The winter landscapes of the Vosges Mountains are each more beautiful than the next.
Frozen lakes, snow-covered pastures on the summits, or deep fir forests: it's the ideal season to immerse yourself in a fairy-tale setting! You might have a few questions if you're thinking about heading out on a winter hike in the Vosges Mountains. What kind of equipment do I need? How should I prepare my itinerary? Where should I go hiking in the winter? We've got all the answers.
What kind of equipment do I need?Clothes
For a winter hike, there's no point in piling on too many layers! You really only need three layers of clothing to protect yourself from the cold.
The first layer should keep you dry by allowing moisture to escape, since your body will produce plenty during the hike. It's certainly the most important layer because it is in direct contact with your skin. Opt for a merino wool long-sleeved t-shirt or thermal underwear.
The second layer preserves your body heat, ideally a light puffer jacket made of synthetic fibres or down.
Finally, the third layer protects you from the elements. It needs to be waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Opt for a jacket with an intermediate membrane that wicks away moisture while protecting you from the cold.
Of course, you'll also need gloves, and a hat to keep your head warm.
You can always adapt your clothes to the intensity of your outing!
In your bag
Dry, warm clothes help your body protect itself from the cold. When you go on a winter hike in the Vosges Mountains, always pack a change of clothes in a waterproof bag.
Add a hiking map and enough to eat and drink, both for your breaks and for the end of the hike. Don't forget to fully charge your phone before you go, since the battery drains quicker in the cold.
How should I prepare my itinerary?
Preparing for a hike in winter is pretty similar to hiking in the summer. You can plan your itinerary online to estimate the distance and elevation gain. But it's still important to keep in mind a few key points when planning your winter hike.
Night falls early in the winter. The light begins to fade at 4 p.m. and it's dark by 5 p.m. It's important to plan your itinerary so that you finish before sundown.
You also walk slower on a hike in winter. If you’re used to hiking in the summer, remember to plan shorter routes because the weather conditions can greatly slow you down.
Finally, the weather in the Vosges Mountains is always changing. Be sure to regularly check the weather reports for the area where you've planned your hike. Also, plan alternative routes so you can shorten your hike if the weather gets bad.
Tip: check the Vosges Mountains snow report to see snowfall information.
Get ideas for winter hikes in the Vosges Mountains here
Where to go hiking in winter?
For a winter hike in the Vosges without snowshoes, you can go in all areas between 800 and 1000 m. You will be in the forest, which generally limits the presence of much snow. It is an idyllic setting for a hike with the family, since all paths are accessible. Young and old will find their happiness here!
The best snow conditions are usually found in the stubble fields. So if you want to go for a hike with snowshoes, you can go further up to discover magnificent winter panoramas! Frozen mountain lakes vie with fir forests in a fairytale atmosphere.
You can also take advantage of the routes specially designed for snowshoeing in the ski resorts. They are freely accessible and free of charge, and you can easily master the difficulty level of the route based on the colors. Check the websites of the individual alpine or Nordic ski resorts for more information.
Note: In winter, the biotopes of the Vosges massif are particularly vulnerable. Fauna and flora struggle to survive in a harsh climate. It is extremely important that everyone respects the locally designated protected zones. For more information, visit the website of the Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges (Ballons des Vosges Regional Nature Park), where you will find the protected areas and tips for respectful practice!
Do I have to be particularly athletic to go hiking in winter?
No, winter hiking in the Massif des Vosges is for everyone! Couples, families with children, groups of friends, everyone can easily hike the trails of the Massif.
Just be sure to adapt your itinerary to your physical condition, to be well equipped and to get accurate information on your itinerary and on the weather conditions (especially avalanche risks). The best way to start hiking in winter is to take an itinerary in a ski resort, starting with the easiest routes, usually marked in green and blue.
Three tips for a family winter hike
Choose an itinerary adapted to all: depending on the age of the participants, choose an intermediate circuit where everyone can simply enjoy the beauty of nature
Plan a snack break: what could be better than to meet up with your family in the middle of nature with a hot chocolate from a thermos
Take dry clothes for the return trip: ideal to avoid getting cold at the end of your hike!