With Door County and all of Wisconsin on the cusp of winter, it’s time to start planning out your winter hikes and bike rides for the season.
To make the most of your winter trek, do your research, gather clothing and gear, and make preparations for before heading out. You don’t want to find yourself shivering atop your fat-tire bike in improper winter gear or at a trailhead that’s closed due to conditions.
Where to Go
Not all your favorite summertime parks and trails are open in winter, so be sure to do some research before venturing out to these year-round hiking spots:
What to Wear
First and foremost: layers!
Start with a non-cotton base layer designed to wick moisture away from the skin, followed by a mid-layer designed for warmth (think tech fleece or a sweatshirt), and a waterproof outer layer for insulation and wind protection. Even when temperatures are freezing, you may sweat while engaging in physical activities in winter, so be prepared to de-layer as needed.
Next, don’t underestimate the importance of high-quality, thermal socks and boots either.
Thick, boot-style socks in wool or athletic fibers will keep your toes warm, dry, and, most importantly, usable. A pair of high-quality winter boots with waterproofing technology (such as GoreTex) will not only keep you warm and comfortable this winter, they’ll likely be with you for years to come.
Finally, a fleece or wool hat and winter gloves are absolute musts in Door County from about December-February. A neck warmer or thick gaiter will also help prevent the cold and wind from nipping at your neck or upper back.
What Else to Bring
- Water: Just because it’s not hot outside doesn’t mean you don’t need to stay hydrated. Bring at least 32 ounces (about 1 liter) of water for short trips and double that, in a second bottle or water reservoir, for longer outings. Just be sure not to let the water freeze by occasionally shaking the bottle and keeping it inside your pack, not in an outside pocket.
- Microspikes: If you're hiking and there’s snow or ice on the ground, you may need some extra traction for your shoes or boots, such as microspikes, the slip-on boot covering equipped with a rubberized foot harness and small metal spikes designed to dig into the frozen ground and provide extra stability. If the snow is particularly deep or powdery, consider renting snowshoes.
- Sunglasses & Sunscreen: The sun’s rays bouncing off the pure white snow can make it hard to see in front of you as well as harm your eyes—even in winter. Be sure to bring sunglasses, preferably polarized, and apply sunscreen to your face, neck, and other exposed skin, even on cloudy days.
- Fully Charged Phone: Don’t leave home in winter without it. While Door County’s winter hiking options aren’t exactly high-elevation or long-distance excursions, injuries or other problems can occur due to slippery conditions or inclement weather. Be ready for anything, including needing to check a map or call for help.
- Trekking Poles: If you’re on foot, trekking or hiking poles can be useful in the winter for providing extra balance and stability, especially on steeper sections of a trail.
Where to Warm Up After
After a day spent in the great, freezing outdoors of Door County, you’re going to need some food and drinks to warm up again.
If it’s still daylight when you’re done, a coffee shop may fit the bill. But if it’s later in the day, hit up a restaurant bar, pub, brewery, winery, or other year-round dining spots for a post-hike warmup. Be sure to check if the establishment is open in winter before heading out.
How Else to Embrace a Winter Outdoors
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