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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

I personally don’t love the winter. I hate being cold and dream of being a snowbird and heading south, which is definitely an option on this list. BUT, I have had the opportunity to try a lot of really fun outdoor winter activities during the snowy winter months that I think should definitely be on your winter bucketlist. Let me know what your favorite outdoor winter activity is!

A list of the best outdoor winter activities for every level of adventure! You'll definitely want to add these to your winter bucketlist.

The Best Outdoor Winter Activities

1. Go Snowshoeing

I know this feels obvious, but if you’ve never considered it I HIGHLY recommend it.

What You’ll Need:

1. Snowshoes

I was able to find REI or a local shop along the way. So I justified it by telling myself I’d snowshoe at least 3 times to pay for it, and now I’ve used them over 10 times!

2. Trekking Poles

Snowshoeing is quite the workout and 3. Proper Cold Weather Gear for outdoor winter activity

Where to go Snowshoeing:

You can go anywhere there is snow! I’ve taken mine on flat terrain, mountains, and even frozen lakes.

2. Hot Springs Road Trip

Umpqua Hot Springs in Oregon in the Winter
Photo in Collaboration with Jhamil Bader

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’ve been all about hot springs lately. It is so deeply satisfying to hike through snow or embrace the cold before soaking in a natural hot spring!

Hot Spring Recommendations:

3. Winter Glamping or Cozy Cabin Stay with neaby Outdoor Winter Activities

Photo in collaboration with @itsloganmarie

I love connecting to a place outdoors by getting away in a more intimate and comfortable way. There are so many cabins that offer winter activities such as cross country skiing and local trails to explore. This has been favorite winter activity!

My favorite websites to search for cabins:

4. Cross Country Skiing

Winter Cabins with snowfall
Rolling Huts in Methow Valley with lots of cross country skiing opportunities

This is something that is on my winter bucketlist! I have spent hours searching for a cross-country skiing trek to some backcountry cabins, but with very little luck finding anything open this year or next in the USA.

My Cross Country Skiing Destination Wishlist:

Methow Valley, Washington

Stay at the Rolling Huts (pictured above) and spend the day cross country skiing the numerous Nordic Ski Networks and groomed trails! Ski Rentals are available nearby.

Crater Lake National Park, Southern Oregon

This place pretty much always has snow, and what a unique way to see it!! Several marked Nordic ski trails are located at the Rim Village. Make it a getaway by staying at Crater Lake Resort.

Lake Tahoe, California

Ever since exploring Lake Tahoe for the first time this year, I’ve been thinking about how rad it would be during the winter months. I was able to stay at Wylder Valley Hotel and would love to go back to cross country ski.

5. Visit a National Park

Redwoods National Park Road Trip in Winter

I thoroughly enjoy going to National Parks during off-season. There are significantly less crowds, and you get to see the park in a season that most people do not! This is one of my favorite outdoor winter activities.

You can embrace the snow and visit National Parks that have tons of outdoor winter activity OR chase warmer weather by going to a National Park further south.

My blog post gives a few ideas to get you started:

National Park Recommendations During the Winter

1. Olympic National Park

There are many options within Olympic National Park during the winter as it maintains weather in the 30-50 degree range. Whether you want to stroll through the lush rainforest or camp on the beach, this park has all the beauty – just prepare for rain. Check out my blog post for the itinerary.

2. Redwoods National Park

The Redwoods stay in a very mild climate and are gorgeous to see year-round. I almost prefer the Redwoods in the winter with the gentle fog and more potential for light rays to come through. Complete guide HERE.

3. Death Valley

I went to Death Valley TWICE last winter. It was so lovely to wake up to the sun and feel the warmth on my skin. Winter is actually the most ideal time to visit Death Valley as it reaches the highest temps in the world during the summer, YIKES. Check out my complete guide here.

6. Go Dogsledding

Dog Sledding
Photo courtesy of my mom, Jill Miller

Fun Fact about me: I grew up competitively dog sledding in Northern Michigan. While my mom still does regularly, I like to go only occasionally because… brrr.

Dog sledding is such an exhilarating experience and an absolute winter bucketlist item. When I think of winter sports I always think of this outdoor winter activity.

Dog Sledding Recommendations:

7. Stay at an Ice Hotel

Ice Hotel outdoor winter activity
Photo by Hôtel de Glace

There is only ONE ice hotel in North America and it was built using 500 tons of ice and 40,000 tons of snow. INSANE. Hôtel de Glace in Quebec City is definitely on my winter bucketlist. But at around $300 USD a night… maybe a ways away on my bucketlist.

