The weather can play a huge part for every hiker. When the weather is bad, it can turn a trail into a danger zone with the potential for avalanches and landfalls. There will be times when hiking trails turn into hot ovens with no means of escape; it happens and being unprepared for them is a nightmare. That is why hikers need to know when they should set out. This isn’t easy because every trail is considerably different even when they are in the same country as one another.
However, below are a list of some of favorite hiking trails and the best times to set out. Hopefully they’ll provide you with some useful information.
Season for Kilimanjaro
Anyone can in fact hike Kilimanjaro throughout the year; it is very much possible but some months are considerably better than others. For example, January and February are prime months despite them being the coldest seasons for most people. These are the months that are dry, warm and don’t get lots of rain meaning it’s the best time to take to your hiking trails. However, if you can’t hike during these months, you can go at any times; September and October can still be good months too and even July if you can stand the cold.
You have to remember that March, April, May and June aren’t really the best months for Kilimanjaro because there is low level cloud and lots of rain. Of course, you can still hike during these months; it’s just a little colder and wetter.
Hiking Camino De Santiago
This is a very popular hiking trail and if you want to choose this trail for you, you can go all year round. Most trails offer this but during the months of February, March and October, are the months which see the most rain. Of course, as said above, you have the ability to climb during these months too if you can’t find time during the rest of the year.
April and May is great months to choose as well because the weather is generally good all round but be warned, July and August are probably the busiest months. There is a religious festival going on here and it will get very crowded very fast. April and May could be your best months to choose.
Hikers love Ben Nevis and it attracts millions of hikers and climbers from around the world every year but be warned, Ben Nevis receives some of the coldest temperatures in Scotland. It is one of the highest peaks and if you thought Edinburgh was cold, think again. Ben Nevis takes cold to new depths and on most days, the temperatures dip well below 0! Throughout the year it probably has around sixty days of solid good weather (although not in a row) and it makes it perfect for hikers.
However, there is no ‘prime’ or optimal time for hikers to set out to conquer Nevis because most days see heavy cloud forecasts. Snow is pretty much present all year round and from the months of October to May, it can become very icy and slippery which may be the months to avoid at all costs. June and July may be your best bet though Ben Nevis is available all year round and hikers go there every single day. It just depends on how daring you can be! Though, this is certainly not one for beginners!
If you are planning to head to the Grand Canyon, note the summer and winter months won’t be best for you. These months can be extremely tough on any hiker as its freezing in the winter and quite hot in the summer. Spring and fall are the best times to check out the Grand Canyon.
Let’s be honest, New Zealand has pretty sound weather for hikers. No matter what trail you will check out in New Zealand, you can go all year round; the busy periods are October and September so you might want to avoid them. June, July and August are usually a little quieter so if you don’t want to have lots of other people around, these are the best months to choose.
Is there ever a right time to hike to Everest’s base camp? Probably not but if you’re determined to head out there, you need to know what the months offer you. For the months between February and May, the weather is mostly dry and there aren’t too many hikers out there at these times. This may be right for you if you don’t want lots of others around. For months between June and August, this is considered to be the Monsoon season which might not be best.
Between August and November, these months will be the busiest. Most climbers and hikers choose these months to head out because they are dry months and it’s the best time to climb. However, December and January can also be good months to visit because they are very, very quiet.
What Works Best?
Usually, there are key months which are best for you to hike but be warned, no two hiking trails are the same. There will be many trails that are suited for hikers in the fall and others that are dangerous to use in those months. Unfortunately, every trail is different so it’s hard to say for certainty what the prime seasons are for every one of them.
For example, March, April, May and September are perfect for hikers looking at the Grand Canyon but not suitable for Ben Nevis. It can be very difficult to say when you are best heading out but you should always double check the weather conditions for your chosen months before booking any flights or making any plans.
There will be months where the weather conditions are perfect and other times when they aren’t. You have to remember, weather changes so quickly and when you are a hiker that can be dangerous. No matter which trail you choose, you must research what months would work best to help reduce the risk to your life.
- Planning a hike in the spring or fall? Here are seven tips to remember!
- Is it possible to have a pleasant hike on hot summer days?
- Are you ready for hiking in the winter?
- Stay safe when hiking in the winter!
Planning a hike in the spring or fall? Here are seven tips to remember!
For many hikers, spring is probably the best season for hiking. The shivering cold temperatures are gone and leave room for crisp cold mornings and warm days. The trails aren’t crowded and there’s plenty of accommodation to find.
