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Winter Hiking Recommendations

Recommendations to enhance your Winter hiking experience.

As it gets dark early and the temperatures get cooler, it can be really easy to lose motivation to get outside. Hiking in the winter isn’t as easy in the warmer months where all you need is to slip on your shoes and hit the trail. With these winter hiking tips and a shift in mindset, hiking in the winter can actually be really fun! It is one of the best ways to stay active and healthy during the darker and colder months, when sitting in front of the tv sounds like a better idea. Here are our recommendations for hiking at Starved Rock State Park during the Winter season.

Hit the Trail Early

As the days get shorter, it is easy to get caught on the trails when the sun is about to go down. Starved Rock, Buffalo Rock, and Matthiessen State Parks open at sunrise and close at sunset, so making sure you are off the trails before sunset is required. Hit the trail as early as you can and plan your hike ahead.

Only have one day to hike? Click here to read our recommended winter day hike at Starved Rock State Park!

Winter hikes typically take longer as you tend to walk slower and encounter more obstacles along the way. Packing a flashlight just in case you get caught out late is never a bad idea. A reminder that the trails open at sunrise and close at sunset.

Batteries and Cold Don’t Mix

Having a cell phone on your hike is recommended to help you navigate around the park and call for help if there is an emergency. Phones and other technological devices that have batteries tend to malfunction in colder temperatures, so be prepared by bringing extra batteries/battery packs to try and keep your devices warm. We always recommend having an alternate method of direction besides a cell phone. In addition, snowpack can hide trail markings and make it easier to get lost, so having a paper map is always recommended!

Don’t Forget to Eat and Drink

Your body will need more calories than it usually does while hiking in the winter because it’s burning more to stay warm. Packing snacks is a perfect way to stay nourished on the trail! Snacks high in carbs and protein will give you the most energy. (Bringing a candy bar is always our favorite too!) Long breaks will leave you cold and your muscles will have a harder time warming up again, so we recommend bringing food that can be eaten quickly. Just because it is cold does not mean you need to drink less. Stay hydrated and take an insulated bottle to prevent your water from freezing over. Eating snow will only get you by for so long!


Don’t Slip!

Trails at all three parks can get extremely icy from frozen packed snow or frozen water from waterfalls.

Bringing traction for your boots is highly recommended to keep you from slipping on ice. (YakTrax, Snow Grips, Crampons, or Microspikes all work in generally the same way, with some being more heavy duty than others.) There are several places within the park where slipping and falling could be extremely dangerous or even fatal, so spending the money and getting extra traction for your boots is worth it. Basic traction devices can be purchased at the Starved Rock Foundation store inside of the Visitor Center. Click here to read out full article on traction devices.


Hike With The Sun

In warmer months, you want to avoid the hottest part of the day when hitting the trail but in the winter it is the opposite. Try to time your hike for when the sun is highest in the sky and the warmest. As soon as the sun drops behind the trees and canyon walls, the temperatures on the trails can drop significantly.


We hope these winter hiking tips will help you out on your next snowy adventure! Don’t forget to tag us and use the hashtag starvedrockhikers when sharing all your winter hiking moments! We’ll also do our best to keep hikers informed via our Hikers group on Facebook. Click here to join for free!

See you on the trail!

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Every time you purchase a product from Starved Rock Hikers, you are also helping the park. A portion of our annual proceeds are donated to the Starved Rock Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports Starved Rock & Matthiessen through educational programs, guided hikes, exhibit updates, and more.

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