Winter hiking in Chilliwack offers stunning snow-covered views, however, it also requires more planning than a regular hiking excursion because you need to take extra safety precautions to combat harsh elements. If you’re looking to explore Chilliwack’s snow-covered mountains this season make sure you are properly prepared! Check out our 10 winter hiking tips to keep you safe this season.
10 Winter Hiking Tips to Keep You Safe
Know Before You Go: Use Resources to Gather the Knowledge and Tools Before.
Before any hike, you need to research details on hiking conditions, trail distance, and what to expect. Familiarize yourself with the area and pack the appropriate gear like snowshoes and/or traction devices like microspikes if hiking in the snow.
Continue to check the weather forecast, if the weather is not looking good, do not go and stay safe. Remember that if it’s raining in the valley, that can mean it is snowing on the peaks.
Tell Your Friends or Family Where You Are Going
Make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Search and rescue will know where to look if you get lost or injured.
Pack the Appropriate Clothing and Gear
Bundle up in warm clothing to beat the winter chill. Remember to “dress like an onion”, make sure you use a layered approach so you can take things off if you get too sweaty and put layers back on when you’ve cooled off. Choose synthetic or wool clothing as it will keep you warm even if it gets wet. Cotton soaks up moisture, making it a bad choice for hiking.
Set Reasonable Expectations: Start Small and Early
When planning a winter hike, be reasonable about the distance and difficulty of the trail. When it might be easy to do a 15km hike loop in summer conditions, you may run into ice or snow on the same trail in winter which will slow you down. Many access roads to your favourite trailheads may be closed and unplowed in winter which could add significant mileage or difficulty to reach the trailhead. There is nothing quite as frustrating as wading through knee-deep snow for kilometers on end so choose a trail you know you can handle without difficulty.
Plan to be at the trailhead around first light to give yourself lots of time to complete your hike because the sun goes down early in the winter and you don’t want to be caught out in the dark.
Be prepared to turn around if you run into conditions that look dangerous. Reaching the summit is only half of the journey, and you need to have enough energy left for the descent. Focus on the entire trip, not just the ascent. You can always try again another weekend, as staying safe is always the best option.
Prepare for an Emergency
Carry a first aid kit just in case. A foil emergency blanket is also great and folds up compactly in your backpack. If you’re headed to the mountains, check the avalanche forecast on avalanche.ca. If you don’t have avalanche training, it’s best to stay out of the mountains in winter. You might not plan to stay out after dark, but if you do, you’ll be able to see where you’re going.
Don’t Feed the Animals
Grey jays and squirrels are super cute when they beg for food… but your human food is actually quite bad for their health and feeding them makes them forget how to find natural food on their own. Plus, if you stay still, they’ll pose for photos even without treats, just make sure to keep your distance.
Pack In, Pack Out
This is one of the biggest (and simplest) things we can do to help preserve nature while enjoying nature. Bring a trash bag to take all your garbage home with you. This includes biodegradable things like apple cores and banana peels. Not only does leaving your garbage disturb the ecosystem, but it also becomes dangerous to wildlife looking for food.
Share the Trail
Winter hiking and snowshoeing are getting more popular, which is awesome. But make sure everyone has a great time by moving off the trail to take breaks or to let faster hikers pass. If you’re also sharing the trail with skiers, don’t walk in the ski tracks.
When you’re cold, it’s tempting to not drink as much, or only drink coffee and hot chocolate. But you’re still sweating under all those layers, and your body still needs water and electrolytes. Be sure to take sips of water when you stop and prevent your water from freezing by carrying it close to your body or putting your bottle inside a wool sock. Insulated bottles also help prevent freezing.
Gear Up & Get Ready
Having the appropriate winter gear is important. Make sure to invest in proper, and well-made clothing to keep you warm, as well as hiking gear and tools that will keep you safe. Here are a few local Chilliwack shops that have everything you need, plus knowledgeable staff!
Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors is your one-stop shop for expertise and equipment in planning your next outdoor adventure. Whether you’re new and looking for tips, or a seasoned hardcore thrill-seeker looking for the best advice and gear, you’ll be welcomed by knowledgeable and experienced staff ready to help.
From athletic apparel, high-quality outer shell jackets, footwear for your new hikes, and snowshoes for exploring Chilliwack peaks, Cheam Source for Sports offers a great variety of gear and equipment to keep you prepared for all outdoor weather elements.
Guides & Resources
Finding all the right information is crucial for safe hiking. Here are a few resources to get you started before you head out!
Ascent Guides – From personal guided tours with expert locals, to avalanche safety courses, and an intro to mountaineering, Ascent Guides is the perfect place to start your journey.
Chilliwack Hiking Guide – Pick out a Chilliwack hike that’s perfect for you, included with trail details, length, and difficulty levels.
BC Adventure Smart – Learn more safety tips, what to pack, and more while out in the backwoods.
Avalanche Canada – Stay up to date on avalanche conditions and forecasts.
Happy (and safe) trails! Don’t forget to tag us and #ShareChilliwack in all of your winter hiking adventures while exploring Chilliwack!