Mt. Major/How to Dress for Cold Weather Activities in State Parks

Since the snow fairy still hadn’t visited most of New Hampshire, I decided to squeeze one more hike in because it will definitely blizzard soon (right…RIGHT?!?). I picked Mount Major in Alton, NH, which is right down the road from Ellacoya State Park. Although Mount Major is not located in a State Park, it is part of Mount Major State Forest, one of the many properties administered by the Department of Resources and Economic Development and managed by the NH Division of Forests and Lands. It’s a smaller mountain (1786 ft) but has great views from the top and is conveniently located in central New Hampshire. My friends from school and I came from the far corners of New England to conquer this tiny beast.

The most important part about hiking in the winter (or doing anything outside in the winter) is dressing for the elements. Although we weren’t battling massive snow drifts, it was still pretty cold on our hike, especially on the summit.

The best way to beat the weather is to prepare. During the course of our hike, I went from pretty cold to sweating within five minutes. A mile or so later, I was clammy, and then at the summit, I was pretty sure I was getting frostbite. Weather is fickle in New Hampshire, and half the time your body is not going to know what the heck to do about it.

The number one rule to dressing for winter activities is layering, layering, layering. Always start out with a warm, non-cotton, moisture-wicking base layer. I’m a big fan of Under Armour, which I use for running, hiking, and as a general base layer, even if I’m just walking to class. Next, throw on another lighter moisture-wicking shirt. Even if it’s freezing outside, you’re going to sweat. Feeling wet while you’re outside in the cold is not fun.

For your hands, feet, neck, and head, warmth is key. Smartwool socks are awesome, but any thick, warm sock will do. Chances are, you’ll ditch your hat and scarf while hiking, but you’ll be glad you brought them on the windy summit. As for gloves, they are absolutely essential. My hands usually run cold anyways, and for me, a chilly hike without gloves can be torturous.

Depending on the weather, you may want to wear snow pants and a winter jacket. It was hovering around 32 degrees at Mount Major the day we hiked, so I opted to just bring my jacket. I didn’t wear it on the hike up, but was grateful I had it on the blustery summit. Waterproof hiking boots are also a must.

After a failed plan to meet up at an Alton flower shop that didn’t end up existing, the gang finally reunited and started the haul up. Emily had on the coolest pair of spandex I had ever seen.

We headed up the Boulder Loop Trail, blazed with orange markers. The uphill trail was pretty gradual, and we enjoyed passing by bubbling brooks and giant boulders.

The views from Mount Major are amazing, especially since its only about an hour from the parking lot to the summit!

It even started snowing!

We huddled for warmth in the foundations of an old hiking shelter.

To stay warm, we did some exercises that Kendall and Luke learned in their Winter Hiking classes at UNH. We ended up looking pretty ridiculous in the process.

We descended the same trail we went up, since some other hikers on the top warned us of icy conditions on another trail. There was barely any ice on our hike down.

Except for right there!

Have you gone on any cold-weather hikes this winter?

Find more tips on how to prepare for your next hike at


Theresa Conn, New Hampshire State Parks Winter Intern

Hi all! My name is Theresa Conn, and I’m a sophomore Environmental Conservation Studies major at the University of New Hampshire. Growing up in suburban Massachusetts, my family always ventured north to Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains to hike and relax. When it came time to look at colleges, UNH was an easy choice; between its great location, variety of majors, and college-town feel, I was instantly hooked. In the Environmental Conservation program here, I’ve been learning about New Hampshire’s diminishing natural resources. The more time I spend in nature, the more I realize how important it is to conserve the natural spaces we have left. Keeping parts of New Hampshire wild is critical for the health of the planet and ourselves. What I’m interested in exploring while writing this blog are the people and stories behind the parks. Be it talking to hikers on the trails, going out with animal trackers to learn about wildlife, or meeting with the stewards who protect our lands, I want to know who’s out there and why. People are the force that drives land protection, and I hope that I can share their stories using film, photography, and journalism. Grand intentions aside, I can’t wait to find new ways to enjoy the long winter months. Staying pent up inside is boring, and I’m excited to find ways to get outside like dog sledding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. I’m ready to explore all that New Hampshire State Parks have to offer, and look forward to sharing my adventures with you!

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