October 21, 2022 5 min read
There are many benefits to hiking in the fall. From nice weather to fall foliage, fall may be the perfect time to hit the trails.
In most of the United States, temperatures cool off and remain pleasant. Both highs and lows stay comfortable and extreme temperatures are less common. Hiking in the fall often means cool breezes and cooler daytime temperatures.
Besides pleasant temperatures, colorful foliage beckons hikers to the forest. Every fall, before dropping their leaves for winter, deciduous trees turn vivid shades of color and stay on their branches for weeks at a time. Endless landscapes of bright reds and yellows treat hikers to a kaleidoscope of color in the forests of the Northern United States.
Many animals and fungi become active in the fall, and for bird watchers, animal spotters, and mushroom hunters, fall is the best time of the year. Many fungi choose this season to send up their fruiting bodies, which we know as mushrooms. Every year, experienced mushroom hunters hit the woods to collect tasty mushrooms.
It’s essential to pack the right gear with you when you go hiking. Not only does the right equipment keep you comfortable, but many items also help keep you safe. Below is a list of things you should consider bringing on your next trip into the woods.
Probably the most overlooked piece of equipment you can have, binoculars are great tools for viewing wildlife. Whether for birds or large animals like deer, binoculars allow you to spot wildlife safely at a distance without getting too close. In addition, they can help in trail safety, in situations where you need to spot far-off roads, people, or places to get help.
Hiking Sticks or poles
Let’s face it, we are all prone to injury, even when we’re young. A hiking stick or a pole is a great way to help relieve joint stress and support your balance. Even if your muscles are slightly aching or your knee feels a little “off,” hiking sticks or poles can be the perfect tools to prevent injury.
Reusable water bottles for outdoor sports are handy because they’re easy to measure your water intake and are made for the elements. Also, many bottles are made from lightweight materials that won’t weigh you down.
In an emergency, a compass can be your best friend. Reliance to technology has made us unaware of our surroundings. Phone batteries sometimes die, and when electronics get wet, it’s good to have a compass to help you to safety.
Expert hikers will prioritize good hiking shoes. Hiking in running shoes, casual sneakers, and sandals can be disastrous to your feet. Take care of your body, especially your feet, so that you can hike your entire life. Good hiking shoes have ankle support, water resistance, and cushion soles.
Luckily, our phones can access all kinds of apps built for different situations. One of the most useful when hiking is a GPS app. GPS (Global Positioning Systems) calculate our location on a map and can work when our cell phones are out of range. They are handy if we’re going far off the beaten trail. There are also portable GPS systems that are not reliant on your cell phone, and these may be waterproof and handy on longer hikes into the backcountry.
What to Wear?
Don’t let fall’s pleasant temperatures fool you. Daytime highs and nighttime lows can change quickly. Also, in many parts of the United States, cold fronts can swoop in swiftly and bring temperatures plummeting.
It’s important to pack layers when you go hiking in the fall. Wool works great by absorbing sweat and keeping you warm. Other great layers to bring are light waterproof windbreakers.
You will need sunglasses and a hat when the clouds pass, and the sun comes out. These items will help keep the sun from damaging your skin and eyes.
Safety Tips (weather changes and trail conditions)
Hiking is one of the best activities you can do for mental and physical health. Here are some essential things to remember to help you stay safe on the trails.
The most important safety tip is to bring enough water. Dehydration is one of the leading causes of rescues on trails.
Food is also important. It’s crucial to pack enough snacks to sustain yourself during a hike. Think about it, if you face an emergency or if someone needs help, would you want to be hungry and tired? You're maintaining your energy and mental focus by providing your body with plenty of nutrients.
Always check the weather report before you hit the trails. Weather can change swiftly, and it’s up to you to be prepared. In some areas, swift rain storms can cause flooding and turn small creeks into dangerous mudslides. Also, high winds can blow down trees and other large objects that might cause injuries.
Trail conditions are another thing to keep in mind before hiking. Always consider things like: Did it rain the day before? Was there a windstorm that could have blown down trees? Have the trails been maintained lately? These are all questions you should ask yourself before venturing onto the trails.
Top 5 National Parks to Visit in the Fall
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina and Tennessee)
There are few landscapes as beautiful and full of color as the Great Smoky Mountains. The mountain forests and rolling hills burst with vivid colors from mid-October to early November. Take a drive here early in the season to avoid the crowds. For hikers, there are endless trails that take you through canopies of colors and tranquil mountain streams.
Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
Along the famous Skyline Drive, there are plenty of dramatic landscapes to explore. One of the most famous and photographed is the view of Dark Hollow Falls. Hikers will love the country charm and the beautiful colors of the area.
Acadia National Park (Maine)
Maine is one of the best places in the United States for fall colors. Bright red maples and yellow birch trees mixed with other colorful hues grace the landscape and hug the shores of the Atlantic. The rolling hills and pristine views are something out of a storybook for hikers. For a mellow and beautiful hike, don’t miss the Ocean Path Trail, where fall colors meet the jagged shoreline.
Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
The Colorado Rockies are one of North America's most stunning natural settings. This national park is a hiker’s paradise with endless trails of varying difficulty. During fall, the mountain forests become dotted with beautiful colors that mix with the towering pine trees. The Rockies is one of the best places to catch glimpses of stunning wildlife, like black bears, moose, and eagles.
Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
The towering peaks and creek-side forests of the Grand Tetons come alive with color in the fall. The best hike is the moderately strenuous 9-mile-long Cascade Canyon Trail. Here fiery yellows, reds, and oranges stretch along the ridges framed by the towering Teton mountains.
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