If you’ve been hiking before, you know that the right time, temperature, and weather system can make all the difference on your trip.
The best time to go hiking is during the Summer, Fall, and Spring seasons. In general, the best times of the day to hike are at 6:00 am to 9:00 am and 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Midday hikes may be best during winter since this will be the warmest time of the day.
Let’s dig in a bit deeper to get a better understanding of what you should be considering when looking for the perfect time to go hiking.
Hiking in the Morning
Morning hikes are the most popular and go hand-in-hand with the majority of people’s work schedules. Here are some pros and cons of taking a morning hike:
Pros of Hiking in the Morning
- The trails will be less crowded.
- You are likely to catch a beautiful sunrise if you begin your hike early enough.
- The temperatures will be cooler if you’re hiking in the warmer months.
- You will have plenty of energy for your day as well as some time to relax after your hike.
- Morning hikes are the best for ensuring a good night’s sleep.
- Hiking in the morning is safer. If you have an injury or emergency, it’s more likely that someone will find you on the trail throughout the day.
Cons of Hiking in the Morning
- You will need to get up earlier than you’re used to.
- Be prepared for higher humidity and dew on the ground (especially if hiking during Spring or Fall).
- It may be quite cold, especially during early Spring, late Fall, and Winter.
- If you’re hiking before work, you’ll need to make sure you make it back in time to begin.
Hiking at Sunrise
Some of the most beautiful hikes happen during sunrise, especially when you can catch a glimpse of the sun as it comes over mountains, creating some amazing colours on the ground. You can make sure that you catch this beautiful moment by looking up the sunrise time for your hike.
Try to time out your hike so you arrive at an area with a scenic view right at the time that the sun rises. Since most hikers won’t be on the trail this early in the morning, you may have the opportunity to watch it in peace and quiet.
How to Prepare for a Morning Hike
If you’re taking a morning hike, make sure that you:
- Wear layers and be prepared for the weather to change.
- Lay your hiking clothes and gear out the night before to make sure you can leave as early as possible.
- Drink water and eat a light snack before your hike.
- Pack an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet or sweaty from morning dew.
- Keep an eye on the sunrise time and note how that changes the weather or temperature.
Hiking in the Afternoon
Hiking in the afternoon is very common, especially on weekends. Some people like to hike before work or after they get off of work in the mid to late afternoon, while others prefer doing it during lunchtime.
Here are some pros and cons of taking a late morning hike:
Pros of Hiking in the Afternoon
- You don’t have to wake up early and can usually be more flexible with your time.
- It tends to be the most agreeable time to plan a group hike. It’s also a great time to hike with a family or small children who may be sleeping in the morning or evening.
- You are likely to have many other people on the trail with you, which can be fun for people and dog watching.
- It will be the warmest and brightest time to hike in winter.
- It’s the safest time to hike since you’re likely to run into more people on the trail.
Cons of Hiking in the Afternoon
- You may not catch a sunrise or sunset if those are important factors for your hike.
- In summer, early fall, and late spring, the temperature will climb quickly.
- The trails will likely have more people on them throughout the day, so if you prefer hiking alone, it may be too busy.
How to Prepare for an Afternoon Hike
Here are some tips on preparing for your afternoon hike:
- Wear layers so that you can easily take them off if the sun starts shining too brightly or put them back on as it begins getting colder.
- Make sure you have a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
- Pack a small snack that will give you some energy but not make you feel bloated or tired on your hike. Some examples include fruit with peanut butter on crackers, an apple with cheese sticks, grapes, granola bars, etc.
- Since this will be the hottest time of the day in the warmer months, make sure to bring plenty of water with you. If you can carry it, bring twice the amount of water that you plan on drinking.
- Keep an eye on the time as well as your pacing if you’re trying to avoid night hiking.
Hiking at Night
One of the most unique experiences you can have on a hike is to take it at night. If you’re not used to hiking in the dark, this may be quite scary or intimidating for some people, but if done with caution and preparation, these hikes are very rewarding and serene.
Pros of Hiking at Night
- You’ll see things differently than you do during the day.
- If you’re hiking in an area with no light pollution, it can be extremely beautiful at night, especially if there are stars outside.
- You may catch a gorgeous full moon
- You’ll have the whole trail to yourself, which some people find very relaxing.
- You may be able to catch a sunset depending on your timing.
Cons of Hiking at Night
- It will be dark on your way home, so you will have to be careful since it will be more dangerous.
- If it’s cold outside, the temperature will drop even more at night, so you’ll need to make sure that you’re prepared for extreme temperatures.
- You need to be very familiar with the trail and surrounding area.
- If you are injured or have an emergency on the trail, it’s unlikely anyone will be coming along the trail to find you until the morning.
- You may miss some beautiful views since it’s dark outside.
- Depending on the terrain, there may be certain animals that are more active at night, so be careful.
