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I hiked the AT this summer and the PCT three years ago, and it's looking like I may have the chance to return to New England for about a month sometime in Dec/Jan.

Does anyone have any recommendations for how best to spend this time in the great outdoors? I love thru-hiking, backpacking, skiing, snowboarding, and I have a lot of winter mountaineering experience and winter gear, so I'm looking for some suggestions really.

I'll be flying from UK into Connecticut and then I can drive from there to anywhere nearby, probably north since the AT took me that way and I really liked it - Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine.

How realistic is thru-hiking in that part of the world in Dec/Jan, in terms of weather, snow, etc? I was considering the Long Trail but wondered if that might be too ambitious in winter.

Oh, and I'll probably be solo - my friends are too fond of their sofas!

So, in order of preference:

  1. Thru-hiking/backpacking an established trail for multiple weeks, do-able in winter
  2. Multi-day cross-country ski routes
  3. Downhill skiing/snowboarding at a resort likely to have good snow at that time of year
  4. Anything else you think might be fun

closed as too broad by Charlie Brumbaugh, user812786, Sue, Rory Alsop Dec 13 '17 at 8:55

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  • Although our weather here in Connecticut has been very mild so far, I wouldn't count on that lasting. If you're flying into here, then just head west an hour or so and hop on the AT there. Head north or south as the weather suggests. – Carey Gregory Dec 6 '17 at 4:56
  • did you look at the Catamount trail? it is winter-oriented, mainly for skiing, but also for snowshoes. Also, since you are in the region, Quebec is very nice that time of year, and several parks in the south have good hiking trails (e.g. sepaq's Megantic Mount) – njzk2 Dec 6 '17 at 7:01
  • If you're considering the Long Trail for thru-hiking, you might want to look at this question, which specifically asks about thru-hiking the Long Trail in Vermont in late January. It has a lot of pertinent information, which could hopefully help you! – Sue Dec 9 '17 at 4:22
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Thru-hiking/backpacking an established trail for multiple weeks, do-able in winter

The longer hiking trails in ME, NH, and VT, apart from the AT, like the Long Trail and the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail and Cohos Trail just have too much extreme weather on exposed peaks to be safe for a solo hiker. The New England Scenic Trail in CT and MA could be a possibility since it stays at lower elevations.

Multi-day cross-country ski routes

The best of these is probably the 300 mile Catamount Trail in VT. The terrain is generally reasonable and the route tries to limit things like avalanche risks, but again, multi-day winter solo trips in New England are dangerous.

Downhill skiing/snowboarding at a resort likely to have good snow at that time of year

This should not be a problem. There are tons of them and they all snow making capabilities so will have plenty of terrain. New England is small enough that you can hit a number of these resorts.

Anything else you think might be fun

There is more to winter in New England than mountains and harsh weather. The Bay Circuit Trail, Midstate Trail can be done in portions or a few days. The Cape Cod National Seashore in the winter would not offer typical beach weather, but you could easily spend a week exploring the beaches, trails, and area. The Cape cod Rail to Trail project, and others, offer a nice way to see other parts of Cape Cod.

  • Thanks loads, I'll definitely have a look into the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail and the Catamount Trail. – StrawbsUK Dec 7 '17 at 9:55
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You've already done the AT, so know what the terrain of the Berkshires, Green Mountains, and White Mountains is like. Obviously that gets a lot more difficult with 2-6 feet of snow on the ground. With the right gear, it is of course doable, but at too high a hassle level for most people.

The Long Trail is the first that came to my mind from your description. Don't expect accommodations anywhere along the trail, like there are in places along the AT in summer. You'll be pretty much alone, except where the trail passes near ski resorts. You'll have more options where to camp than in summer, but much less options for anything other than finding and making your own campsite.

For a tamer and less wild experience, you can try some of the smaller lesser-known trails. I'm from north-central MA, so the ones I'm most familiar with are the M+M and Midstate Trails. Permission to camp may be a issue. These kind of trails cross a lot of private lands with public access rights negotiated. Those rights often do not include camping. If you look at any of these secondary trails, you probably want to secure permission for camping spots in advance.

Then of course there are lots of options in the White Mountains. Some of the huts are still open in winter, usually with just a single caretaker. You won't get a meal and other accommodations like you can in summer, but you can sleep indoors. Check ahead. In this case, contact the AMC at the Pinkham Notch visitor center.

There are lots of beautiful and wild trails in the White Mountains that are not part of the AT. Just get a map and look around. As one of many possible examples, you can park at Lincoln Woods, then take the Wilderness Trail to Bondcliff (my favorite spot in all the White Mountains), Bond, Guyot, the Twins, etc. Or stay in the valleys more easterly. There are many many options.

Another totally different possibility is to do a few day hikes on the many local trails that are all throughout the region. These are harder to find, since there is no larger organization that lists them. For example, my town (Groton, MA) has over 110 miles of trails on over 10 square miles of land open to the public. We have more miles of trails than we do paved roads, but anyone more than a few towns away probably has no idea of that. You'll never be that far from a road or a house, but you will discover some amazingly pretty places. Overnight camping is generally not allowed without advance permission, but these kinds of trails are best done as day adventures anyway. Permission can also be arranged, but that's probably more trouble than it's worth.

  • That's some great advice. Thanks so much! I'm now thinking Long Trail for hiking or Catamount Trail for cross-country skiing. – StrawbsUK Dec 7 '17 at 9:54

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