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Winter Hiking Proposal: A Guide to Planning and Preparation

couple looks off in the distance during snowy winter hiking proposal

Winter is a wonderful time to propose. It’s snowy. It’s beautiful. You can do fun things. You can be with just your partner or have a party. It also sets you up well for if you want to get married in the summer. Whatever you choose, here are some tips on how to make the best of your winter hiking proposal.

If you like proposing in the mountains, you might be the kind of person who is interested in an elopement as well. Just putting that nugget in your brain.

Dressing for a Winter Hiking Proposal: What to Wear and Pack

When planning your hiking, deciding what to wear is vital. Your first decisions are about what you need to wear while hiking. With that, your solution is always layers. While hiking, it’s even more important to wear lots of layers to allow yourself to add or remove clothing depending on the moment. While traveling uphill, it’s likely that you’ll get sweaty, even in the coldest of days. But, then it’s vital to be prepared to change and add layers when you stop moving. Generally, you’ll want to wear a synthetic or merino wool base layer. Then another layer or two of intermediate warmth. If there is a chance of precipitation, you’ll then want some sort of rain-proof shell (Goretex or the like) for a top layer.

Specifically, I’d recommend you don’t hike while wearing down clothing. I can’t count how many times I’ve been out and seen someone trying to hike wearing a down puffy jacket. Almost immediately they sweat through it or it gets wet. Down can lose its loft (and therefore its warmth) when wet. Bring a down jacket, but pack it in your backpack. Then, when you arrive at a stopping spot, throw it on immediately to retain heat.

But, all that talk is about what to wear while hiking. You’re proposing, you might want to look good too, right? That’s totally up to you. But, if you’re having your proposal photographed, it might be a good idea to toss in a nice sweater or other over-layer than you and your partner can easily put on if you want to look fancy for a few photos.

groom proposes during winter hike

Choosing the Perfect Proposal Location for Your Winter Hiking Proposal

Washington State is full of beauty, especially in the winter. That makes the Evergreen State an awesome place to propose (but if you were here reading this blog, you probably already know that). But, with the glut of hiking options in the area, it can be a little hard to decide what is a good choice for a winter proposal. Use this guide to help you come up with great locations and then how to safely plan your winter proposal.

For a winter proposal, it is important to know whether you want snow or not. Then take into account how far you’re comfortable going. Remember that 1-mile snowshoeing is a lot harder than 1-mile hiking which is a lot harder than 1-mile in the city. But, here are a few ideas for easy-to-moderate winter hikes.

  1. Mount Pilchuck – This 5.5-mile round-trip hike offers stunning views of the surrounding peaks and forests.
  2. Paradise at Mt Rainier – A choose-your-own-adventure location that you can’t go wrong with Mt Rainier. Whether you pick a snowshoe loop that is a half mile from the visitor’s center or ski tour up towards Camp Muir, there are so many options here. Do note, the gate to Paradise opens at 9 am and closes at 4pm sharp. There are no sunrise/sunset options here unless you have a permit to camp on the snow.
  3. Artist Point Snowshoe – Though this spot is well known in the summer, it’s also a great spot for winter proposals.
  4. Wallace Falls State Park – This 3.7-mile round-trip hike takes you to the stunning Wallace Falls, which are especially beautiful in the winter.
  5. Franklin Falls – This 2.2-mile round-trip hike takes you to a beautiful waterfall that is especially stunning in the winter.
  6. Lake 22 – This 5.4-mile round-trip hike takes you through a beautiful forest and to a picturesque mountain lake. For a similar lake, but a shorter hike, also consider Heather Lake.
  7. Rattlesnake Ledge – This 4-mile round-trip hike takes you to a stunning viewpoint overlooking the surrounding mountains and valleys. This will also have minimal snow during much of the winter. That said, even in winter, this is one of the most popular hikes in Washington. I’d only suggest proposing here if you’re going on a weekday and at sunrise or sunset.
  8. Twin Falls – This 3.2-mile round-trip hike takes you to a beautiful waterfall and through a lush forest.
  9. Mount Si – This 8-mile round-trip hike takes you to the summit of Mount Si, with beautiful views of the surrounding peaks and valleys.
  10. Snow Lake – This 7.2-mile round-trip hike takes you to a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by snowy peaks. You can keep the hike a little shorter by only going to the saddle before the lake. It’s a beautiful overlook and saves a mile or two off the whole trip.
  11. Lake Serene – This 8-mile round-trip hike takes you to a beautiful mountain lake with stunning views of the surrounding peaks. This is a longer hike, but that would mean you’re more likely to have it to yourself when you propose.
groom laughs after bride hits him with snow during backcountry skiing winter engagement photos

Fueling Your Winter Hiking Proposal: Tips for Packing a Warm and Hearty Meal

Food is important. Bring it. I’m an ultrarunner and have come to a new appreciation of eating while hiking. Be sure to have enough and going with stuff that is a little more carbohydrate filled is a good idea because those are quick-energy foods that will keep you going while on the trail.

