5 Reasons to Hike in the Winter

Myth: Hiking season ends after fall and there is nothing to do in Patapsco until spring.

Fact: Winter hikes have a lot of offer and you can find things you wouldn’t be able to in the warmer months.

Read on for five reasons you should go find your next winter hike today!

#1: Bugs

There is no way around it, ticks and mosquitoes suck.  These little blood thieves can drain the fun from the most scenic days outdoors and distract from good times in the Patapsco Valley.  Sure there are methods to prevent them, but who actually enjoys spending time spraying yourself with bug spray when you’re itching to hit the trail?  Wouldn’t it be great to flip a switch and not deal with them? Well now is your chance! The entire valley’s worth of trails awaits you, free of flying pests (with most ticks dormant as well!).

#2 Quality Time with Fido

Most dog owners can recall multiple times when you get to the park on a gorgeous day with your four legged friend, only to have your route cut short when it gets too hot for your pup.  This is all too common, especially for those blessed with darker and or thicker fur coats, in the summer months.  Winter is the perfect time to show your furry friend all the long trails and hikes that are too much in summer.  Looking to up their endurance and mileage? Go for it when its cool out and over-heating is not a concern!

#3 S.A.D

Perhaps the most subtle burden of winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder can sneak up on all of us after a couple weeks of indoor routines and cold weather.  Fall fades into winter and gradually nights are dark at 5 and we spend less and less time outside.  Suddenly the job you love seems oppressive and everything feels grey all the time.  While we can’t speed up time and skip the season, the best ways to combat SAD are to go get more sunlight, and exercise.  Hiking gives you both at once!

#4 Peace and Quiet

Patapsco Valley State Park is one of the busiest state parks in Maryland. Rightfully so, it is easy to get to from Baltimore and other surrounding areas, and offers miles of scenic trails.  The trouble can be when you are trying to find a little peace and quiet in your time outdoors, let alone parking.  No need to worry in winter! With most people staying indoors, parking is easy and the trails are quiet, perfect for re-centering and relaxing.

#5 New Views

Think you know the valley? If you haven’t hiked it in the winter, chances are you won’t even recognize your favorite trails.  Bare trees give way to extended views, revealing new overlooks and scenery.  The open visibility also helps with exploring and discovering new paths and shortcuts, you can learn new routes to come back and try each season!

Highlighted Trail: Ilchester Rocks

The Ilchester Rocks area is a popular destination in Patapsco year round, but it really shines in the winter.  Not far from the Buzzards Rock parking area is a rocky overlook, perched above the Ilchester swinging bridge and the Grist Mill trail.  Once the seasons change and the foliage falls away, the overlook opens up hikers are treated to a view of the river curving through the valley.

The trail offers a lot of flexibility with multiple options for longer or shorter loops, even connecting to the ever-popular grist mill trail.  The Grist mill is paved(mostly) and generally flat, allowing for easier travel through the area following the Patapsco.  Be sure to try several different approaches to the overlook to see everything this area has to offer!

Trail Photos: