Hiking is a wonderful hobby that produces so much joy and wonder. When an individual goes hiking, the main purpose of the hike is to get some exercise while relishing the beautiful world around them. Often planning a hike is the hardest part of the hiking experience.
The best time to hike is in the spring and the fall months, typically starting earlier in the day. This is the preferred time of year and day because the temperatures will be mild and enjoyable, the nature is thriving, and it’s safer and easier to access trails.
The reasons why spring, fall, and early mornings are the best time to hike may seem simple, but there is more to each aspect than previously anticipated.
When planning a hike, one of the first steps is to make sure that the place you are going will look appealing and be worth the effort to get to. I grew up in Colorado and hiking was something that my friends, family, and I would do for fun. Colorado has some wonderful locations for hikers, such as Pike’s Peak and other fourteeners. However, Colorado is also known for having intense weather conditions in the mountains.
Sometimes, the weather will impact the scenery drastically. If it was still cold and snowy outside, the likelihood we would see more than snow on the horizon was slim. However, if an individual gives it a couple of weeks or months, they will likely see green plants bursting from the russet-colored dirt, flowers peeking out in patches, and a clear blue sky that warms the soul.
The springtime enhances the beauty of new growth in the plants. The fall offers a different kind of beauty. The orange, yellow, and deep red tones that show up in the leaves are unique. Walking through fallen leaves adds an exhilarating crunch to a person’s step. Even the way that the sun hits the horizon is different and offers a unique beauty to the landscape. (source)
Hiking in the morning also adds to the beauty of each season. In the spring and fall, different creatures emerge and add to the environment. One of the aspects of this I have come to appreciate is the sounds of birds in the morning. It is fun to hear them call back and forth to each other, and the calls tend to diminish as the day goes on. The sun also is in the process of rising in the morning, so individuals can see the more muted tones at the beginning of the hike and the vibrant tones at the end.
There is also an additional measure of safety when an individual hikes in the spring, fall time, and/or in the early morning.
When hiking in the morning, there are a lot of safety benefits. One of the biggest safety benefits is that it is brighter outside in the spring than at other times of the year. The light is important because it enables an individual to clearly see the path, look for additional dangers like large rocks or wildlife, and be able to be aware of where they are at on the trail. It is also beneficial to have more light just in case someone gets hurt or lost on a hike. If there is light outside, it is much easier to find and assist someone. (Source)
The safety benefits of hiking in the spring and fall consist of fewer bugs, a lower likelihood of sunburns and heat exhaustion, and a lesser chance of getting sick due to cold temperatures. With the cooler spring and fall months, fewer bugs are likely to be out. They do not like to freeze and will hide away until it is warm enough outside for them to survive. It can make for a more pleasant experience to not be eaten alive by mosquitoes!
Another safety benefit is that there is a lower likelihood of heat/cold-related illnesses or problems. In the summer, it is a common experience for people to run out of water and proceed to get dizzy or nauseous on a hike. (source)
In the winter, it is easy to get too cold and begin to freeze. In extreme cases of either of these situations, it can lead to a person having to go to the hospital. The cooler seasons decrease the likelihood of heat-related problems.
Ease of Access
Another benefit to hiking in the morning during the spring or fall is that trails are easier to access during these times. If someone decides to wait until later in the day to go hiking, they might find that there is a lack of parking, an overabundance of people already on the trail, or that the trail closes soon, and they aren’t able to complete the hike in time. All of these factors can be detrimental to going on a good hike. It’s often frustrating to try and find parking. Few go on a hike to see people; most go to see the scenery. To top it off, having to speed through a hike is exhausting and not nearly as enjoyable as going at a casual pace.
Comfort is also something that is remarkably easier to achieve in the morning, during spring, or during fall. The cooler weather outside often leads to less sweating. I have done long hikes in the summer in Wyoming and Colorado, and it is definitely uncomfortable to feel sweat puddle on your back or through your shirt. In hotter environments, this can be a more severe issue. More sweat also means you need to pack more water to compensate for the water loss. (Source)
The cooler weather that is prevalent at these times also makes it so an individual can pack less. They won’t need to pack a coat because it isn’t going to be cold enough to need one. They won’t need to pack a ton of bug spray because there are fewer bugs. All the little things that can be left at home lead to a lighter backpack on a hike.
Hiking can be an amazing experience for each person involved with some intentional planning and time management. With this information in mind, it will be easy for any type of hiker to enjoy and value the hiking experience even more!