My Favorite Winter Hikes
I'm sure we've all felt a little cabin fever more than usual this past year. I know I have! One way I've been combating that feeling is by taking weekly hikes near my hometown of Atlanta. Between the sunshine, exercise, and companionship of my hiking buddy; these have been a time for me to refresh in a time of life where most travel options don't exist.
Especially this past year, I feel we have to have something that reminds us to be grounded in each moment. Our hearts are worn out and our brains are exhausted. I find hiking a place to release those heavy things as they seem to live in and around me. If I live worn out, I know I can't live well and no good growth or change can come if I'm not nourishing myself.
1. Providence Canyon
Providence Canyon State Park is about 2.5 hours Southwest of Atlanta. The canyon was formed by poor farming, but the beauty and geological information you can gain during a visit here is a true gift and one that can hopefully only make us respect and protect the earth even more.
So maybe more than most fellow hikers, I pay attention to the colors of the earth. Many times this means picking out pink hues from dying grasses or subtle changes in the colors of moss. But a hike in Providence Canyon will make colors the obvious showstopper for anyone visiting this State Park. Reds (Iron Oxide), White (Kaolin & sand), Yellow (Limonite), and Purple (Manganese) seem to drip down the canyon walls as if the entire area was made by mixing different color sands together (remember making those little bottles at a festival?)
Why I love it in Winter:
While this is a beautiful place no matter when you visit, its Southern location and lack of tree cover in the canyon mean it gets very very hot in the warmer Georgia weather. There are also many more visitors to the park during the summer months. I love this hike on a weekday during a cool month in this Southern state.
2. Blood Mountain
Hiking can allow you opportunities to find and appreciate so many little things. Small streams of water, bird habitats, and a new view of your city are best enjoyed when you are in the moment and open to what you will find. I love visiting places at different seasons and noticing how they change. Most of the time winter in hiking spots with lots of overlooks means even more viewing opportunities as deciduous trees have lost most of their leaves.
Blood Mountain is a hiking spot in North Georgia along the Appalachian Trail with the kind of views that make you take a deep sigh of relief and remember the world is that much bigger than your problems. Or maybe that's just me out of breath when I get to the top! ha - either way, nothing makes me feel more like I have washed my stressed away than a good hike. A good hike to me usually means some exertion and some natural element that gives me some good energy (views, sunshine, water, etc.
Why I love it in Winter:
As is true for most of the winter hikes that I love, I love this one in winter because that means fewer people, better views, cooler weather. In Georgia, winter is pretty mild, so January and February are great times to explore. You'll still work up a sweat but not be ready to pass out. Oh - and no bugs!
3. Arabia Mountain
Arabia Mountain is a Monadnock (a large granite outcrop) East of Atlanta and one of the closest hiking spots to my apartment. This hike is special because it feels a little other-worldly with its gray rocks and sparse trees. But the curves of Arabia Mountain capture water from rain creating little islands of tiny green forests. Little red diamorpha smallii blooms once a year and is a stark contrast to the patches of green growing from these little pools and the granite rock.
Why I love it in Winter:
While many of the North Georgia hikes I love provide slightly cooler weather, cool water streams, and tree canopies for shade, Arabia Mountain is mostly exposed rock with little shade and a hot rock surface. It is also located on the Piedmont of Georgia, whereas many of the other mountains I love north of Atlanta have some elevation and therefore are at least a degree or two cooler (I'll take any degrees cooler and/or a breeze during our hot summers!)
What to Take
I pack lightly for the most part when hiking these shorter trails. I always have things like water, snacks, a hat, and a travel art kit in my pack. My travel art kit includes a watercolor set by Winsor & Newton (which includes a small travel brush), small bottle of water for washing my brush (I reused a tiny plastic bottle that had a ginger shot in it), pencil, watercolor pad, and notepad.
A nice treat on a cold hike is a hot drink. Take a moment on your outdoor adventure for something that grounds you. Paint the colors you see, journal the things you hear or feel in that moment, make a list of gratitude, meditate with nature. Practice the art of Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and allow nature to take care of you for a moment.