When Does Hiking Season End?

Do Not Enter – Trail Closed sign. Taken in Minneopa State Park in Mankato Minnesota

Hiking is an activity that easily allows many individuals to enjoy nature. This is an activity that can be done as a family, with a group of friends, or as an individual. So, when exactly does the hiking season end?

October to November is usually when most individuals decide to end their hiking seasons. There are some specific parks that have actual opening and closing dates, while others don’t. It is important to check to see if there are any restrictions on hiking at a specific park before planning a trip.

It can be extremely important to know whether or not a trail is open for hikers before planning a trip. There can be a lot of information that is required to ensure hikers only plan to hike trails that are open to the public.

The Hiking Season

For many individuals, the hiking season starts in mid-March and continues through either late October or mid-November. An individual’s hiking experience can determine when their hiking season ends. Another thing that can impact the hiking season is the specific location in which the trails are located. There are some differences between the number of restrictions that are placed on trails that are located in national parks versus state parks.

There is a common restriction that is placed on trails in both state parks and in national parks. These trails are limited to the time of day in which individuals are able to have access to these trails. Most trails are only opened during the daylight, meaning the trails are closed at dusk. This limitation exists for the safety and protection of individuals hiking these trails.

Hiking Trails During the Winter

There are many national and state parks that are officially closed during the winter. A few reasons can cause these parks to close during this time period, but for most parks, it has to do with snow. There are not enough resources to ensure that access roads to these trails are plowed and cleared for snow, so many of these parks close their trails until the snow melts away in the beginning of the spring.

Even if trails are open during this time period, there is not a lot of wildlife that is present. Many of the animals that are typically seen on hiking trails are either hibernating or have migrated south for the winter. If seeing wildlife is something that is extremely important to an individual while hiking, choosing to hike trails that are in the south during the months of winter will allow them the opportunity to see the wildlife they long to see. (Source)

Despite the lack of wildlife during the winter, there are many reasons to hike trails that are open and safe to hike in the winter. Many of these tails have beautiful formations that happen only in the winter. While hiking in Hocking Hills State Park during a December with my family, I was able to see all the various waterfalls that have frozen over. These frozen waterfalls allowed hiking trails I have been hundreds of times to look completely new and magical.

There are many recommended trails to hike during the winter from avid hikers on Reddit. You may find that winter hiking is actually preferable to summer hiking, as long as the trails are open.

Rockhouse, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Restrictions in National Parks

Outside of the restriction of a time frame that hikers are able to access the trails, there are other restrictions that can impact whether or not parts of a national park are closed.

There are parts of national parks that are closed in order to help protect the wildlife that lives within the environment of these trails. During specific parts of the year, certain trials can be closed to protect the mating season of at-risk or endangered animals. It is important to avoid hiking these trials when they are closed to protect the wildlife. (Source)

There are times when parts of certain trails have been damaged due to weather conditions. The damage caused can lead to the trails being dangerous to hike. To avoid any harm happening to visitors of these parks, the national park services will close these trails to keep people safe.

Caution trail work ahead temporary sign posted at nature park entrance.

Restrictions in State Parks

Like national parks, there are other reasons that cause trails in state parks to be closed for a period of time. State parks can close their trails for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is during times where the trails may not be safe for hikers. This includes weather related incidents.

While hiking with my family, I experienced a trail closure that made me upset. I had been looking forward to this specific trail at Hocking Hills State Park. I asked a nearby park service worker why the trail was closed. After my family spent time talking with him, it was brought to our attention that the rain storm that had happened the previous night had eroded part of trail which could lead to hikers falling or slipping.

Another reason that causes state parks to close certain trails throughout the year include maintenance issues. Rather than wanting to ruin the sights for hikers trying to enjoy the surrounding nature, the park services decide to close these trails during times where things need to be fixed. This includes fixing the hiking markers and signs, as well as adding new amenities. (Source)

Important Things to Consider When Planning Hiking Trip

There are many things to consider while planning a hiking trip. The first thing is ensuring that the intended hiking trails are open to the public during the time the hike will take place. Calling the state or national park can ensure that the trails are open and save hikers from being disappointed when arriving at a trail just to learn it is closed. Looking online is another way individuals can be aware of trails that are closed.

It is important to be aware for how long the trail is and how long it could take individuals in the hiking group to complete this trail. For most, it is more common to begin a hike in mid-morning to early afternoon rather than in the later afternoon. Starting the hike earlier in the day allows the group to have plenty of time to complete the hike before the trail closes at dusk. (Source)

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