5 Tips for Hiking in the Fall

The crisp, clear days, thin crowds, and vivid col­ors that define the high coun­try this time of year are all the moti­va­tion you need to lace up your boots and hit the trails until the Christ­mas music starts. Here are just a few things to keep in mind to ensure a fun and safe sea­son of hik­ing:

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Be mind­ful of hunters
For sports­men, fall is the most antic­i­pat­ed time of the year. Hunt­ing sea­son is in full force and hik­ers should take pre­cau­tions. Pack a blaze orange vest if you will be near an open hunt­ing area—they’re cheap, wide­ly avail­able at sport­ing goods stores, and could save your life. If you hap­pen to come upon some hunters, make sure they are aware of your pres­ence. If you hear gun­shots, judge the dis­tance, keep your eyes open, and remain vis­i­ble. If the whole lot makes you uncom­fort­able, stick to nation­al or state parks.

Pack smarter
It’s impor­tant to be pre­pared on any hike, but espe­cial­ly in the fall. If you’re stay­ing overnight bring the essen­tials: food, water, map, com­pass, head­lamp with fresh bat­ter­ies, etc.

Pack smarter

An emer­gency blan­ket with a decent length of para­chute cord or sur­vival bracelet is use­ful as an emer­gency shel­ter or tarp. 

I like to bring a sleep­ing bag lin­er. They not only bump up the heat rat­ing of your sleep­ing bag, but they have an added com­fort fac­tor that is hard to beat on a brisk autumn night.

It goes with­out say­ing but rain gear is essen­tial. I usu­al­ly  have a shell with me any time of the year, but I always pack water­proof pants in the fall. Opt for straight wool socks too. A lot of syn­thet­ics lose their warmth when they’re wet. I always pack extra socks before any­thing else because hik­ing on sog­gy feet is worse than instant cof­fee.

I also real­ly like to bring a reli­able fire starter like petro­le­um jel­ly-soaked cot­ton balls (trust me it works) because dry tin­der can be hard to come by. And don’t for­get the cam­era! You’ll need it to cap­ture all that gaspin’ in the aspens.

Choose your des­ti­na­tion wise­ly
The best fall hik­ing expe­ri­ence is a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of tim­ing and loca­tion. Many trails this time of year will be burst­ing with fall col­ors, while oth­ers many be under a foot of snow. If you’re not famil­iar with your local area, chat with a ranger and get rec­om­men­da­tions for best hikes in your area or find a region­al hik­ing blog. This is a great time of year for hikes to hot springs, decid­u­ous forests or spot­ting wildlife dur­ing the mid­dle of the day. 

Keep an eye on the fore­cast
Keep an eye on the forecastIn Novem­ber, the mer­cury can drop faster than the leaves. Make sure you’re well pre­pared for the weath­er con­di­tions in your area. There’s no short­age of online resources for weath­er, but NOAA is one of the best.

Keep an eye on trail and road con­di­tions in your area. If you’re hik­ing in a nation­al park, take the time to vis­it their web­site and get up to date infor­ma­tion regard­ing your hike. If you think you’ll be run­ning into snow bring some yak-trax and trekking poles at the very least.

Trust your gut
Only you know your lim­i­ta­tions and what you’re look­ing for in a hike. If a trip feels forced or the weath­er turns sour, hold off for anoth­er week­end. Always give some­one your itin­er­ary or let them know where you’re going if you plan on going alone. If you’re going into a new area, stay with­in your bound­aries. A com­bi­na­tion of longer nights and low­er tem­per­a­tures make it espe­cial­ly impor­tant to be cau­tious this time of year. Don’t let the short­er days set you back, now is one of the best time for soak­ing a few last rays of sun­shine before win­ter sets in.