Winter can be a cold albeit magical time to go backpacking. The crowds are minimal, the air is fresh, and the views are unparalleled. While cozying up next to the fire with a good book is enticing, getting outside and experiencing the beauty of the natural world is worth it every time. With a little extra planning and the proper gear, wintertime thru-hiking can be the adventure of a lifetime. And it’s not just a shift in attitude that’s necessary; often a shift in latitude helps as well, rethinking the wilder options in southern climes with milder winter temps. Here, we’ve rounded up six overlooked, yet enticing long-distance hiking and backpacking routes to unplug, escape the depths of winter and go trek in the contiguous United States.
Ozark Highlands Trail
Located in Northwest Arkansas, the Ozark Highlands Trail begins at Lake Fort Smith State Park and ends at Buffalo National River, showcasing some of the best views the Ozarks have to offer. Over the course of the point-to-point trail, hikers are treated to views of vistas, waterfalls, rivers, forests, and the famous Ozark Mountains. Prime time to visit is between fall and early spring, as the summer months can get pretty toasty. The 160-mile, dog-friendly trail includes approximately 23,622 of elevation gain and typically takes hikers 10 to 14 days to complete.