Walking and hiking in exotic locations isn’t just for the summer months. In fact, heading out in the winter has its own set of rewards that can’t be experienced during the busier tourist seasons. From the island of Hokkaido in Japan to Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, check out these 10 winter wonderland destinations that offer the opportunity to explore the world’s natural beauty by foot.
While Europe is filled with amazing winter destinations, Salzburg is an overlooked city that offers a wide range of terrain. Surrounded by the Alps, there are plenty of opportunities for both easy and more challenging mountain terrain. You can also stroll along the Salzach River to enjoy the town in the evening. The area is also home to a variety of castles, the backdrop of the film “The Sound of Music,” and other historic architecture that make it a joy to take in during the snowy holiday season.
BANFF NATIONAL PARK, CANADA
If you love the outdoors, there’s no better place to visit in the winter than Banff National Park in Alberta. The snow-covered Canadian Rockies offer an excellent opportunity to hike or snowshoe your way to several stunning views, including the glacial Lake Louise that freezes over during the winter.
Rocky Mountain National Park can be hectic during the summer months, which is why it’s worth visiting in winter when the snow around Odessa Lake is truly magical. The 9-mile trail is doable in the winter, but you’ll probably need snowshoes and trekking poles. The views of Glacier George and Longs Peak make the trip well worth it.
Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria looks like it’s straight out of a Disney movie. In fact, it was the inspiration for the castle in “Sleeping Beauty.” During the winter, it’s a magical sight surrounded with snow. You’ll walk uphill for 30 minutes to get to the castle entrance where you can further explore the area on foot.
MAUNA KEA, HAWAII
Not everywhere in Hawaii is sunny and filled with sandy beaches. While you can always head down to lower elevations to warm up and relax, Mauna Kea offers a different kind of experience if you are well prepared for the cold. This dormant volcano is a hidden secret for skiers, even though there are no lifts to the top. Hike to the summit and spend some time taking in the gorgeous views of the surrounding moon-like landscapes and the islands below.
While this island is filled with surreal wintertime scenery that is easily walkable, making your way to the Blue Pond in Hokkaido is something you’ll want to put on your travel itinerary. With trees protruding from the magical-looking blue waters, it’s one of those unique experiences you’ll never forget. If you’re into snowshoeing, a day trip to Mt. Asariyama is also well worth your attention.
ALTON, NEW HAMPSHIRE
For hikers, New Hampshire’s 48 different 4,000-foot peaks are a winter haven. While there’s no shortage of options, Mount Major in Alton is a standout if you’re looking for a moderate day-hike. The Main and Brook Trail loops are less than 4 miles long, and provide epic views of the treasured Lake Winnipesaukee. If you want more of a challenge, try the peaks in the Presidential Range, which are every bit as scenic.
CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK, OREGON
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more peaceful, serene walk than the trails surrounding Crater Lake National Park’s namesake. Panoramic views of snow-covered pine trees surrounding the gigantic blue lake are around every turn. Snowshoeing is the best option for most, as the area gets an annual snowfall of about 43 feet. The Discovery Trail runs 2.2 miles total or try a more challenging 7.25-mile loop to Watchman Overlook. Bonus: There is no entrance fee in winter.
Christmas in Stockholm is unlike any other, with the Old Town Christmas Market transforming a portion of the city into a true winter wonderland. From stands with everything gingerbread to reindeer meat, walking around beneath the lights surely gets you into the holiday spirit. When you’re feeling more adventurous, head outside of town to Sormland for the chance to complete some epic hiking around the area’s snow-capped forests and gorgeous frozen lakes.
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING
Even though Grand Teton National Park receives heavy snow, the two main roads leading to the park are plowed regularly during winter. This makes accessing the park easy enough, which is a good thing considering the trails offer some of the most beautiful winter hikes in the world. Think: snow-covered peaks, open valleys, hundreds of elk and the kind of tranquility you won’t find near urban hotspots. Take a 2-hour guided snowshoe tour with a park ranger or try a more challenging 5.2-mile round trip hike to Phelps Lake Overlook.