Although Winter is not the best time to enjoy typical warm-weather activities such as paddling and swimming, hiking at our Virginia State Parks is a great year-round activity! We have trails from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay to the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge.
The occasional upper 40 and 50 degree days provide great relief for “cabin fever.” There are few things as picturesque as walking along a snowy landscape. If Santa Claus gave you a sturdy pair of boots and a warm coat and hat, there is no reason not to put these gifts to use by hiking a trail or two!
If you can't paddle, you can still hike!
Winter time hiking does offer some challenges that require some preparation and precautions that are not considered during warmer months.
Most critical of these is the air temperature. Staying warm is the main priority as frostbite are real dangers. Ice and hard packed snow can pose a safety hazard as well. Being alert and thinking ahead will allow you to enjoy a hike during this unique time of the year.
Here are a few tips to consider:
- Check the weather – Storms along the sea can be just as hazardous as snow in the mountains. Stay home when the weather is dangerous or there are "weather advisories."
- Know your limitations – If you are inexperienced in hiking in snowy conditions in the mountains, go with someone who is. Even when hiking during good conditions, always take a partner with you. Do not hike alone, especially in the colder months.
- Take safety gear – A whistle in case you get injured or lost, a map to keep from getting lost and leave a hiking plan with someone indicating where you are going and what time you expect to return. If the ranger station is open, it is always wise to let them know of your plans.
- Protect your body – Wear something on your head, go for mittens instead of gloves, and opt for waterproof boots and windproof jackets. Say “no” to cotton clothing as it wicks heat away from the body.
- Avoid sitting on bare rock or metal – These surfaces pull heat away from the body.
- Avoid falls – Step on bare ground and exposed rocks. Don’t step on icy or hard packed snow surfaces. Since dogs pull on leashes and pull you, leave “Fido” at home as he may cause you to slip or stumble. If you do bring Fido along, ensure he has the warmth and wind protection he needs as well.
- Eat high energy snacks and drink water – keep your body well fueled and prevent dehydration.
- Stay alert for signs of cold or exhaustion in yourself or hiking partners. Never be afraid to cut the hike short if need be.
- Avoid late afternoon hikes – the hike back may be longer than you anticipated and the temperatures drop dramatically after sun-down.
Did you know that Best Five Virginia State Parks for Winter Hiking?
We offer everything from a basic walk along the pond and river bank, to challenging elevation changes and broad views of pristine tidal marsh. In fact, you will find some of the best views in the park are along a paved walkway encircling our Visitor’s Center. Make sure you bring a pair of binoculars and a camera as wildlife viewing and capturing their images will enhance your time in the outdoors.
Directions to York River State Park: From I-64, take the Croaker Exit 231B. Go north on Route 607 (Croaker Rd.) for one mile, then right on Route 606 (Riverview Rd.) about one and a half miles to the park entrance. Take a left turn into the park.