It’s the same in the fall when the trees start losing their greens and nature prepares for the cold winter. Some destinations are best to hike in spring and fall and not in the summer when dangerously hot weather. If you haven’t tried spring and fall hikes, we encourage you to do it! Try both day-long and multi-day hikes and discover whichever you like most. Don’t go packing and read our recommendations for lovely spring and fall hikes:
1. Check out the snow and ice conditions
The risk for snow is never null with spring and it can definitely ruin your adventure when you go unprepared. Be aware that some parts may still have snow and water sources may still be frozen. In the fall, some areas might already be snowed in.
Wear the proper footwear and pack gear for safely hiking icy patches. Pack your hiking poles and some crampons as well. Opt for waterproof footwear—high-cut boots are a reliable option.
2. Get ready for the muddy trails
The weather is rainy in the spring and fall, so the chances for trails to be muddy are high. Many tracks will get muddy in the spring once the snow melts and you should wait until they are completely dry. In the fall, it rains a lot, so finding dry trails can be a challenge. Wearing proper boots with deep lugs to bite out of muddy terrain is crucial for spring hiking.
When you run into wet and muddy spots, walk right through them. If you walk around the muddy area, you will only widen the trail. Make sure that your boots are waterproof; pack some gaiters just in case.
3. Wear adequate clothing
Waterproof boots will only keep your feet dry, but you also need clothing that will do the same. You should have wear clothes and a waterproof jacket. During these seasons, the temperatures can vary throughout the day and drop significantly once the sun goes down.
4. Keep an eye on invasive species
We all love spring for the blooming flowers, warm sunny days, and so forth. However, spring is also the season where invasive species start to spread. Make sure you remove animals, plants, and mud from your boots, gear, vehicle, and pets. Do the same in the fall, where fallen leaves get stuck on your soles. Ensure you clean your equipment before you enter and after you leave the trail. Also, stay on the designated paths to reduce the risk of invasive species spreading.
5. Be ready to meet obstacles and high water
In later spring, streams and rivers will run high. Mind your steps with crossing that involve a ford and get ready to overcome the obstacles in your way. Many limbs and trees may have fallen through the winter due to the heavy snow. You might still find some on your trails in the early spring. Always be prepared for snow in late fall, especially when you go in the mountains.
6. Put on sunscreen
After the long, dark winter, we all want to enjoy the sun in the spring and fall. However, you should do it wisely and safely. Apply sunscreen even on cloudy days when the sun doesn’t seem harmful—it can be detrimental even in the spring.
7. Enjoy the birds and wildflowers
New flowers will pop up along the trails in spring and birds migrate back home. Leave the wildflowers so that all hikers enjoy them and don’t get too close to nests and birds. Leave No Trace principle is crucial at all times.
Spring is the best time to enhance your knowledge of flowers and birds. Fall is the season when you can enjoy so many colors as nature prepares for the cold season. Do your homework and grab a guidebook with you when hiking.
Is it possible to have a pleasant hike on hot summer days?
Clear, sunny skies mean vacation time for most of us, but sometimes the summer feels like the worst time to go outside, let alone hike. It doesn’t mean you should give up hiking, but you only need to prepare efficiently for hiking.
Sunny skies and long days can burn your trails and sometimes, you won’t find any shade to protect yourself. You will need determination and detailed preparation to hike in the hot summer without exhausting yourself.
Select the adequate trail
You should do due diligence and pick a trail away from fire breaks. Keep in mind to select your summer hike trail according to weather, elevation, and shade.
Start early in the morning
Truth be told, most of us don’t like waking up every day Monday through Friday and again on the weekends. However, if you enjoy hiking as much as you say, you won’t mind waking up in the morning in the summer. The temperatures get the highest between 11 AM and 2 PM, so plan to get the most of your elevation before 11 AM. You can have a break at lunch and continue descending after 2 PM.
Protect your skin
We know that it sounds counterintuitive, but you should actually opt for long sleeves in the summer. The more your body you protect against the sun, the lower the risk of sunburn. Put on some long sleeves (loose fit) and pants, and cover your head, face, and neck with a wide-brimmed hat. Don’t forget to protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses.
It goes without saying that you must apply sunscreen on every exposed part of your body, especially if you plan to hike at altitude. The sun is stronger at high altitudes and the risk of sunburns increases significantly. Stay away from cotton when hiking, regardless of the season. It gets wet and heavy and dries very slowly. Always opt for clothing made of materials that wick moisture away from the body and keep you dry and comfortable. Wool, polyester, and synthetic fabrics (of good quality) are better choices than cotton, with merino wool as the no.1 option for hiking clothing.
