Cold weather hiking in Columbia and beyond

By Tina Casagrand

Fording a stream
Be sure to wear heavy-duty shoes with waterproofing in case you need to ford some streams.

Cold weather and post-Thanksgiving “back in shape” blues drives crowds of people inside for exercise.  But where’s the fun in a treadmill?  Especially with an unseasonably warm winter, nature lovers can stay outdoors for plenty of hiking, running and paddling throughout the season.

The brand-new Missouri State Park Stories site suggests 10 great fall hikes in our beautiful state.  Mid-MO trails that made the cut include Devil’s Icebox Trail at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and Rocky Top Trail at Lake of the Ozarks State Park.

If you’re ready to go, Virginia Outdoors shared some great tips for cold weather hiking.  I’ve copied a few below, plus some new ones especially for Mid-Missouri:

  1. Check the forecast before you head out. With weather as volatile as Missouri’s, it’s smart to know what might come on hour-by-hour.
  2. Gear up! Wear mittens, waterproof boots, a windproof jacket and a hat or hood (40 to 50% of your body heat is lost through your head).
  3. Be careful where you step — exposed rock or bare ground are far safer than packed snow or icy surfaces. Don’t step on wet wood or icy, sloping rocks- you could slip and get injured.
  4. Plan ahead. Missouri State Parks offers trail maps, as does Trails.com (except it works so well they make you pay after 2 weeks).  Take a friend or two with you, and always let people know where you’ll be hiking.
  5. Eat high energy snacks. Nuts and dried fruit will fuel your body’s “furnace.”  And of course, don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Need extra motivation to brave low temperatures? Check out Outdoor Nation.  In an effort to expand outdoor recreation and participation, they offer bi-weekly “missions.”  Take on the missions, post on the message boards, and you’ll rack up points that you can then turn in for cool outdoor gear.

Happy hiking!

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