Family in snow

5 winter ideas to enjoy outdoors with the family

8 minutes

Winter often brings a chill that tempts us to stay indoors, but embracing the season’s cold can lead to unique outdoor adventures and unforgettable family moments. In this article, we explore five winter ideas to enjoy the outdoors during the cold season, catering to families especially with kids.

Dressing for Success

One of the key elements to a successful winter outdoor experience is proper attire. Layering for warmth, investing in insulated and waterproof clothing, and ensuring everyone has thermal socks, gloves, winter hats, and scarves are crucial. Quality winter boots are also essential to keep feet warm and dry. We go into this in more detail with more tips on how to dress.

Winter Hiking Adventures

Winter transforms hiking trails into beautiful landscapes covered in a pristine blanket of snow. Consider the ages and skill levels of all family members when selecting a winter trail. Look for family-friendly trails that accommodate varying difficulty levels. This ensures that everyone, from the seasoned hiker to the little adventurer, can enjoy the winter wonderland at their own pace.

Safety should always be a top priority when embarking on winter hikes. Before heading out, inform a friend or family member of your hiking plans, including your chosen trail, expected duration, and any specific landmarks you plan to visit. This precaution ensures that someone is aware of your whereabouts in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Remember to pack essentials such as hot drinks, snacks, and a first aid kit. Winter hikes offer breath-taking views and a chance for your family to connect with nature in a whole new way.

Some great winter ideas for hiking locations include:

  1. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
    • Known for its snow-covered peaks and alpine landscapes, Rocky Mountain National Park provides a range of winter trails suitable for various skill levels. The Bear Lake Trailhead offers family-friendly options, while more experienced hikers can explore trails like Dream Lake or Emerald Lake.
  2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho
    • Winter in Yellowstone transforms the park into a pristine wilderness. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Old Faithful area offer picturesque winter landscapes. Guided snowshoe tours and wildlife viewing opportunities make it a unique winter hiking destination.
  3. Acadia National Park, Maine
    • Acadia National Park’s coastal beauty takes on a different charm in winter. Trails like Jordan Pond Path and Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail provide stunning views of snow-covered landscapes and frozen lakes. The park’s diverse terrain offers options for all skill levels.
  4. Adirondack Park, New York
    • With over six million acres of protected wilderness, the Adirondack Park is a winter wonderland. The High Peaks region offers challenging hikes, while areas like the Adirondack Loj provide family-friendly trails. The reward for your efforts includes breathtaking views of snowy mountain peaks.
  5. Zion National Park, Utah
    • While Zion is renowned for its red rock canyons in warmer months, winter offers a unique perspective. Trails like the Canyon Overlook Trail and the Watchman Trail showcase the park’s beauty in a quieter setting. Mild winter temperatures make it a great destination for those seeking a milder winter experience.

Snow-based Family Games

Turn the winter landscape into a playground with snow-based family games. Playing in the snow is fun. Encourage family members to let their imaginations run wild as they shape the snow into forts, castles, or intricate sculptures. This hands-on activity not only fosters creativity but also provides a sense of accomplishment as your snowy creations come to life.

Or you could opt for the classic snowball fight! Divide into teams or engage in a free-for-all where laughter and friendly competition abound. This spirited activity is not only a great way to enjoy the outdoors but also creates lasting memories of joyous winter moments with your loved ones.

If you are out and about what about a family-friendly winter scavenger hunt? Craft a list of items related to the winter season, such as pinecones, icicles, or specific types of winter wildlife tracks. Bundle up and set out on a quest to find these items, fostering teamwork and exploration while enjoying the crisp winter air.

You can take advantage of snowy slopes and hills for some exhilarating sled racing and tobogganing. Whether you have a traditional sled, a toboggan, or even improvised materials like cardboard, find a safe and gentle hill for family members to race down.

Many parks and community areas offer maintained ice skating surfaces during the winter months. Strap on your skates and glide across the ice as a family, enjoying the beauty of winter and the timeless joy of ice skating.

Winter Camping and Bonfires

For families seeking a more immersive experience, winter camping can be an exciting option. Prepare by ensuring you have the right gear. Invest in insulated sleeping bags and pads to provide essential warmth and insulation from the cold ground. Quality sleep is key to enjoying your winter camping adventure to the fullest.

