3 American Outdoor Hot Spots You Have to Visit Before Winter Ends

February 21, 2019Garland Kennedy
Courtesy of the National Parks Service.

Courtesy of the National Parks Service.

When the days get short and cold, many people take that as an excuse to hunker down in the comfort of their homes. But a harsh winter often opens up new outdoor experiences, and there’s nothing quite as beautiful as a snow-covered landscape under the aurora borealis.

This will not be a list of hikes that stay snow-free or warm through the winter. These adventures are harsh, and some require special equipment and experience. Avalanches and hypothermia kill, so proceed with caution.

However, if sleeping outside in temperatures cold enough to freeze gasoline sounds fun to you, pile on your warm layers and keep reading.

Kesugi Ridge Trail offers fantastic views of Denali and the Alaska Range. Photo courtesy of

Kesugi Ridge, Denali State Park, Alaska

Normally hiked during the brief Alaskan summer, Kesugi Ridge offers some of the best views of Denali, North America’s tallest peak. The entire ridge trail runs about 37 miles and elevation gain is significant though highly variable depending on your route.

So, what makes this a special winter hike?

First, it’s important to note that hiking Kesugi Ridge is a strenuous task even in August, and snow will make it more difficult in every possible way. Expect extreme cold.

But if you’re willing and equipped to venture into the subarctic winter, on a clear day you will see the Alaska Range in its full majesty. Add to that the possibility of seeing the aurora, and you have yourself a truly spectacular setting.

Just make sure to keep your camera warm so the battery doesn’t die!

A winter view of Crater Lake and the Watchman Peak fire lookout. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Rim Road, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

A typical visit to Crater Lake National Park would be incomplete without a drive around the actual rim of the crater. But in the winter, the National Park Service closes the road due to snow, which makes it the ideal spot for a winter adventure.

If you’re ready for some serious cold, Rim Road offers spectacular views of Crater Lake, one of America’s most iconic landmarks. However, serious cold requires serious preparation, so make sure you’re carrying everything you need in case of an emergency — the odds of getting help if needed are slim.

But if you’re willing to strap on some snowshoes or Nordic skis, this trek is one of the best the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

The Bright Angel Trail offers stunning views of the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

While most visitors see the Grand Canyon in the blistering summer heat, traveling to the American Southwest during the winter months may be a better option. You’ll avoid the crowds — and the sizzling temperatures — for an improved experience of the region. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get a bit of snow while you’re there.

The steep and challenging Bright Angel Trail follows a fault line and actually has natural sources of water along the way, which means more plant life and shade. While the trail can be unbearably hot in the summer, the winter months make the trip more reasonable, though you may want to bring shoe spikes in case of ice.

Bear in mind, however, that no matter what time of year it is, the Grand Canyon is subject to extreme changes in weather, so be prepared for a wide range of temperatures, and always pack extra water.

Las Medulas ancient Roman mines, UNESCO, Leon, Spain. Adobe Stock photo/Coffee or Die.

OCONUS BONUS: El Camino de Santiago, Spain

For those of you stationed in Europe, every free weekend is an opportunity for a mini-vacation. One of Europe’s most legendary pilgrimages, El Camino de Santiago, runs through northern Spain from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, a major destination.

Most people make the roughly 500-mile trek in the summer, but you can hike it in the winter without any major safety concerns. The Spanish winter is not particularly harsh, so as long as you pack warm clothes and plan your trip properly, you should be okay.

So, what makes El Camino such a special winter hike? Solitude. This is an old medieval pilgrimage route and can often be crowded in the warmer months.

And as far as a pilgrimage goes, solitude and introspection only enhance the experience.


Garland Kennedy
Garland Kennedy

Garland Kennedy is a contributing writer for Coffee or Die. As an avid backpacker and outdoorsman, he has explored wide-open spaces all over North America — from the forests of North Carolina (he’s a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in medieval history) to the mountains of Alaska. His previous bylines include gear reviews on

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
‘Butter Butter Jam!’: Troops Loved, and Hated, the M249 SAW

For nearly 50 years, the SAW has played a major role in America’s wars. Now it’s being replaced by new weapons.

February 8, 2023Mac Caltrider
Coffee Or Die Photo
Space Force Vows ‘Above and Beyond’ Cleanup of Maui Spill

Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, the commander of the U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, said a team will t...

February 8, 2023Associated Press
Coffee Or Die Photo
Navy Releases First Photos of Chinese Balloon Recovery

In the newest images released by the Navy on Tuesday, sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who oppose a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on religious grounds want a federal appeals court to keep alive their legal fight against the Biden administration. Congress voted to end the requirement in December 2022, but vaccine opponents note that commanders can still make decisions on how and whether to deploy unvaccinated troops, under a memo signed last month by Austin. AP photo by Susan Walsh, File.
Vaccine Litigation Lingers After Lifting of Military Mandate

Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who refuse to be vaccinated for religious...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Armed Forces Service Medal
Who Earns the Armed Forces Service Medal?

The Department of Defense honors heroism in combat in many ways, but there is also an award — the Ar...

February 7, 2023Noelle Wiehe
Soldiers carry the coffin of Eduard Strauss, a Ukrainian serviceman who died in combat on Jan. 17 in Bakhmut, during a farewell ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. AP photo by Daniel Cole.
Russian Forces Keep Up Pressue As Ukraine Anniversary Nears

Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with attacks in the eastern Donbas region as M...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Chinese spy balloon
Blown to Bits! Chinese Spy Balloon Blasted, Plummets Into Sea

The US Air Force downed the Chinese balloon that's been soaring over the US.

February 4, 2023Carl Prine
germany, european union, ukraine gas reserves
Ukraine Wants To Store Europe’s Strategic Gas Reserves

Ukraine maintains 12 underground gas storage facilities with a total capacity of about 31 billion cu...

February 3, 2023Nolan Peterson
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved