If you’ve been following the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or our Instagram account, then you know how much Alan and I enjoy traveling on cold weather trips. We’ve even dedicated a Pinterest board to winter travel. Why are we such big fans of cold and snow? Because it’s a great way for active boomer travelers to jump start those New Year’s fitness goals. And did you know that spending time in nature during the winter relieves holiday stress?
You give, give, give in December — to friends, family and those in need. January is a time to give back to you, in a healthy way, of course. Embrace winter — rather than fighting it — on a cold weather nature trip that includes plenty of active travel options. That’s what Alan and I do. Need a few ideas? Read on.
Go Snowshoeing in Montana
You can snowshoe anywhere there’s snow and a trail. It’s not as expensive as downhill skiing, plus there’s less chance that you’ll break a hip or blow out a knee. Check out Trails.com map to discover U.S. snowshoe trails near you. Dress warmly, then snowshoe into the forest for quality quiet time. Stopping in a snowy landscape to listen to a bird flitting through the trees or straining to hear snowflakes settle onto the ground is a natural stress reliever. And just think off all the holiday calories that snowshoeing will burn off.
You’ll find plenty of snowshoeing opportunities on a trip to Montana. But we think the Bitterroot Valley offers two of the best trail systems in the state. You’ll find groomed trails on Highway 12 at Lolo Pass on the border of Idaho and Montana. Or drive south on Highway 93 to reach the premier trails at Chief Joseph Pass. Both areas offer snowshoe, cross-country ski and snowmobile trails.
Make the trip even more relaxing by staying at a cabin in the Montana woods. For a luxurious cold weather trip that you’ll never forget, stay at our favorite — Triple Creek Ranch in Darby — ranked #1 hotel in the world in the 2014 Travel & Leisure’s World’s Best Awards. Tucked away in the wooded foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains, these luxurious cedar cabins provide an all-inclusive ranch resort experience with any winter activity you care to experience. Ride horses in the snow, go dogsledding or skijoring (skiing behind a horse), make use of complimentary snowshoes or cross-country skis for exploring on-property. And the groomed trails of Chief Joseph Pass are just a short drive away. Downhill skiing is available at Lost Trail Powder Mountain, across the highway from Chief Joseph.
Watch wildlife in Yellowstone National Park
Did you know that winter is the best time to watch wildlife? Animals have relocated to lower elevations looking for food. And leaves are off the trees making it easier to spot deer or maybe a fox. Spending a day snowshoeing or hiking to watch wildlife will slow down your harried pace bringing relaxation with it.
A winter trip to Yellowstone National Park to see elk, bison or wolves on the prowl is on our bucket list. And, unlike summer, we won’t be there with thousands of other visitors. Alan and I are planning a short winter getaway that begins in Gardiner, Montana, on the north edge of Yellowstone. We’ll spend a day driving through the Lamar Valley to watch for wolves before ending up in Cooke City, where we’ll build in an extra day in the itinerary for a snowmobile tour. Then we’ll travel back through the Lamar Valley for another day of wolf watching before heading to one of our favorite Montana getaways, Grey Cliffs Ranch.
If you’re planning to visit Yellowstone in the winter, tour companies depart for the Lamar Valley, America’s “Serengeti,” from Yellowstone’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, or on a snowcoach excursion from the Old Faithful Snow Lodge on the park’s west side. Mammoth Hot Springs, also on the north side of the park, is another option, however the hotel is closed for renovations through 2017. The remaining hotels in Yellowstone National Park close from October to May, but accommodations can also be found in the town of West Yellowstone.
Book winter accommodations at Old Faithful Snow Lodge or Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel at least a year in advance. The season is short and park lodging is limited.
Search for Alaska’s Northern Lights
Is photographing the mesmerizing colors of the northern lights on your bucket list? Raising our hands high here. It takes patience and quiet waiting to check this special occasion off the list. And it’s just the sort of winter activity to inspire and rejuvenate an enthusiasm for life. While northern lights are visible in many locations in the northern U.S. and Canada, seeing them in Alaska is the way that Alan and I want to experience this extra special light show.
Our future plans call for riding the Aurora winter train from Anchorage to Fairbanks. We’ll headquarter sixty miles northeast of Fairbanks where Chena Hot Springs Resort offers aurora watching and afternoon geothermal energy tours. Jumping into the soothing hot springs to warm up is also a natural way to relieve stress or ease sore muscles after a day of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
The next time you give an involuntary shiver thinking about winter’s cold, remember that the relaxation and nature connections on cold weather trips are good for you. Plus there’s no better way to start accomplishing those new year’s fitness goals than by playing in the snow. Who knows? You might just see us on one of your cold weather trips.
Not a fan of winter adventure? Stay tuned for our favorite destinations to warm your winter. And, as always, we invite you to join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an email with your thoughts.
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