Selecting the right camping location is crucial for a successful winter camping trip. Look for campgrounds that offer winter facilities, including heated bathrooms and water sources. Many national and state parks provide winter camping options, ensuring a balance between a rustic experience and necessary amenities.

One of the highlights of winter camping is gathering around a crackling bonfire. Bring a thermos of hot cocoa to warm your hands and spirits. Roast marshmallows to perfection, and enjoy the sweet, gooey treats in the crisp winter air. The combination of a bonfire, hot drinks, and marshmallow delights creates a cozy and memorable atmosphere for your winter camping adventure.

Keep in mind that approval for winter camping may vary, and it’s essential to check with the respective park or campground for specific regulations and availability. Here are some popular locations:

  1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho:
    • Offers winter camping in select campgrounds with facilities available. The winter landscape is stunning, and activities such as snowshoeing and wildlife viewing are popular.
  2. Yosemite National Park, California:
    • Yosemite offers winter camping in designated campgrounds. Enjoy the tranquility of the park with fewer crowds and the chance to witness iconic landscapes in a snowy setting.
  3. White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire:
    • Several campgrounds in the White Mountains are open for winter camping. Experience the beauty of snow-covered forests and enjoy winter activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
  4. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming:
    • Limited winter camping is available in the park. Enjoy the stunning Teton Range in a quieter setting with opportunities for backcountry camping.
  5. Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon:
    • Offers winter camping opportunities in designated areas. With the picturesque Mount Hood as a backdrop, campers can experience the beauty of the Pacific Northwest in winter.
  6. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan:
    • Winter camping is allowed on Isle Royale, providing a unique experience on this remote island. Access is by ice bridge or seaplane, and backcountry camping is popular.
  7. Allegany State Park, New York:
    • This state park in western New York offers winter camping opportunities, allowing visitors to experience the park’s beautiful winter landscapes.

Ice Fishing Adventures

Here’s a winter idea you may not have considered. Embrace the winter chill with an exciting and traditional cold-weather activity – ice fishing. Ice fishing is an experience that brings together nature, patience, and the thrill of catching fish in the serene, frozen landscape.

Always check the ice thickness before venturing onto a frozen surface. Follow safety guidelines provided by local authorities and experienced ice anglers. Ice conditions can vary, so be cautious, and ensure everyone in the family is aware of safety measures.

To take part in ice fishing you need some necessary equipment:

  1. Ice Auger: Essential for drilling through the ice to create fishing holes.
  2. Ice Fishing Rods and Reels: Specially designed for ice fishing, these compact and lightweight tools are perfect for the job.
  3. Tip-ups or Tip-downs: Devices that signal when a fish bites.
  4. Warm Clothing: Dress in layers to stay warm, including insulated boots, waterproof gloves, and thermal attire.
  5. Ice Picks: Carry ice picks to help in self-rescue in case of accidental ice immersion.
  6. Safety Picks and Floatation Devices: An additional safety measure, especially if venturing onto larger bodies of water.

When choosing a fishing location opt for smaller bodies of water that freeze earlier and often have shallower depths, making them safer for family ice fishing adventures. Many state parks and recreation areas also offer designated spots for ice fishing with facilities like warming huts and restrooms.

Snowshoeing Excursions

This versatile and accessible winter activity allows families to explore snowy landscapes with ease. Unlike other winter sports, snowshoeing requires minimal equipment and provides an excellent opportunity for outdoor adventure and exercise. Snowshoeing is perfect for all fitness levels, offering a unique way to explore snowy landscapes.

Understanding the terrain and your specific needs will help you choose the right snowshoes for a comfortable and enjoyable excursion. Select snowshoes based on the type of terrain you plan to explore. Larger, more aggressive crampons are suitable for steep and icy terrain, while smaller ones work well on packed snow. Choose snowshoes based on your weight, as heavier individuals will require larger snowshoes to stay afloat on deep snow.

Choosing family-friendly trails ensures that everyone, regardless of age or experience level, can participate and enjoy the beauty of winter landscapes. Here are some suggestions.

Winter ideas to get out there and enjoy!

Winter is a season full of opportunities for outdoor family adventures. From winter hiking to snow-based games, camping, ice fishing, and snowshoeing, there’s something for everyone. Use these winter ideas to embrace the cold and create lasting memories with your loved ones. It might be cold but you can still make the most of this season.