Winter can refresh your favorite hikes and entice you to new destinations. With snow covering the ground, the once familiar mountains and forests of summertime are transformed. Grab your snowshoes or skis and check out these easy winter hikes.
Conners Nubble | Acadia National Park, Maine
Like many of the peaks in Acadia, Conners Nubble’s granite summit has few trees, so you can get a 360-degree view of the national park’s snowy landscape. From the trailhead on the north side of Route 233, turn left on the carriage road. Tromp beneath the spruce trees that tower above, and enjoy views of Eagle Lake and Cadillac Mountain. Turn on to the Eagle Lake Trail after 1.3 miles, and then go right on the Bubble Trail and follow it to the summit. Return via the same route.
Distance: 3.4 miles out-and-back
Info: Discover Acadia National Park, 3rd ed. (AMC Books)
Smarts Brook Loop | Thornton, N.H.
Winter hikers, snowshoers, and skiers can enjoy the snowy forest on these trails, originally developed for cross-country skiing. From the trailhead, follow a clockwise loop, starting on the Pine Flats Trail, continuing on to Yellow Jacket Trail, and ending on the Smarts Brook Trail. Along the way, the trail enters a 30-foot deep granite gorge and passes several beaver dams. Conifers, including white and red pine, hemlock, red spruce, and balsam fir, dominate the forest. The end of the loop passes through a northern hardwood forest, dense with yellow birches and striped maples. Several other cross-country ski trails crisscross the area so pay attention to signs and stay on the correct trail.
Distance: 3.2-mile loop
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains, 2nd ed. (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide Online
Tucker Preserve | Pembroke, Mass.
The Indian Head River was once home to big industry; the Clapp Rubber Company formerly owned the Tucker Preserve land and had their mills on an adjacent property. A nearby ironworks forged the anchors for the U.S.S. Constitution. Now, however, this land is protected for its scenic beauty. Starting at the West Elm Street trailhead, you’ll cross several stone walls, which are former pasture markers, as you make your way towards the river. The trail turns left to run parallel to the Indian Head River until it veers left again and into the woods of hickory, ash, and elm. Then, it loops back to the trailhead.
Distance: 1.8-mile loop
Info: Wild Lands Trust
Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area | Burlington, Conn.
The Tree Identification Trail is an informative section of Sessions Woods. You can find printed booklets at either end to help identify the trees. The real highlights, however, are the two wildlife-viewing blinds and watch tower situated on spur trails in a shady oak forest and a red maple swamp. The tower offers a 180-degree view toward the state’s Central Valley, from Avon to Meriden. The Hanging Hills of Meriden and West Peak are visible to the right. Start by following the road north from the parking area, past an iron gate and interpretive signs about the property’s vegetation. Heading downhill through a forest of white, red, and black oak, the path passes an enclosure where wildlife biologists conduct research on the effect of deer browsing on forest regeneration.
Distance: 3-mile loop
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Connecticut (AMC Books)
West Pond Loop | Broad Channel, N.Y.
Despite its proximity to New York City, the West Pond Loop, part of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, feels remote. Most people know this area best as seen from flights into and out of nearby JFK International Airport. The area is popular with birders and you can see wrens, sparrows, seagulls, herons, egrets, and swans in their season. From the visitor center, take the South Garden Trail right, along the edge of West Pond. Interpretive signs along the trail explain area bird-life. You can explore the marshland by hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing.
Distance: 1.8-mile loop
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes near New York City (AMC Books)
Valley Forge National Historical Park River Trail | King of Prussia, Pa.
The protection of Valley Forge National Historical Park has preserved several miles of the Schuylkill River as undeveloped green space. From the Belzwood Trailhead, follow the River Trail west. About a mile along, visit the site of Sullivan’s Bridge, the only bridge built by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. At the 3-mile mark, look across the river to see Washington’s Headquarters, a stone house where George Washington lived during his time at Valley Forge. Shortly after that, the trail loops around and turns into the Walnut Hill Trail heading back east. You can snowshoe or cross-country ski along the river.
Distance: 6-mile loop
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes near Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Lake Artemesia and the Northeast Branch Trail | College Park and Berwyn Heights, Md.
Lake Artemesia is a bit unusual. Half of the lake is natural, and half was created in the 1980s from dredging for fill to build a railroad line along the area’s western edge. Starting from the Paint Branch Parkway, head east along the sidewalk and look for the wooden Northeast Branch trail signs. The holly-lined entrance to the trail is steep, but quickly levels out. Continuing along, the Northeast Branch Trail’s zero-mile marker is just over the wooden-decked steel bridge; the Northeast Branch Trail is 3 miles long, but you’ll just traverse an end section of it to connect with the Lake Artemesia trail system. Be on the lookout for deer and rabbit tracks as you circle the lake—they are common in the area.
Distance: 3.5-mile loop
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes near Washington, D.C. (AMC Books)
CONTRIBUTORS: Robert N. Buchsbaum, Daniel Case, Susan Charkes, Beth Homicz, Rene Laubach, Stephen Mauro, Jerry and Marcy Monkman, Charles W. G. Smith.