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Winter Hiking Safety Tips

When temperatures dip and snow blankets the Niagara Escarpment, the Bruce Trail can feel like our own winter wonderland. But winter hiking brings its own set of challenges. Here are a few important ways you can stay safe while hiking this winter.

Plan ahead

  • Check weather conditions before heading out and be prepared for them to change.
  • Choose a route that is familiar to you. When trails are covered in snow, it can be harder to find your way. Be extra attentive in looking for trail blazes.
  • Avoid hiking alone. Bring a friend or two for safety and fun.

Plan for earlier, shorter days

  • Choose a shorter distance than you would normally cover in summer conditions. Snow and ice will slow your hiking speed.
  • Nightfall arrives earlier in winter months. Start early in the day and plan to be off the trail before dark.
  • Pack a flashlight or headlamp, with fresh batteries.

Wear and pack layers

  • Staying dry is key to staying warm in the winter and layers will help you do both.
  • Start with a good base layer, add a mid-layer, and then a shell on top. Cover your head, neck and hands. Add or remove layers to minimize sweating.
  • Don’t overdress at the beginning. You should feel slightly chilly before you start as you’ll warm up when you hike. Pack a puffy jacket you can pull out when you stop for a snack.
  • Avoid wearing cotton since it holds moisture. Opt for synthetics or wool. This goes for socks too.

Keep your footing with boots, icers & poles

  • Wear sturdy, waterproof footwear with a good tread and use extra caution in icy conditions.
  • Icers, or similar removable footwear traction devices, can help secure your footing and make it easier to walk and to balance on challenging terrain.
  • Hiking poles can help with stability on ice and snow by acting like extra limbs. When not using hiking poles, carry them horizontally with the points facing forward.

Fuel your body and stay hydrated

  • Hiking in the cold burns more calories, so bring extra snacks and drinks. Calorie-dense foods such as nuts and chocolate are great.
  • Dehydration can be a common problem in winter. It’s tempting not to drink as much when you’re cold and it’s not as easy to notice how much you are sweating. Make sure to bring and drink plenty of water.

Remember: the Bruce Trail is not maintained in the winter

Trail conditions vary according to season and the weather. Hazards exist along the Bruce Trail. You are responsible for your own safety.