When you hike, you will lose around 2pounds of water every hour; hiking in the hot summer will double this amount. You should always have enough water when hiking and drink as often as possible. Most of the time, our body can efficiently absorb just one pound of water every hour. Don’t chug a bunch of water every three hours because it won’t benefit you at all. If you feel thirsty when hiking, it means that you’re already dehydrated.
While you’re sipping from a hydration bladder, blowback into the mouthpieces to remove any remaining water in the drinking tube, you don’t want your next sip of water to be sun-soaked and this trick will keep your water temperate.
You cannot hike without having some breaks from time to time. Remember to sit down in the shade when you stop to have a snack and a sip of water. Taking a break from time to time will give your muscles the chance to recover. Additionally, your sweat will evaporate and your body temperature will go down and get you ready for the next miles.
Staying hydrating is crucial when hiking in the summer, but it’s not enough because you lose electrolytes along with water. We need potassium and sodium for energy. You will need sources with complex carbohydrates and not simple ones because complex carbs are easy on your stomach and give you longer and better energy than simple sugars.
GORP and trail mixes are excellent options, especially when you combine them with fruits like apples. Some hikers prefer packing electrolyte drink mixes/tabs along with drinking water.
Mind the details
Hiking in the summer can get your feet sweaty. Unless you hike in sports sandals, which are great when adequately picked, your feet will get sweaty in your hiking shoes. On a side note, we don’t recommend you wear hiking boots in the summer, but hiking shoes or trail runners (according to the difficulty grade of your trail).
If your feet get toasty, you should change your wet socks with dry ones. Sweaty feet can cause blisters, along with discomfort and smell (probably). Summer heat and sweat attract bugs, so remember to take and apply an insect repellant in the summer hikers.
Check out the weather
Even if the sky seems clear in the city, we all know that mountains make their weather. More often than not, when it’s very hot (and more humid than regularly), the hills can surprise you with dangerous monsoon downpours, no matter your location on the trail. Always check out the weather forecast and have a ranger on you when hiking. It’s never a good idea to get caught in such storms.
Recognize the signs of heatstroke
Just because you have good health doesn’t mean the risk for heatstroke is null. Make sure that you know how to identify the early signs of heatstroke—it can be lethal!
- Throbbing headache
- Muscle cramps
- Confusion or disorientation
- Lack of sweating, despite the high temperatures
We recommend you hike together with a friend. The moment you sense you’re close to a heat stroke, take the following steps:
- Stop hiking
- Look for shade
- Cooldown immediately
- Get off the trail and call 911 if you cannot seem to recover on your own.
Are you ready for hiking in the winter?
With shorter and colder days in the winter, we know that not many of us will be motivated to spend time outdoors. True hikers will seek winter hiking as a great challenge and chance to take their passion to the next level. Hiking winter can be enjoyable, especially if you plan your hike to the most minute detail.
Staying active all year round has many benefits for your physical and mental condition, and you shouldn’t stop hiking just because it’s colder than usual. Keep reading for our recommendations for winter hiking.
General tips for winter hiking
Winter hiking comes with many challenges, so you should plan it accordingly. There are many safety precautions to stay safe against harsh elements. Here are some things to keep in mind when hiking in the winter:
Daylight hours are short
We all know that the days are short in the winter, so you should hit the trail early in the morning to avoid getting caught in the dark.
You move slower than usual
In the winter, you will move slower and have more obstacles to overcome than with the other season. That’s why preparation is crucial with winter hiking.
Snow can hide the trail
Snowpack can hide the trail and trail markers, so the chances for you to get lost in the winter are high. Always use a map and compass and pay attention to stay on the trail.
Your technical devices might function poorly
Most technical devices tend to function poorly due to cold temperatures. Make sure you have enough batteries, a portable battery bank, and see to keep your devices warm. Your phone might not work precisely as well, so don’t rely solely on the phone.
Dehydration can occur in the winter as well
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink water regularly. If dehydration can cause heatstroke in the summer, it can generate hypothermia in the winter. Remember, the moment you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
Hiking burns calories and hiking in the winter will burn more calories than usual. You have to stay nourished—it will also keep you warm.
How to stay warm when hiking in the winter?
You don’t need to be an experienced hiker to know that wearing warm clothes and boots will keep you warm. There are many other things to do to stay warm on a winter hike.
