winter hiking to witchs hole

Winter Hiking to Witch’s Hole

For #waterfallwednesday we wanted to hike at Minnewaska State Park but ended winter hiking to Witch’s Hole instead. The free parking for the Minnewaska park was closed because of the icy conditions. Mohonk Preserve parking was closed as well. If you have ice cleats or traction, you should be allowed to hike in the winter. But we won’t argue about that. A lot of people come unprepared during summer hikes, so I can only imagine how they are during winter hiking. I’m sure the emergency call would go along the lines of “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” After circling back towards home, we decided to hike Witch’s Hole trail.

Walking On Ice

During winter hiking you either have ice, snow or both. If the trail is covered in snow, you would need to wear snow shoes. Once the snow melts and freezes into ice, you will need show traction. Nihad and I both have different options but they both work. I have the Yaktrax walk traction which is great on frozen snow and ice. This time while hiking, I did get a large branch wedged in between the crossed wires. Thankfully, nothing broke. We walked in our traction from the beginning of the trail, which was mostly covered in frozen layer of snow.

If you do not have shoe traction or snow cleats, get some! They are affordable and make winter hiking fun and convenient. Without our tractions, we would be on the floor a bunch of times. How do I know this? Because we’ve hiked Mullet Brook Falls without them, years ago, and fell hard. Multiple times! If you do not wish to fall on ice or frozen ground, wear microspikes or traction device. They easily fit over your hiking boots and are lightweight. If there is no need for them, just carry them in your backpack.

For winter hiking you need the right layers and microspikes. Without these two items, hiking will not be as fun. Your winter hiking layers should be either synthetic or merino wool. Synthetics such as acrylic dry faster and keep you cool. Cotton attire should be avoided, since it absorbs sweat and doesn’t dry fast. This in turn makes you feel colder and wet. For myself, I like to have at least three layers which include a synthetic shirt, a wool sweater and a hoody or windbreaker layer over it. Your outer layer should be wind and water proof.

Frozen Waterfall

Did you know that a frozen waterfall is called The Fang? Well, I did not and just recently learned this. A lot of ice climbers enjoy scaling frozen waterfalls, or fangs. We have yet to do this, but it’s on the bucket list. Anyway, hiking in the winter on this trail was great. Once we came down to the forest where the fall is, we felt like we were lost. Everything looked different and the path felt longer.

After a few “I don’t remember this!” we were standing in front of the frozen falls. It was breathtakingly beautiful. While the majority of the waterfall was frozen, there was a section of water coming down on the left side, facing the falls. It oozed into a hole and flew behind the frozen fangs, and under our feet. If you’ve never stood in front of a frozen waterfall, it’s something you need to do. It makes you even more aware of how powerful nature really is.

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