What Is The Best Season For Hiking?
The best season for hiking is the summer when the weather is warm, the trail networks are in great condition, and campsites, restaurants, and visitor centers are fully open. But what many don’t realize is that hiking can be enjoyed all year round!
The official hiking season for the Northern Hemisphere starts in late spring and ends in the fall, depending on local climates and early or late seasons. Although the hiking season is, without a doubt, the most popular time to hit the trails, many choose to hike in the off-season. Searching for a more unique adventure or to challenge themselves in harsh winter conditions.
If you are looking to join the 59 million people in the US who venture out hiking every year you have come to the right place. Let´s dive in!
Hiking In Winter
For some adventurous hikers, Winter is the highlight of the year!
Wrapping up warm and facing the harsh winter weather can be seriously exhilarating, providing a sense of achievement and incredible views. But for other hikers, a cold trek through some wet forest with a runny nose sounds miserable.
If you are willing to deal with numb fingers and hat hair then winter hiking could be exactly what you are looking for! Be warned that this time of year is safer for those with some hiking experience and the equipment/ clothing to cope with adverse conditions, especially in the mountains.
Read on to find out the pros and cons of hiking in winter…
Pros Of Winter Hiking
- Quiet trails
- Fantastic scenery and nature at its rawest
- Coffee, Tea, and soup taste better from a thermos flask
- Different wildlife
- Fewer insects
- Fewer predators such as bears due to hibernation
- No pollen for those who suffer from hayfever
- Cold air has been proven to be good for you!
- Great for keeping fitness up throughout the year
Cons Of Winter Hiking
- It can get really cold and wet
- Shorter days
- More Equipment is required and a heavier backpack
- Trails can be in poor condition or covered by snow
- Changeable and sometimes dangerous weather
- Limited resources due to seasonal closure
- Harder to find hiking partners
Hiking in Spring
If you have been hibernating all winter, there is little more rewarding than getting out into the wilderness and experiencing all that a spring hike has to offer.
With your breath still hanging in the air and a pair of binoculars in your pack, expect to see flowers beginning to bloom, young animals taking their first steps, and birds returning from their winter holiday in the tropics. What’s more, is that you will have many of these experiences all to yourself! Crowds do not start gathering at beauty spots until late spring/ early summer.
Hiking in spring can bring a mix of good and bad weather. Hikers must be prepared for a whole spectrum of conditions, ensuring that they carry lots of layers and waterproof clothing in their packs. On-trail conditions may also be tricky as there still can be mud, ice and snow on the ground so a good pair of boots is a must!
Here are some pros and cons of hiking in spring…
Pros Of Hiking In Spring
- Unique wildlife experiences
- Watching flowers and trees bloom
- Quieter Trails
- Great training for longer summer hikes
- Softer trails, easier on joints
- Cheaper and less crowded accommodation
Cons Of Hiking In Spring
- Trails may still be in poor condition from winter
- Higher altitude trails may still be closed due to snow
- Wildlife with young may be aggressive
- Weather can still be changeable so extra equipment is necessary
Hiking In Summer
Summer, often coined “hiking season” is the most popular time to venture into the mountains, and for good reason!
The season is the safest and sometimes the most rewarding time of the year to head out for a hike. If you have been training all winter, it´s time to enjoy putting those strong legs to work. If it´s your first time, congrats you have picked hiking´s golden season.
When out on a warm summer hike expect to see flowers in full bloom, a variety of animals, and lots of other friendly hikers. The trails should be nice and dry, with lots of grip, and clear of debris due to the high volume of traffic on the paths. In popular hiking spots all restaurants, shops, and visitor centers should be open and will be bustling with like-minded people enjoying the summer vibe.
For some, the hustle and bustle may be too much. Getting a parking space, a good picnic spot or a beautiful photo could mean a long queue but for the more adventurous there are still serene spots to be found all over the country and the great outdoors is happy to share its beauty with everyone.
TOP TIP: Hiking in the mountains in summer can get hot and sweaty! Bring plenty of water, a hat, and good sweat-resistant sunscreen (our favorite is Palm & Pines SPF50 as it lasts all day in the hot summer sun). Take plenty of breaks and avoid hiking in the middle of the day when the day is at its hottest.
Here are some pros and cons of hiking in the summer…
Pros of Hiking in Summer
- Warm, stable, and predictable weather
- Less equipment and lighter backpacks
- Trails usually are in their peak condition
- Long days
- Fantastic scenery and wildlife
- Hiking infrastructures open, such as restaurants, hotels, campsites, and visitors centers
- Great vibe
- Lots of insects
- Perfect time to try your first hike
Cons Of Hiking In Summer
- Busy trails, car parks, and visitor centers
- Crowded beauty spots (we blame you social media!)
- Heatstroke, sunburn, and dehydration are more common
- High pollen counts for sufferers of hayfever
- Expensive and fully booked accommodation
Hiking In Autumn
If you live in the northern hemisphere. Hiking in Autumn can bring a fireworks display of colors and senses as leaves begin to change and nature begins to ready itself for the Winter ahead.
Autumn is our favorite time to go hiking. The weather is cooler, the trails are quieter and there is a nice feeling in the air. Usually, our feet, legs, and lungs are strong from a summer of hiking and we have our equipment list dialed in, allowing us to enjoy every footstep taken.
In early Autumn hikers can expect many of the same amenities enjoyed in the summer months such as restaurants, campsites, and visitor centers but with a calmer and more relaxed vibe.
In mountain resorts, this season is sometimes referred to as interseason. Autumn bridges the busy summer and winter seasons, giving locals some relaxation time before the ski resorts open and the tourists come back into town. If out hiking in Autumn expect to meet residents of the area who can provide a wealth of information on the best hikes and most beautiful spots to visit.
Here are our pros and cons of autumn hiking
Pros Of Hiking In Autumn
- Quieter trails, beauty spots, and campsites
- Cooler weather is perfect for long hikes
- Amazing wildlife and nature
- Trails in good condition
- Less pollen and insects than in summer
- You do not have to get up as early for sunrise hikes (yeah we are lazy)
- Pumpkin spiced EVERYTHING!
- Warming campfires
Cons of Hiking In Autumn
- Fallen leaves can cover trails and be slippy
- Weather can change quickly
- Extra kit is required to deal with changing conditions
- Businesses can close at end of summer so check before you go.
- PUMPKIN SPICED everything!
When Is The Best Time Of Day To Go Hiking?
Sunsets and sunrises are spectacular times to go hiking! Especially when you can reach your destination in time to rest and watch the start or end of a magical day. Such hikes can take a little more planning, equipment, and willpower (mega early mornings) but are almost always worth the effort.
You don’t want to get caught out in the dark in a spooky forest or get too cold when the sun goes down. Consider the time that you leave for your hike, how long the commute to the hike is and how long the hike will take, adding a bit of extra time for stops or resting. If you feel like you may be cutting it fine with timing then make a different choice or ensure you take the right equipment, clothing, or food.
The safest time in summer to go hiking is in the morning from around 8 am to 11 am or from 1 pm to 6 pm. These are hours in which the sun is not high in the sky and the air is a little cooler. In the winter this can differ as days are shorter and you may choose to hike through midday for extra warmth. If you choose to start your hike later in the afternoon, it is always worth packing a flashlight or head torch in case things take a little longer than expected.
Before leaving for a hike, it is always good practice to check with local websites to ensure that the route that you wish to take is open and that the weather is suitable for your hike. If you are in doubt about if you should go hiking today or what equipment to bring then check out this article
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