Short days, long nights and biting cold are what the winter hiker has to look forward to.
Even so, there are good reasons to add layers and get as high as the snow level and depth will allow. The main reason I hike in the winter is to get out and fight away the winter blues. Going stir crazy inside is easy to do when it is dark for most of the 24-hour day.
The other reason to hike in winter is to keep my old body in as good of shape as possible, so I can start spring through fall ready to run long and hike high.
The colors you face hiking in the winter are colors none of us would wear together if we had any fashion sense. Grays and whites are mixed with tans and browns. There are some greens from members of the pine family and some mahogany bushes, but even so, the main colors come from rock and snow.
One of the critical components to think about is how accessible is an area for hiking. If the snow is too high, snowshoes might be needed.
I have been known to resort to going to Horseshoe Springs or Simpson Springs to get away from Tooele’s lake effect mayhem. My main particular strategy is to look for slopes that face south and southwest where the snow will be thin or melt off first. There are times where I can snowshoe up to the slope, and then hike up the slope. I also look for areas where there has been some traffic and the compression left by others has cleared a path.
One of the benefits of winter hiking is the opportunity of getting above the inversions that afflict our valleys. Because cold, polluted air is heavier than warm air, it sinks into the valley and creates the muck we all complain about.
Hiking can get us out of this cold, bad air, and into clear air that is markedly warmer and easier to breath. The only down-side to this is the trip back down into the valley can be a little disheartening as you descend into the cold and dark from which you started.
Tooele County has many wonderful trails that are accessible to hikers and snowshoeing during the winter months.
Settlement Canyon is the most popular local canyon, but the Stansbury Front Trail, Serengeti Trail and trails in the Soldier and Ophir Canyon areas are also hikeable, with or without snowshoes, depending on the year and snowfall.
My own winter range tends to be from the Swenson’s Canyon area south to Flood Canyon. As a lover of geology, I love the rock formations in these hills created by the erosion resistant breccia that makes up the Oquirrhs in this area.
Wherever you go, make sure you wear lots of layers, tell others where you are going, and bring emergency gear such as mylar blankets, lighters, paper, etc.
A few weekends of traversing our mountains and the temperatures will rise and life will return again to our hills. The kaleidoscope of colors that come in spring will seem all the brighter if you have traversed the hills amidst the cold, white and gray of winter.
And if you are lucky, the sun may shine above the muck and illuminate the snow and give you the jolt of sunshine we all long for this time of year.
From a young age David Swan’s natural curiosity led him to explore and study the outdoor wonders of the place where he was born and raised. He currently lives on the southeast side of Tooele City with a view of the Oquirrh Mountains from his backyard.