Is Snowshoeing Harder Than Hiking? (My Experience)

snowshoeing vs hiking

Living in Southern California has its perks if you’re an outdoor lover like me.

We have great year-round weather and can experience all the seasons within a 2-hour drive.

If I wanted a dry, hot desert scene, I could go to Joshua Tree National Park.

If I wanted to take a hike to see all the different colors of leaves in the Fall, I could take a trip to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in San Diego.

For snow trips, I can go to Big Bear.

And our “wet season” is only a few days near the beginning of each year. 

Speaking of Big Bear, I took a trip up there with my family and friends last winter.

We did a little offroading, but we also wanted to try something different.

Something most Californians (that I know, at least) have never tried before.

And that’s Snowshoeing.

Because honestly, when you think about California, snowshoeing wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind.

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in this winter sport.

I’m more experienced in hiking in non-snowy terrain.

And now that I’ve done both, here are my thoughts on which is more difficult.

snowshoes at an outdoor gear store
snowshoes in the snow

What Is The Difference Between Snowshoeing and Hiking?

The main difference between snowshoeing and hiking is the amount of energy your body uses, and the time it takes to complete a trail of the same distance and elevation.

What Is The Point?

When snowshoeing, you attach a piece of this outdoor gear to your hiking boots.

The point of snowshoeing is that it allows you to float above the snow without sinking too deep into the snow when winter hiking.

It helps distribute your weight over a larger surface area.

It’s similar to walking over a bed of nails with your bare feet.

If there were only one nail, it would go straight into your feet as you step on it, not a good day.

Turn that one nail into a bed of a couple thousand nails, and you’ll be able to walk on it.

So snowshoes make winter hiking much, much easier if the snow is deep.

Is Snowshoeing Like Hiking?

Snowshoeing is similar to hiking but a bit more challenging. Your stance and pace will need to adjust to accommodate the width of the snowshoes and prevent them from overlapping with each other when you’re stepping.

What Does A Snowshoe Look Like?

The old, traditional snowshoes were made of a wood frame and laced with rawhide. I remember I used to called them tennis rackets for your feet when I was young. 
The modern snowshoe is much more advanced in terms of material and shape, uniquely designed for the terrain you’re hiking on.
Most modern snowshoes are made of lightweight aluminum allow frames.

Is Snowshoing Easier Than Hiking?

Snowshoeing is not easier than hiking. You will need to be physically fit as you’ll be working out more muscle groups while trying to stay warm in freezing temperatures. You’ll also burn more calories and take longer to complete your route.

With that said, in terms of hiking a trail covered in snow, having snowshoes on will be much easier than regular hiking.

With that said, in terms of hiking a trail covered in snow, having snowshoes on will be much easier than regular hiking.

hiker with snowshoes on

Does Snowshoeing Burn More Calories Than Hiking?

Snowshoeing can burn up to 50% more calories and up to twice as long to cover the same distance as hiking.

This is just an estimate as many factors come into play where more calories will be burned, such as:

  • Your body weight
  • The freshness of the snow
  • How much weight you’re carrying
  • Weather

Simply put, there is more resistance when you’re out in the snow. I was so tired at the trail’s end, but it was such a fun experience.

If you’re a beginner just trying this out, I suggest you find an area with aged snow, meaning that it’s been packed down to help your body get acquainted.

Fresh, powdery snow is much more difficult to move around.

two hikers wearing snowshoes

How To Walk In Snowshoes – Is It Hard?

Walking in snowshoes isn’t hard. The only difference is that you’re walking at a slightly wider stance as compared to walking in hiking boots.

Which makes sense; snowshoes are much wider than hiking boots.

But in general, walking in snowshoes is pretty straightforward. The one thing I suggest is to make sure you choose the right sizing based on your weight.

close up of person with snowshoes

Can You Wear Hiking Boots For Snowshoeing?

You can wear hiking boots for snowshoeing, and I recommend a pair with insulation and water-resistant to keep your feet warm and dry.

Whatever footwear you choose, make sure it’s firm, comfortable, and insulated.

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