Beginner Skills

How to Navigate in the Snow

Solve winter routefinding challenges with these expert tips.


When snow conceals the trail, scout for other signs. Blazes cut into or tacked on trees, an open corridor in the forest, and a path-shaped depression in the snow are all likely indications that you’re on the right track.


Novices: Stick to well-marked trails in winter.

Everyone: Pack a map and compass/GPS in case snowdrifts force you off the route. In a whiteout, use your watch’s altimeter to navigate by your topo’s contour lines.


Check with rangers or a local gear shop for the location of winter-only snowshoe trails. Many don’t appear on maps, but are easy to follow when packed down.


Stay in the trees when the forecast calls for bad weather; snow makes it easier to get disoriented in open terrain. If thick flakes start falling, take a compass bearing for reference as visibility worsens. In a blizzard, backtrack if you can, or continue following bearings to move forward.