But, if you’re proposing, it’s also sometimes a fun idea to have good food options for after you pop the question. So consider a picnic, cheeseboard or just something more than a PB&J to munch on as you look at the newly placed engagement rings.

bride and groom smile together during winter engagement groom drink champagne during winter proposal

Staying Hydrated on Your Winter Hiking Proposal: Water and Hydration Supplies to Bring

As with food, liquids are important. Whenever I’m going out into the mountains, I always bring either Nuun or Tailwind drinks with me. They are good sources of electrolytes. If you’re proposing, you probably are going to attempt not to get so sweaty that you need a ton of electrolytes, but they’re always a good idea. Also, just simple water is a great plan. That said, unlike summer hikes, it can actually be pretty hard to access water during winter hikes if there is a lot of snow. So, though you might have good filtration options, those might not be as accessible. Make sure you have enough water for the full day if you’ll be on snow.

But, that’s the important (read, BORING) drinks. You’re proposing, do fun stuff. Throw in a bottle of bubbly (and some plastic fancy glasses). Pre-make your favorite cocktails in a thermos. Just get some hot chocolate and marshmallows. 

couple laughs during wintery snow skiing engagement

Navigating Your Winter Hiking Proposal: Tools to Help You Find Your Way

You’re proposing. You might have other things on your mind besides navigation. So, make sure you’re well-planned ahead of time. Even if you’re on the most popular of hikes, know where it’s going ahead of time. There are always options for having fancy GPS devices like the Garmin In-Reach, but those aren’t totally necessary. I would suggest taking a photo of any maps at the trailhead. You also should think about screenshotting the maps from the WTA or AllTrails. Also, if possible, pre-download the map on Google Maps. That way even if you just have GPS location dot, you can compare to the maps and know your approximate location.

Preparing for Emergencies on Your Winter Hiking Proposal: A First Aid Kit and Other Essential Supplies

I’d assume that if you’re planning to go hiking or snowshoeing to propose, you’ve done this before. But, if you’re going out, be sure to normal first aid supplies and such. A simple kit (like this one) is a great thing to get. You’ll probably never need to use it, but it’s an easy one to keep in your backpack. Also, hand warmers are not a bad thing to have. You might want to use some in normal use, but keep an extra set in your emergency kit just in case.

man kisses woman during winter proposal

Planning for the weather during your winter proposal

The weather in the mountains is always important to keep in mind. It will dictate what you can safely do, but also how you can enjoy it. No matter the forecast, always be prepared for it to be colder and wetter than you’d like.

When looking at forecasts, normal forecasts (like what you can get with Google or Apple weather) are fine, but they aren’t very specific for locations. Since weather can be completely different from one valley to another, the best tool I’ve found is NOAA’s pinpoint forecasts. If you follow that link and scroll down a bit, can move the map around to get the most accurate forecast for your destination location. That said, remember that these are estimations and few hiking locations actually have weather stations there. So they are giving more specific forecasts, but it’s still trying to predict the future in the mountains. NOAA also has a good map that shows snow coverage if you’re unsure whether or not there is going to be snow in the location you’re heading.

man and woman kiss at heather lake during winter proposal

Obtaining Permits and Permissions for Your Winter Hiking Proposal

First, you probably are not going to need any specific permits for proposing. The only locations where that might be necessary would be private lands, but if it’s public, you’re set. 

That said, you do need to keep in mind any permits needed to access the lands. If you’re at a State Park in Washington, you’ll need a Discovery Pass. National Parks usually use either a day pass or the America The Beautiful Pass. That pass also covers National Forests or you can get a Northwest Forest Pass for cheaper. They also have day options.

But, beyond that, if you’re going to be accessing snow through one of the Sno-Parks, you’ll need a pass specifically for that. Some of those are on State Park lands while are others are on National Forests. Both are covered by the same system and can be accessed with a day or seasons pass.

Staying Safe on Your Winter Hiking Proposal: Avalanche Awareness and Preparation

Whenever you’re traveling on snow in the winter, it’s a very important to be avalanche aware. Don’t let that be too scary because there are a lot of tools to make sure that you make good and conservative decisions.

First, a quick primer on Avalanches. They can occur on slopes that are steeper than 30 degrees. It occurs when, for a variety of reasons, a section of snow becomes disconnected from the mountain. For more information, I would suggest looking into AIARE classes. If you’re going into avalanche terrain, be sure to carry the 3 essentials (becon, shovel, probe) and know how to use them. But, when in doubt, pick a different spot.

If you’re unsure if the slopes of where you’re going, a great tool is CalTopo. You can turn on the slope shading to see how steep the areas will be. Do keep in mind that even if the land is flat, steeper terrain could be above. You can also look up the avalanche forecast for the area you’ll be traveling as done by the NWAC. They are a really professional group and are active on Instagram. If you’re unsure, even consider DMing them and asking about safety in the area you’re planning.

couple kisses standing on stump during winter proposal

Informing a Trusted Friend or Family Member of Your Winter Hiking Proposal Plans

You’re proposing. You probably have talked to someone else. But, aside from the chats about the excitement of the day, it’s also a good idea to tell someone where you’re going. My partner and I also have a rule that when leaving cell service, you need to say 1) where you’re going 2) when you expect to check in and 3) what is a reasonable time to start to get worried. So, if I were going on a sunrise hike, I’d tell her the location, that I expect to be back to cell service around 11 or noon, but that she shouldn’t worry about me unless I don’t check back by 6 pm.

If you’re hoping to meet up with other people (or a photographer), I do have another blog post that is specifically about photographing a hiking proposal.

winter hiking proposal: a guide to planning and preparation
winter hiking proposal: a guide to planning and preparation

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