5 Tips for Hiking in the Fall

woman sitting in new hampshire in the fall
woman sitting in new hampshire in the fall

Fall is such a wonderful time to be outside. The leaves are changing colors, the weather is cooler, the air is crisp, and the mosquitoes are dead!


In this blog, I’m going to cover a couple of tips to keep in mind as you head out and go hiking this fall season.


Start Early In The Day

In the summer, it feels like the sun never sets, and in some parts of the world, it doesn’t! When you’re hiking, it feels like you have all day to explore! But in the fall, it starts getting dark earlier and earlier and sunrise gets later and later.


If you’re a sunrise hiker, you get to sleep in a bit more than in the summer months but if you’re not, make sure to get an early start to your hike. Since it gets dark so much sooner in the fall, get started early so you’re at your campground or back to the car by the time the sun goes down. Also, make sure to always also pack a headlamp! If you do end up still hiking in the dark, you need to be prepared!


Check Fall Foliage Reports

The best part about hiking and exploring in the fall months are the changing leaves! The bright yellow, orange, and red tones. What could be better?


Part of the fun with exploring in the fall months, especially late September and through October, is chasing fall foliage. Leaves start changing North to South, so when you’re planning a fall foliage trip, be mindful of that. The leaves start changing at different times each year, so you can be flexible with your trip if your goal is to catch fall colors at their peak.


Most destinations have fall color trackers online. Google things like “Mono County Fall Colors Report” or “Vermont Fall Foliage 2020 Report.” Something along those lines with the destination you’re headed and reports should come up. Usually, the local tourism board will keep these reports updated and tell you what’s peaking, what’s starting, and what’s past peak. This way you can plan accordingly for the areas you want to explore.


Check the Weather Forecast

The weather can change in the blink of an eye in any season, but be especially mindful of it in the winter months. It could start raining or even snowing at any moment and be warm and sunny the next day.


So always check the forecast before heading out. If the hiking conditions aren’t safe, wait for the weather to clear and then head out. If you’re traveling further for your hike, just be a little flexible. I know sometimes it can be hard, especially if you have to get permits. But safety always comes first! Make sure to also check trail reports. If a storm rolls in and knocks a bunch of trees over on the trail you’re supposed to be on, making it impassable, you might want to rethink your plans.

Dress Appropriately

Like I’ve mentioned before, the weather can be more temperamental in the fall months so make sure to dress accordingly! If you’re on a multi-day backpacking trip, always make sure to bring layers. It could be bright, sunny, and warm one day, and then raining or even snowing the next!


It’s so important to wear moisture-wicking clothing. There’s a reason experienced hikers say “cotton kills.” Cotton will absorb moisture and stay wet. Which is anything but ideal when you’re hiking in chilly weather. You want moisture-wicking clothing that’s designed to keep you dry. This way you won’t be wet and sticky on hot days or on cold days.


Be mindful of this when picking layers. Fabrics like wool are designed to keep you dry, warm in the cooler months, and cool in the warmer months. So choose fabrics wisely.


For more on what to wear when hiking in the fall, read through this blog post.


Be Mindful of Hunters

You might not be pro-hunting, but we still share these wilderness spaces with hunters, so as you’re venturing out, be mindful of that. Fall is generally known as hunting season. So you want to be careful that you’re not accidentally the target.


Now, these hunting tips aren’t meant to scare you from hiking during the fall months. Regardless of what your opinion is of hunting and guns, this is part of the reality of sharing our wilderness areas. The key here is not to shy away and retreat into hiding, but to take safety into your own hands. Of course, if you’re not comfortable, hike somewhere like a state or national park where hunting is prohibited. Nothing is wrong with that. But don’t let the fear stop you from exploring the great outdoors.


Here are a couple of important things to note here:


Know when hunting season starts

This will vary state by state, so make sure to check your state’s fish and game wildlife division for details. This is another reason research is so important when planning your hiking trip. You want to make sure that you read up on all of the regulations, rules, and what’s happening in the area you’ll be visiting. Know what to expect before you even get there.


Hike in a no-hunting area

If you’re uncomfortable sharing trails with hunters, choose a trail where hunting is prohibited like a state or national park. This goes back to doing some research beforehand so you don’t accidentally end up in a situation where you’re not comfortable.


Wear bright-colored clothing

Bright colors like orange, red, bright green, and so forth help hunters see you’re a human and not wildlife. Try and avoid wearing browns, hunter and military greens, and blacks. This isn’t mandatory, but it helps a lot! If you don’t have any bright colored jackets, buy a cheap orange vest and wear that over your hiking clothing. You want to make sure you’re seen.


Make your presence known

Generally, this is a safety tip you want to utilize even not during hunting season. If you hike in complete silence, you’re not even letting the wildlife know you’re there! I know many of us are afraid of bears, mountain lions, and such, but wildlife is more scared of us than we are of them! If we make noise while hiking, it alerts wildlife that we’re in the area and they should keep away. During hunting season this also applies because it lets hunters know you’re a human and not a deer. I like to sing to myself if I’m solo, or if I’m with hiking buddies, strike up a conversation and keep it going! If you hear gunshots, yell out to let hunters know you’re nearby.

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