anna Nuss / Shutterstock

Snow Canyon & Red Mountain Trail, Utah

You weren’t in the mood for heavy snow when you started planning your next winter hike—your boots need some time to dry out. So your friend suggested heading to southwestern Utah, where it’ll likely be drier and a little warmer. It will certainly be beautiful. With its incredible red and orange rock formations, even a light dusting of snow offers a stunning color juxtaposition in this part of the state.

The Fjällräven Keb Trouser is an ideal choice for heading into these dry and cold conditions. The Keb blocks chilly air while also creating a durable buffer that can stand up to brushes against rocks and tree branches. With its generous ventilation zippers, this trouser is adaptable to all seasons, so you don’t have to bury it in your closet once winter ends.

You and your friend decide to try the Snow Canyon & Red Mountain Trail, which offers a remote escape into the backcountry. This 12-mile out-and-back skirts the northwestern edge of Snow Canyon State Park. As the name suggests, this area receives snow during the winter. Usually it’s just a light layer, and because of the high altitude and exposure to the sun, any frost or ice melts off the rock quickly.

Acorn colored technical pants
While made of durable G-1000 fabric, Keb Trousers offer plenty of stretch for unrestricted movement. Courtesy Image

Over the course of the route, the trail gains 1,400 feet in elevation, and as you climb, you pass over breathtaking rock formations and gullies of sand. When you’re not focused on the trail in front of you, you keep an eye out for some impressive landmarks. To the north, there’s the conical Veyo Volcano. To the southeast, you scan the horizon for the flat-topped Santa Clara Volcano.

The trail is considered difficult because wandering off course is easy to do. (Good thing you packed a good map and brought along some sharp wayfinding skills.) The trail starts off Utah State Route 18 and travels south into the Red Mountain Wilderness.

Redwood forest
Cape Falcon Trail in the redwood forest on Oregon’s coast. Dmitry Taranets / Shutterstock

Cape Falcon Trail, Oregon

In some places, winter means it’s wet. Oregon’s coast is notoriously misty and muddy during the winter months; the weather adds some variety to any trip near the Pacific Ocean. To boost water resistance and keep yourself dry while exploring this region, add a layer of Greenland Wax to your Fjällräven Abisko Lite Trekking Trouser. It’ll give an extra boost to an already capable layer: The Abisko Lite is made from G-1000 Lite fabric that’s pliant and dries quickly.

Man hiking in tan cargo pant and green jacket
Attention to detail abound with the Fjällräven Abisko Lite Trekking Trouser: roomy pockets and leg endings with boothooks and strap adjustments. Courtesy Image

The Cape Falcon Trail in northwestern Oregon is an excellent trail for experiencing the majesty of the Pacific Northwest. (To get there, park near the trailhead off the Oregon Coast Highway, where there are restrooms and signs.)

Surfers and families head in the same direction as you when you find the path and begin hiking. Fog obstructs your view of the scenery, but you hope it burns off by the time you reach the lookout, which comes after climbing more than 500 feet along the coast.

As you approach Short Sand Beach, the trail forks to the right, leading you up a moderately steep hill. The 5.2-mile out-and-back travels above the beach and ascends to the Cape Falcon Lookout, where you can watch the waves crash against jutting rocks. Exposed tree roots add a challenge along the way, and mud is a guarantee after it rains.

To extend your hike in Oswald West State Park, continue north along the bluff up the Arch Cape Trail. This route eventually connects to the Oregon Coast Trail, which stretches for 362 miles along the state’s coastline.

Gear Up and Get Out There

When winter weather sets in, it’s easy to think that your window for outdoor adventure has closed. But with a little planning—and the right gear—you can experience breathtaking landscapes, enjoy less-crowded trails, and stay warm and dry even when the conditions turn cold, snowy, or wet. The trails above are just a sampling—there are all kinds of amazing places to discover this season.

Winter is waiting. Are you ready to explore all it has to offer?