Have a warm drink in a thermos
Fill up a big thermos with your favorite hot beverage. Cider, tea, hot cocoa, and even soup broth are excellent for a quick sip whenever you feel cold on the trail. It’s never a good idea to drink alcohol or cold drinks in the winter as they will lower your body temperature. Wait until you get back home to enjoy your glass of wine.
Hike with the sun
You need to rest in the afternoon and look for shaded areas when hiking in the summer months. Do the opposite in the winter and hike when the sun is the warmest and highest in the sky. The temperatures drop once the sun drops behind the mountains, and the trail gets shady.
If you want to catch the sunset, you shouldn’t be too far from the trailhead and have extra layers with you to stay warm.
We cannot stress enough about the importance of staying hydrated when hiking, regardless of the season. In the winter, make sure that your hydration pack has an insulated hose so that the water doesn’t freeze when you’re in extreme temperatures. If you use a water bottle and not a hydration pack, protect the bottle with some wool socks/beanies to keep the water warm enough.
Have snacks to eat on the move
As we’ve already mentioned, hiking in the winter will require you a lot of energy. Snacks high in carbs and protein will give you the energy you need to hike in the winter. Make sure that your snacks are easy to eat while hiking. Don’t take sandwich fixings and don’t plan a picnic on a winter hike. If you stop for a long time to eat, you will get cold, and your muscles will need some time to warm up again.
Pick trails with some uphill
Like climbing stairs, the uphill parts of your trails will make your heart pump. This will improve your circulation and increase your body temperature—you will feel comfortable and warm. Since the risk of getting sweaty is present with any physical activity, you should wear a sweat-wicking, quick-drying base layer no matter how cold it is outside. Look for clothes made of merino wool, synthetic fibers, and polyester as they take sweat away from the body and keep you dry. Always avoid cotton with hiking because it gets wet and dries slowly.
What kind of clothing should you have on a winter hike?
You want clothes that keep you warm without being heavy or getting toasty as well. Some materials are excellent at wicking moisture and keeping you warm. Merino wool is at the high end, but it’s worth every single penny. If your budget is tight, you can find excellent hiking clothing for winter at affordable rates made from polyester or synthetic fabrics.
Winter hiking top
Always follow the three-layer principle when dressing in the winter. Opt for a base layer made of moisture-wicking materials and insulating clothes for the second layer. The third layer should be weatherproof, waterproof, and able to keep you warm.
Simply remove a layer before you get too sweaty if you get hot.
Winter hiking bottoms
You have several options for your bottoms. You can wear a base layer and a waterproof layer on top if it’s cold or snowing. Ski pants are also a dependable choice. If the weather is rather nice, you can only put on a pair of fleece pants to stay warm and move freely.
Winter hiking gloves
We don’t need to remind you that you shouldn’t go hiking in the winter without a pair of gloves. You can add a lightweight pair of gloves and put them on if your hands get toasty.
Winter hiking hats
Protecting your head when hiking is essential regardless of the season. If in the summer you might get a heat stroke, in the winter you will lose a significant amount of heat through the top of your head. Hold on to your body heat by wearing a hat in the winter. Pack one in your backpack, even if you don’t think it’s cold enough to wear a hat.
Which footwear should you have hiking?
The right pair of boots can differentiate between a successful and a failed winter hike. Winter hiking means running into snow and ice on the trail. You want to prevent slipping, so you need something for efficient traction on snow. Crampons, microspikes, and snowshoes are the most common options for winter hiking.
Here are some of the options you have for footwear when hiking in the winter.
Winter hiking boots
For snowy winter hikes, you should put on reliable boots with solid traction and stability in the snow. Good quality waterproof hiking boots will work. However, you should pay the extra buck and buy yourself insulated winter boots. They will keep your toes warmer than regular hiking boots. Add warm midweight thermals socks too.
Never take on hiking new hiking boots. Most will need break-ins so that you don’t end up with blisters while hiking.
Ensure that snow doesn’t get inside your boots and put on some gaiters before crossing ungroomed snow. You should also pack an extra pair of socks if the ones you wear get wet.
Crampons last longer than microspikes. They grip into ice and are excellent when climbing slick and steep inclines. Ideally, you should put them on/take them off whenever you need them because they add weight and aren’t comfortable to walk on. Even new hikers have options with entry-level crampons that are easy to attach/remove from the winter boots.
Microspikes are made of chains and tiny spikes to slip over the boots. They’re efficient on flat trails and are affordable.
