How to Winterize Your Trail Adventure

Posted 12/04/14 by Katie Harris in America's Trails, Trail Use

Photo by Chuck Harris

The air has been crisp for weeks, and you’re no longer surprised when you walk out and pull that cool inhale into your chest. The first of the season flurries has fallen. And as much as it hurts, you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that your bike won’t get to see much action for the time being. 

So what’s next? Just because your bike is in the garage doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the trail! Here are five ways to keep your tail on the trail during the colder seasons.

Snow Biking

Fat bike | Photo courtesy Hugger Industries

Snow biking, or fat biking, is a relatively new phenomenon with an interesting inception story. It’s a sport that’s catching on quickly, especially in mountain communities in the western U.S., and while Colorado, Idaho and Montana are arguably stealing the show when it comes to biking the snow, there are some other great options out there!

  • Katy Trail: This 238-mile trail is a member of RTC’s Rail-Trail Hall of Fame, and for good reason! The Katy Trail is a gem of Missouri and is one of the longest rail-trails in the country. With a layer of snow, it would be the perfect multi-day snow bike adventure.
  • Chase Trail: Want to revisit snow biking Alaskan roots without getting too far off the beaten path? The 14-mile Chase Trail, connecting the communities of Talkeetna and Chase, is a perfect solution. The first five miles follow the Alaska Railroad, after which the trail leaves the tracks and enters a thick spruce–birch forest!

Cross-Country Skiing

Whether it’s a shuffle in the woods or a skate ski flying over groomed trails, there is no better way to immerse yourself in winter than a journey on skis.

  • Wood River Trails: The communities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey, tucked away in Idaho’s Wood River Valley, are connected by a world-class trail system used by locals and visitors alike. In the winter months, split your time between cross-country skiing in the valley, downhill skiing on Bald Mountain and backcountry skiing in the surrounding Sawtooth Mountains.
  • Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail: Treat yourself to a trip through the Susan River Canyon in Northeast California. Eighteen and a half miles of this 25-mile-long trail are open in the winter for cross-country skiing. From historic tunnels and trestles to the stunning Susan River itself, there is a lot to see along the way.


Photo courtesy Lassen National Park

For the walking enthusiasts, snowshoeing is a natural “next step” when the winter weather hits. A pair of snowshoes and a desire to hit your favorite trail are practically all you need for a successful outing.

For example, here are two great rail-trails that are perfect contenders for a fun on-foot excursion:

  • Devil’s River State Trail: The best of the rural Midwest is on display along this 14-mile trail. Just south of Green Bay, Wis., the pathway connects the towns of Denmark, Maribel, Francis Creek and Kossuth, traveling through scenic farmland and woodland and over railroad trestles and river crossings.
  • Mineral Belt Trail: Looking for a high-altitude adventure? Look no further than this 12-mile trail in the mountains of Colorado. The Mineral Belt Trail does a loop through the historical mining town of Leadville and offers spectacular views of the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges.


Some trails allow motorized travel—and for snowmobile enthusiasts in many states, the winter brings great opportunities:

  • Soo Line Trail – Southern Route: Also known as the Soo Line South ATV Trail, this is a favorite with Minnesota ATV enthusiasts and snowmobilers. The converted rail-trail runs for 105.6 miles in between Royalton and the Minnesota–Wisconsin state line east of Pleasant Valley.
  • Ammonoosuc Rail Trail: Winding along the Ammonoosuc River in western New Hampshire is this 19-mile trail. Don’t miss the covered bridge in Bath, built in 1832, or the restored Lisbon Depot and museum.


Escape the gray days and read about the rail-trails of the country! Start planning your spring trip along the Great Allegheny Passage, or transport your imagination to the Florida Overland Heritage Trail along the Florida Keys. Check out RTC’s latest Trails of the Month, or catch up on past issues of Rails to Trails magazine.

However you choose to spend the winter months, don’t let your love for the trail diminish as the snow falls. Instead, get out and enjoy a different way to travel, or simply curl up with a trail book and plot your next warmer-weather adventure!

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