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Hiking and trail running in the winter

Hiking and trail running in the winter, or nah?

There's no right or wrong answer.

Some prefer the cold, some prefer the heat.

Many hikers and trail runners switch to snow-shoeing, skiing, or snowboarding this time of year, but some continue to trek the trails.

Truth be told, I refused to run outside if it was under 55-degrees prior to 2019. Now I'm like, hey, if it's sunny, 15-degrees is fine. That might be an exaggeration, but I have happily hiked in 0-degree weather before and it really isn't bad as long as you are prepared for the cold.

Around this time last year, I had just started my Grand Canyon Rim-2-Rim training, so I was out on the trails in the snow with trax weekly. It was challenging, but ultimately I think it made me a better trail runner. By the time it was spring / time to run the R2R, I felt really good about the endurance and strength in my legs. Running and post-holing in snow will humble you greatly, but also heavily contribute to your trail strength.

This doesn't mean that you have to go freeze your ass off to get trail gainz, but I'm just sharing my positive experience with trail-ing in the winter.

If you choose to go to the trails during the winter, please consider the following:

1. Elevation. Are you in avalanche zones? Do you need avy training? I personally did not run or hike at elevations higher than +/- 8,000' in the winter because I do not have the proper training for those conditions.

2. Gear. Make sure you have the right gear to keep you warm and safe, plus, a little extra in case you injure yourself.

3. Sunrise/sunset. This may or may not already be obvious, but the sun sets earlier in the winter, so be mindful of what time you start your trek. It certainly gets chillier when the sun goes down!

4. Be aware of mud. If it's muddy and the trail is still open, go THROUGH the mud, not around it. This is part of the leave no trace principles. If you know it's muddy ahead of time, please find a different trail.

Additionally, other topics still apply -- tell someone where you're going, leave an itinerary, be prepared for all types of weather conditions, bring plenty of water and food, and enjoy the heck out of the trails!


Katharine Moustakes
Hey, friend!

I'm Katharine.

I'm a personal trainer, running coaching, and nutrition coach who's stoked about lifting, the outdoors, summit snacks, and my dog.


I understand that fitness is not your whole life. Fitness is a PART of your life. I approach training in a way that adds value to your life and longevity, so you can enjoy being active whether you're romping around in the mountains, playing with your kids, or signing up for your first 10K race.

I'm here to meet you where you are, so you can train safely and effectively, and gain strength and confidence both in the gym and on the trails.

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