8. Ice Skating

Frozen Pond Hiking guide to outdoor winter activities
photo in collaboration with Disa Wold

I grew up ice skating on the Great Lakes in Michigan after they froze over for the year. My parents would thoroughly test the ice and then give me an anxiety attack by driving on the frozen lake. Definitely a Michigan thing haha.

My 3 months of figure skating classes definitely did not pay off, but I still enjoy the heck out of fumbling around on ice skates.

Ice Skating Recommendations:

  • Indoor skating in Washington State: Check out this great guide by StepOutside HERE.
  • Outdoor skating in Washington State: Guide by Actively Northwest HERE
  • Outdoor skating in Oregon: Guide by Travel Oregon HERE
  • Ice Skating in California: Guide by Visit California HERE

9. See The Northern Lights

Northern Lights in Juneau Alaska
photo in collaboration with Adam Ramer

This is something I’m hoping to do again this year in Alaska. I was lucky enough to live in Juneau Alaska through December and experience a taste of some mild but WONDERFUL Aurora Borealis. This outdoor winter activity would be one you’d never forget.

Where to see the Northern Lights?

Fairbanks, Alaska

The aurora will be visible in Fairbanks an average of four out of five nights if the sky is clear enough and dark enough. Those are pretty good odds. The ideal time to see them is February-April, so start planning now!

Recommendation to Stay: Borealis Basecamp

Whitehorse, Canada

Best chances of catching them in this beautiful location is October-March. Things book up real fast here so plan ahead a year!

Recommendation to Stay: Northern Lights Resort and Spa

Heyburn State Park, Idaho

I’m definitely adding this to my bucketlist since Idaho is a heck of a lot closer to me than Alaska! This is the oldest state park in the PNW and has prime northern lights views from the lake. Imagine how epic that reflection would be.

Recommendation to Stay: Cabin Rentals in Heyburn State Park

10. Winter Hiking

Best National Parks to Visit in Winter in outdoor winter activity
Photo in Collaboration with Adam Ramer

There are a lot of trails that remain accessible in the winter that often do not require snowshoes. I’d recommend carrying Microspikes or Crampons and read my Winter Hiking Safety and Gear Guide that also explains how to find trails.

Trail Recommendations:

  • Gold Creek Pond, Washington
  • Skyline Lake, Washington
  • Heart Lake, California
  • Mirror Lake, Oregon
  • Convict Lake Loop, California

11. Bonfire

photo in collaboration with Johnathon DeSoto

This sounded like one of the more miserable outdoor winter activities to me, but after experiencing it a few times (in Alaska of all places), I’m honestly a fan. Find out where bonfires are allowed on beaches or nearby state parks, etc and invite your friends!

What to Bring:

  • Hand warmers
  • Gloves, Hat, Winter Jacket
  • Blankets
  • A hot beverage (This is the most important!!)

12. Traverse a Glacier or Ice Climb

Juneau Hiking near Glacier
Photo in collaboration with Adam Ramer

How epic would this be?? I’m still kicking myself for not making this a reality when I lived in Alaska. This is an activity that will require a lot of planning, preparation, and probably a guide. But rest assured, most guided ice and glacier excursions do not require any specific skills!

Guided Glacier Excursion Recommendations:

13. Snowboarding or Skiing Class

Mount Rainier Winter Hiking on a bluebird day. Outdoor Winter Activities
photo in collaboration with Adam Ramer

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog on outdoor winter activities, you probably aren’t an expert skiier or snowboarder. I am most definitely not. I have gone skiing one time and it was a beer festival hah!

Snowboarding and Skiing Classes often include gear rentals in the class which is super helpful if you are wanting to try it out as these winter sports can be very expensive.

Class Recommendations in the PNW:

Conclusion | Outdoor Winter Activities

Heart Lake Winter Hiking
photo in collaboration with Johnathon DeSoto

It can take a little more planning and creativity to get outdoors during the winter, but these outdoor winter activities are worth it!

  1. Snowshoeing
  2. Hot Springs Road Trip
  3. Glamping | Cozy Cabin Stay
  4. Cross Country Skiing
  5. Visit a National Park
  6. Dog Sledding
  7. Stay at an Ice Hotel
  8. Ice Skating
  9. Northern Lights Viewing
  10. Winter Hiking
  11. Bonfire
  12. Glacier Hiking | Ice Climbing
  13. Snowboarding | Skiing

Let me know in the comments what I’ve missed or if you feel inspired to try any of these!

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A list of the best outdoor winter activities for every level of adventure! You'll definitely want to add these to your winter bucketlist.
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