When the weather turns cold in much of the United States, and in other countries, you might be wondering where you can find winter hiking destinations with comfortable temperatures. Luckily, there are some places in the southern reaches of the USA that are ideal for doing some outdoor activities in the winter months without wearing 10 layers of clothing.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
This park, located in southwestern Texas along the Mexican border, is not as well known as others in the southern part of the US. And that means that in the winter you will not face crowded hiking trails while you (hopefully) soak up some sun. If you need a vehicle to get there, you can rent a car from SIXT in San Antonio or Dallas. There are several hiking routes to choose from, including the 2 below:
- Lost Mine Trail: This 4.2-mile out and back trail is very popular in warmer months but less so in winter. This moderately difficult trail has a steep climb in the middle but then evens out at the end where you get great views of Pine Canyon and beyond.
- South Rim Trail: This loop trail is 11 miles long and moderately difficult. You get nice views and wildflowers during some part of the year. Hikers have reported that the first 4 miles of the trail are difficult, but the rest of the way to the rim is easier.
St. George, Utah
This town in southern Utah is a great place to go for some winter hiking. Its proximity to Zion National Park and other great hiking trails, plus mild weather that’s generally snow-free, makes St. George an ideal destination.
- Johnson Canyon Arch Trail: At the southern edge of Snow Canyon State Park, this easy 2-mile round trip trail has red rock walls and an arch when you reach the end.
- Temple Quarry Trail: Just outside of downtown St. George, you can find this 2.21-mile easy out and back trail that is perfect for the whole family.
- Owen’s Loop Trail: This trail ranges from easy to moderately difficult, and can be accessed from the Brooks Nature Park trailhead, Pioneer Hills Trailhead, and Owen’s Loop Trail step-over. The length varies depending on which trailhead you use.
- Zion National Park: It’s less than a 1-hour drive from St. George to Zion. Because of its low elevation, you will rarely see snow here on the canyon floor in the winter, but you should always check the weather and road conditions before heading out for a hike there.
Rent a car at one of our Las Vegas locations and it’s less than a 2-hour drive to St. George.
Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
Yes, now you have an excuse to go to Hawaii in the winter. The Haleakalā National Park on Maui is on the site of a dormant volcano and offers fantastic sunrise views to those who rise early enough. Just be aware that hiking groups are limited to less than 12 people within the park. And in the winter there can be snow at higher elevations (yes, even in Hawaii!).
- Keonehe‘ehe‘e (Sliding Sands): The trailhead for this 11-mile hike is at the Haleakala Visitor Center. You can see several points of interest along the way, like Pele’s Paint Pot about 5.7 miles in. Hikers have noted that it can be muddy and wet, and also cold and windy, so bring some waterproof gear along.
- Pā Ka‘oao: If you want something simple, you can take this 0.4-mile route from the visitor center to view the volcano’s crater.
The drive from our location at the Kahului Airport to Haleakalā takes about 50 minutes.
Canaveral National Seashore, Florida
People generally don’t think of Florida when they think of hiking, but it’s an enjoyable place to enjoy the outdoors in the winter. The Canaveral National Seashore sits on a barrier island near Titusville, roughly a 40-minute drive from Orlando. You can go swimming here, look for birds and wildlife, or just walk along the 25 miles of protected beach. If you want actual hiking trails, you should head to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge within the park.
- Allan D. Cruickshank Memorial Trail: This 4.8-mile-long trail is flat and mostly goes along a canal or other body of water. This is a great spot to go birdwatching.
- Pine Flatwoods Trail: The 1-mile trail also gives you the option of adding on a hike to the Mosquito Lagoon, making it 2.1 miles in total. You will see a mix of vegetation somewhere between forest and desert.
- Castle Windy Trail: If you have kids with you, there are several hikes that are less than 1 mile. Like this trail, that is 0.8 miles long and goes from Apollo Beach to Mosquito Lagoon. Along the way, you will see a “dump” for shells used by the Timucuan Indians who lived here between 600 and 1400 AD.
Mojave National Preserve, California
If you’re on your way from Las Vegas to Los Angeles (or vice versa) this is a perfect place to stop for some outdoor activity. The Mojave National Preserve, containing the Mojave Desert, sits between interstate highways 15 and 40. Just beware that although this is a desert, it can be cold in the winter, especially at higher elevations.
- Teutonia Peak Trail: This 3.2-mile-long out-and-back trail starts near Cima, CA, and is moderately difficult. Along the way, you will see a garden of Joshua Trees and at the end, you are rewarded with great views.
- Kelso Dunes Trail: If you can handle walking on sand, this 2.7-mile out-and-back hike is for you. It’s recommended to have hiking sandals as hiking on the dunes can be tricky otherwise.
- Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail: You can do this hike through some unique rock formations as a 1.5-mile loop or a 0.5-mile out and back. The rock-mounted ring bolts on the first portion of the hike give this trail its name.
South Mountain Park, Arizona
Sitting just south of downtown Phoenix, this winter hiking destination is very accessible. There are roughly 30 trails in the largest municipal park in the US that offer some urban hiking options and great views of Phoenix. Note that all of the trails are rocky and steep and you may encounter rattlesnakes and other desert creatures.
- Holbert Trail: The 2.4-mile one-way hike is moderately difficult and features rock art as it climbs to the upper areas of the park.
- Javelina Canyon Trail:
- Mormon Loop Trail: