Most of the more than 1.1. million people who make their way to Capitol Reef National Park visit during the summer months. But hot temperatures and high visitor numbers can hinder your hiking experience this time of year. Crowds may form on the park’s most popular trails, especially on weekends and around the summer holidays. And when triple-digit temperatures strike, hiking in the middle of the day can become dangerous, unless you’re properly prepared.
If you want to beat the crowds and enjoy a more comfortable hiking experience, we have a secret for you — winter might just be the best time of year to visit Capitol Reef National Park. Cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, discounts on your stay, and a chance to see the park covered in snow are just a few reasons,
Planning to see Capitol Reef National Park as few visitors get to see it? Or planning to take advantage of discounts on winter stays at Cougar Ridge? If a cold-weather hike is on your itinerary, keep reading to learn a few tips to help you prepare.
Skip the Cotton
If you’ve spent any time around avid hikers, you may have heard the phrase, “Cotton Kills.” But what does this mean?
When you hike in cold weather, and even in freezing temperatures, you still sweat. Unlike other synthetic options, when cotton gets wet, it holds onto the moisture and dries very slowly. This means that when you begin to sweat, any cotton fabric that’s close to your skin will absorb that sweat.
Because the air temperature is colder than your body’s temperature, the cold air mixed with your wet skin will lower your body temperature. You’ll lose any insulating qualities that your clothing had. In cold conditions, this can put you at risk of hypothermia. It’s a common misconception that temperatures have to be below freezing for hypothermia to occur. In fact, temperatures can be above freezing, but if your skin is wet and your body temperature drops, especially in rainy or windy conditions, you may still be at risk.
While some people will sweat more than others, even a small amount of perspiration can become dangerous when it’s left to cling close to your skin and lower your body temperature. To stay warm and safe, skip the cotton clothing. Instead, opt for moisture-wicking materials, especially for those layers that sit close to your skin.
During the winter months, daytime temperatures in Capitol Reef can sometimes reach into the mid-40s and 50s (Fahrenheit). Combine this with a sunny day and a challenging hike, and you may find that you warm up quickly as the day progresses.
While you’ll need to wear warm clothing for the chilly sub-freezing mornings when you start your hike, dressing in layers makes it easy to adapt as temperatures change. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer. Then, add a warm middle layer, like a down jacket, wool sweater, or fleece. Finally, add a coat or waterproof shell, depending on the weather conditions.
Avoid Tight Clothing
Thermal base layers, gloves, boots, and even your wristwatch band that are too tight can cut off circulation to your extremities. Without proper circulation, your hands, feet, legs, and arms may lose heat quickly. Besides being uncomfortable, this can also increase your likelihood of developing frostbite.
Avoid tight clothing and accessories to prevent this, and to stay warm and comfortable on the trails.
Pack a Flashlight and Headlamp
One of the benefits of visiting Capitol Reef during the summer months is that the days are longer. While starting your day early is a great way to make the most of less daylight during the winter months, those early sunsets can still surprise you, especially when taking on hikes that you aren’t familiar with.
Packing a flashlight and headlamp is a great way to be prepared in case you find yourself on a trail after dark. Don’t forget to pack an extra set of batteries, too!
Always Use Sunscreen
If you think that you don’t need sunscreen on a cloudy winter day, think again. UV rays can still penetrate through overcast skies. And for every thousand feet of elevation above sea level you climb, the amount of UV radiation your skin is exposed to increases by 5 percent.
Keep up your sunscreen habit even after the sunny summer months are over. In fact, you’ll need to reapply sunscreen more often in the winter, as snow and strong winds may cause sunscreen to wear away faster and lose its effectiveness, leaving you exposed to harmful radiation.
Plan for the Best, Prep for the Worst
When you’re planning a fun outdoor vacation, you’ll no doubt want to plan to have an amazing, fun, and safe trip. However, preparing for the worst is a good way to make sure that you’re ready for anything.
Packing a first aid kit, more food and water than you expect to need, extra layers of clothing, a pocket knife, and a fire starter or matches is a simple way to protect yourself in case the worst does occur. You can pack a simple emergency kit to throw in your hiking pack all year long.
Planning a Winter Visit to Capitol Reef National Park
If you want to enjoy fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, as well as some stunning, snowy landscapes, winter may just be the best time of year to visit Capitol Reef. And with these simple tips, you can prep for hikes of all difficulty levels.
There’s still time to take advantage of big discounts on your winter stay at Cougar Ridge. For trips booked between December 1, 2021, and March 15, 2022, you’ll enjoy a 50%discount on your stay when you use the code WINTER50 at checkout. Book today and see for yourself why winter is the best time to visit Capitol Reef.