Snowshoes are wide frames that you attach to your boots. They’re lightweight and perfect for hiking in deep snow. When you increase the surface area of your feet, you can walk over the top of the snow without sinking in too deep. Snowshoes come in various types so that you can find one for your specific type of footwear.
Stay safe when hiking in the winter!
Winter hiking is complex as there are so many factors coming into play. Follow our recommendations to stay safe when hiking in the cold season.
Have a safety plan
Safety is crucial when hiking, especially in the winter. To stay safe, you should follow a general guideline with your winter hiking outing:
Check out weather and snow conditions
You shouldn’t go hiking without checking out the forecast, especially in the winter. If there’s a blizzard with poor visibility, the risk of getting lost is high. Even if you’re experienced, it’s not wise to go hiking. If you have a doubt, you should stay home.
Always tell someone where you go
Whether you go hiking in the winter, summer, spring, or fall, you should always inform a family member/friend where you’re headed. Tell them who you will be with, when you expect to get back home, etc.
Be prepared for the worse weather
Mountains have their weather and you should know that by now if you plan a winter hike. You need to go prepared for worst-case scenarios in the winter.
Know how to use your gear
No matter the technical gear you pack, make sure you know how to use it. Be aware that technical devices and electronics may work poorly in the cold, keeping them warm.
Contact land managers
Checking the forecast isn’t going to be enough. Contact the land manager and ask about safety, snow condition, and other issues if possible.
Pack navigation tools
If you don’t have cell service, you need alternative tools for navigation. Look for a GPS device with a 2-way satellite communicator. It will ensure 2-way tests and the possibility to call for help in emergencies (you get lost, get trapped in an avalanche, get injured, etc.)
Pack the ten essentials
From proper navigation tools to firs-aid kit and multi-tool, there are some things you cannot go without when hiking.
Be aware of avalanche risk
It’s not only the skiers who have to watch out for avalanches. As a matter of fact, anyone in the mountains in the winter should know basic information about avalanches to avoid hiking in areas with a high risk of avalanche.
It depends significantly on your hiking area, and avalanches happen more frequently than you’d expect. If you go hiking in the winter, you should know how they happen and when they happen. Slab and loose-snow are the two kinds of avalanches.
- Loose-snow avalanches
They can take place on wet and dry snow and start near the surface. They collect more and more snow while they’re sliding.
- Slab avalanches
Slab avalanches occur when a whole shelf of snow breaks free and slides down the mountain. Slab avalanches are the most lethal.
Four factors cause avalanches snow cover, a steep slope, a trigger, and a weak layer in the snow cover. You won’t be able to control an avalanche, but you will take action. Follow these safety tips when you go in an area with a high risk of avalanche:
Inform yourself of the conditions
There is plenty of information online about avalanches. You can find trustworthy websites that link to local forecasting offices around the US. While you’re planning your hike, you should check out the information online to see if the snow conditions are stable.
New hikers might be unable to spot unstable snow or avalanche terrain. There are Avalanches Awareness classes that new hikers should attend. The best way to stay safe in an avalanche is to be informed about avalanches.
Don’t take any risks
You shouldn’t take any chances when you hike on snow/ice. Just because you see footprints and other people on a trail doesn’t mean that an avalanche cannot occur.
Trust your gut
Group thinking can alter your judgment at times. If you feel that it’s not safe to take a trail, trust your gut and don’t do it. Tell the group about what your instincts are telling you.
It’s ok to turn around
Being committed to your goal is crucial to hiking (and pretty much everything else). However, you shouldn’t do it if the hiking becomes too dangerous. After all, you want to come back home sane and sound.
Buy an avalanche beacon
If you plan to hike around steep winter terrain with high avalanche risk, you should invest in an avalanche beacon. A beacon is an essential tool that helps rescuers find you if you get caught by an avalanche. Needless to say, learn how to use the beacon before going hiking. Take it with you every time you go hiking in the winter.
Learn about hypothermia
If your body’s internal temperature lowers to a level where cerebral and muscular functions are altered, you develop hypothermia. It can affect your ability to think clearly and evacuate to a safe place. There are warning signs of hypothermia and you should be able to recognize them on time.
Conditions that can cause hypothermia
- Cold temperatures
- Exhaustion, fatigue, dehydration, improper food intake
- Inadequate clothing and equipment for changing weather conditions
- Alcohol intake expands the blood vessels and you lose heat
Symptoms of hypothermia
- Fumbling or lethargy
- Violent shivering
- Inability to speak or slurred speech