Very few people will consider hiking out in nature at night. But we say, why not? Whether it’s during the summer months or during cooler seasons, nicer weather means it’s easier to access different hikes. Winter months, however, may be a bit off limits, especially in the northern areas.
Night hiking is an epic activity, but you don’t want to do it unprepared. It is quite different from the casual, daytime hike. In order to be safe out on the nighttime trail, precautions need to be taken. But the extra effort can be greatly rewarding.
We’re here to help with some basic tips to stay safe on the trail.
The Benefits of Night Hiking
- It’s cooler. You don’t run the risk of the midday sun beating down on you. This can be a real drag and suck your energy quickly, even with plenty of water.
- It’s a new way to experience nature. This is especially true of hiking on a clear night when you can pause for a moment to look up and appreciate the Milky Way and all of its stars and constellations. And the moon!
- Fewer people. Not many partake in the joys of night hiking, and we really don’t know why! But this is your opportunity to truly be one with nature without the worry of rubbing elbows (literally) with others on a crowded trail.
- It may just suit you better. Some of us are natural night owls. We feel more active at night. So a good night hike may be just what the doctor ordered. Body and soul.
- It gives one a new perspective. Your first few forays into night hiking should be on trails you are already familiar with. This is a great way to “test the waters” to find out if night hiking is for you. Then when you’ve had a bit of experience, venture to trails you’ve never been on for a true exploration.
Prepare for Your Night Hike
- Have the Right Illumination. Rather than bringing a blinding light to your hike, you’ll want to have something dimmer that will help your eyes adjust to the dark. Get yourself a good headlamp. Purchase one that has a red light mode – so you can see better at night. Try it on before you buy and make sure it fits correctly and is comfortable on your head.
- Wear the Right Clothes. It goes without saying that when the sun goes down, the temperatures drop. Having said that, you’ll likely work up a nice sweat on the trail, so be sure to dress in layers. This may vary depending on where you hike, so also keep a close eye on the weather forecast, including the temperature changes during your hike, and dress accordingly. Carrying a light backpack with enough room for stowing shedded clothes, some snacks, and water is always a good idea.
- Don’t go off trail. This is true with any hike, but especially with night hikes. And in some places, especially national parks, it’s illegal.
- Always let someone know where you are. Let a friend and/or family member (who isn’t hiking with you) know what you’ll be doing, and when you plan to return. And ALWAYS do night hikes with at least one other person.
- Be aware of wildlife. You’ll likely not run into anything that can harm you, but it’s a good idea to do some research to find out what animals you may encounter on your hike. Always keep your eyes and ears peeled for signs of wildlife.
- Take it slowly. Night hikes are not a race, they are meant to be savored. Even if you’re an experienced hiker who likes to move quickly, night hikes are not the time to move fast. You can’t always see what’s on the trail ahead of you or beneath your feet, and on uneven terrain, you’ll want to take it easy so you don’t get injured.
Dark Sky Parks
A word on official Dark Sky parks found throughout the country. In fact, there are over 100 of these found all over the world. They make for top-notch hiking destinations because they have little to no light pollution – the ideal conditions for a hike under the stars. Click here for a list of Dark Sky Parks.