Get Out and Experience Wintertime Trails

Get Out and Explore Wintertime Trails

Yes, we all know Saskatchewan’s winters can be chilling and we’d rather stay indoors, but that’s no reason to pack up and hibernate until the next year. Hiking season on the trails is not over as soon as the snow falls. Give winter hiking a try and push yourself beyond the boundaries of the warm couch. Activities on the trail can actually be more fun than their summer counterparts. Here are a few reasons to get outdoors this winter and soak in nature all year round!

This time of year opens up the opportunity for more exciting activities. Ever try to go cross country skiing in the summertime? It’s not a good time. Snow may be the end of many of our favorite summertime activities like cycling, but it also opens up great activities like snowshoeing, tobogganing and cross-country skiing. Not only are there new great winter activities to do on the trails, but the blissfulness of a fresh snowfall on an empty trail is a beautiful moment everyone should experience!

Secondly, we are from Saskatchewan. We should embrace the cold and see it as an opportunity for more adventures on our great lands. The cold hasn’t stopped us before and shouldn’t stop us now. Exploring the trails in the snow doesn’t have to be cold, wearing the proper gear, and layering up can keep you warm and snug. Worried about traction or depth of the snow? That’s what snowshoes and hiking poles are for. Before you knock the idea of a trek through the glorious snow globe of Saskatchewan trails, give it a shot!

Another great reason to get outside and get active on the trails this winter is for all the positive benefits both physically and mentally. Hiking in the snow can be more work, but that also means more muscle building and greater stability. Hiking in the winter actually burns more calories than hiking in the summertime. Aside from the burning of extra calories and building of muscles, the quiet and blissfulness of trails in the winter is a great way to release stress, anxiety, and enjoy nature. Being on the trails in the winter months is just more peaceful, especially with no mosquitoes to worry about!

Qu’Appelle River Run

By Russ Hodgins

Please note that before you venture out on the ice, make sure it is safe!

Many years ago, we did a canoe trip from Craven to Pasqua Lake and learned firsthand how this river brings a whole new meaning to the word “meander”. A mile as the crow flies can translate into an hour of paddling. Canoe season is over and while I have ventured out onto the river ice a few times, it has never been for any distance. A windy Saturday changed that and convinced me to drop down over the bank for a winter “canoe trip”. A bonus was the minimal snow cover, making for better travelling and much easier to spot bad spots in the ice. The current is strongest on the outside of curves, meaning that will be where the ice is thinnest. As we hugged the inside corners, the tracks showed us coyotes also follow this pattern for the most part. In their case, it probably had more to do with it being the shortest route while my inspiration came from the desire to stay dry.

A cloudy day shortly became sunny with a much appreciated rise in temperature, which necessitated placing my jacket and gloves into my pack.  St. Marks church in the distance.

A short time later, our dog gave a few “what the heck is that” barks as she rounded a bend ahead of me. I sped up to find out what unknown creature had her so hesitant, to find a cow moose which had just crossed the river and was climbing up the bank. I was able to get a few photos before it ambled off in no great hurry and was happy that our dog showed such wise restraint with an animal that size.

As the afternoon drew to a close, we were treated to a beautiful Saskatchewan sunset.

To save some time with darkness approaching, I cut up onto the bank and took a few shortcuts, bypassing large loops of the river which almost circled back to the same point. I have to say, the portages are much easier on this winter “canoe trip”.

The trip back had us back up on the road as we went by St. Marks church, now just a dark silhouette as night set in.

The river ice allowed us the chance to see the valley from a different perspective but it is a trip that has to be timed correctly to match the ice conditions. The cold weather and lack of snowfall at the time meant the ice was thicker and at any point when in doubt, we cut up onto the bank and detoured past the spot. It was an afternoon of adventure on the winding Qu’Appelle River.

Tips to Staying Warm on Winter Trails

Hitting the trails throughout winter can be a lot of fun. There are new activities like snowshoeing, it can be more peaceful, and you can even burn more calories while building more muscle. The downside of the trails being covered in snow is obviously the low temperatures. Here are a handful of tips to keep you toasty warm while trekking through the trails this winter.


This one may seem obvious, but you have to wear layers. Layering your clothing helps to trap in warm air and keep you warm. The other benefit of layers is that if you begin to get to warm or overheat, you can easily remove a layer. Wearing a few extra layers will help to keep you warm throughout your hike on the trail and help to ensure a comfortable trip.

Head, Feet, and Hands!

You can lose a lot of heat in the wintertime through your head, feet, and hands. It makes keeping these areas warm that much more important. Wearing proper footwear, gloves and toques can ensure these areas hold in heat rather than releasing it.

Having trouble keeping your hands or feet warm? You can find little heat packs at Walmart or the Dollar Store to give you a little boost of heat on long winter hikes. Make sure to check what material your socks, gloves, and toque are made of.

Know Your Materials!

Some material is significantly better than others at staying dry, repelling water and insulating heat. For instance, wool, polyester, nylon, or synthetic materials will do a much better job of keeping you warm and dry than cotton or denim. So, skip the jeans and cotton t-shirts while layering up for your winter adventure.

Snacks and Hydration!

If you are going on a longer trail, bring plenty of water and healthy protein/carb filled snacks. Good snacks are mixed nuts, granola bars, and protein bars. Maintaining proper hydration and sustenance will ensure you have the required energy your body needs to stay warm and have high energy levels. A thermos of hot chocolate can be a great way to stay warm and have a nice treat throughout your hike.

Weather Check!

As much as hiking on a winter day can be an amazing adventure, not every day makes for a great adventure. As we all know, some Saskatchewan days can be absolutely freezing. Make sure to check the forecast and weather updates so that you don’t end up on the trails in the middle of a blizzard. Choose a day with more sunlight and less wind to help to further keep you warm and cozy on the trails.

Shoe Spikes!                 

Terrain in the winter can be icy and slippery which can lead to falls and wet clothing. An easy solution to the unknown terrain of some trails is slip on/strap on shoe/boot spikes. Shoe spikes can be found at pretty much any outdoors store, Walmart, and even sometimes at the Dollar Store. Shoes spikes allow you to traverse rougher or more slippery terrain with ease and help you to hook to the ground to avoid falls.

Get Moving!

The final tip to staying warm is to get active! Try increasing your pace or attempting some light inclines to get your blood pumping and keep you warm. Increasing your activity level will effectively ensure you stay warm.

Regardless of what it takes to stay warm, some of the most enjoyable and relaxing hikes can come from visiting the trails during the winter. Stay warm and have fun!