How to Prepare for a Night Hike
- Make sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight with you and make sure that it is charged or has fresh batteries.
- It’s always good to hike with another person, but it is especially important at night since you never know what could happen.
- Wear clothing with reflective materials so that if someone does come driving down the trail, you’ll be easy to see.
- Make sure to wear warm enough clothes when hiking during the colder months. The temperature can exponentially drop, especially if you’re rapidly changing your altitude.
- Be aware of the sunset time and make sure to start your hike within that time frame.
- Make sure you don’t get lost in the dark by bringing a map and compass.
- It will be very difficult to navigate at night with no light, so if you don’t have a headlamp, ensure that your phone is fully charged before going out.
Hiking at Sunset
Even though it’s more dangerous to hike during the evening or night, there is something so special about watching the sun go down and seeing all of the colours at sunset. If you want to try this out for yourself, make sure that you’re aware of how long it takes to get back from your hike before heading out.
You will also want to make sure to look up the time of sunset in the area and align your hike by finding a scenic view as the sunsets. It’s best to make sure that your scenic view is close to the end of your hike, so you can make it back home or to your transportation before it becomes completely dark.
Hiking in the Spring
Hiking in the Spring provides the best of both worlds. You get to experience the changing of seasons with different types of flowers, trees, and critters. The weather is also very forgiving since it’s not too hot or cold outside.
In Spring, the weather can be volatile. It can suddenly rain or snow during the day, so you’ll want to make sure you have waterproof or resistant clothing.
The temperature can also fluctuate, so dressing in layers is a great idea to make sure that you can regulate your body temperature.
Hiking in the Summer
Summer hiking is great for people who don’t mind high temperatures because there are so many beautiful places to hike. It’s also an ideal time for campers to hike since it’s warm enough for them to comfortably spend the night.
Summer tends to be an extremely busy time of the year for most hiking trails. If you want to avoid the busy season, try going on a hike early in the morning or later at night when it’s cooler outside and there are fewer people out.
The light also lasts longer in the summertime, giving you a bigger window of time to hike before it gets too dark.
As long as you make sure to stay hydrated and protect yourself from excessive sunlight, summer is one of the most flexible and enjoyable seasons for hiking.
If it’s getting too warm, find trails that are mostly shaded or that lead to bodies of water that you are allowed to access. This will make a huge difference and ensure that you don’t become fatigued on the trail.
Hiking in the Fall/Autumn
The leaves are changing colours and everything is starting to become dormant for winter, which makes hiking during fall an amazing experience! You’ll be able to see a variety of trees with different types of foliage while also being a bit more stable than in springtime, but you can still expect some rain as well as quickly changing temperatures.
Many hikers prefer to head out in the mornings and afternoons during the autumn because the temperatures are best. Going out on a bright and sunny day is ideal in the fall since it won’t be as hot as it is in the summer.
Hiking in the Winter
Winter hiking is unique in that you can see the beautiful snow-covered landscapes. Although it might seem like a good idea to go out on the trails after fresh powder falls, you should wait until there are at least four inches of packed snow before going hiking, as only then will your footprints not damage any vegetation around.
It will also be more stable for you to walk on, making it safer. The best time to go hiking in the winter is late morning and afternoon so that you can maximize the heat from the sun. The days will be shorter, so you’ll have to pay attention to the sunrise and sunset times.
Just like summer, you’ll want to dress in layers so that you can keep yourself warm while also protecting your skin from the elements. It’s important not to forget a hat and gloves since these exposed areas can get cold without proper protection.
What Is the Best Weather to Hike In?
Go on a cloudy day if you’re afraid of getting sunburned or overheated; clouds provide shade and can make for comfortable hiking conditions. If it’s cold, try wearing layers so that you can take them off once you start heating up during your hike and put the extra clothes back on.
Windy and breezy days are also great for hiking since the wind can cool you down and keep your body temperature regulated. Just make sure that the wind won’t become too stormy, especially if you’re hiking in an area where there are unprotected ledges and it’s important to keep your footing secure.
Sunny, cool days are also perfect for hiking since there is enough warmth to keep you comfortable but not too much where it could become overwhelming or dehydrating.
Don’t be afraid to hike on rainy or snowy days, as long as you are in areas where there aren’t slippery, uneven rocks. If you want to take on more rugged terrain, you can purchase shoes or boots that are made for hiking in the rain or snow.
There is no “bad” weather to hike in, just different challenges that you’ll have to face while being outdoors. If it’s a bit colder or windier than normal then be sure to dress accordingly and protect yourself from the elements.
Go out and enjoy nature if you can safely manage it year-round! There is so much to learn and explore from each season, time of day, and different weather conditions. If you experiment, you’ll find the hiking time that is just right for you.
Looking for more hiking guides and essential advice ahead of your next trip? We’ve got you covered.