How to Be Prepared for the Fall Hiking Season

Fitness Tips

How to Be Prepared for the Fall Hiking Season

Autumn is one of our favorite times of the year. The crisp air, the beautiful colors of changing foliage, the cooler temperatures, fewer people out and about on the trails – these are just a couple of the things that make it a refreshing season to hit the great outdoors and take in some scenery.

Before you lace up those hiking boots, take a minute to read over these seven tips and make sure that you’re well-prepared for your next backcountry adventure during the fall hiking season.

Tell your friends where you’re going

Be safe, and take the time to inform your friends and/or family on where you’ll be hiking. This small step can end up saving your life if something were to happen.

Give them the details of where you’re going to park your car, the trail(s) that you plan on taking, and an estimated time of your return. Also, leave the name, contact information, and car information (license plate number, make, and model) of any others you’ll be going with.

Check the forecast

Keep an eye on the road and trail conditions in the days leading up to your hike. If conditions aren't looking very nice (2 feet of snow, anyone?), then it may be a good decision to put the hike off until a different time when the forecast is looking more favorable.

Layer up

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Thomas Shahan.Photo courtesy of Flickr user Thomas Shahan.


Temperatures can vary widely during the fall. Chilly mornings, pleasant afternoons, rainy or snowy nightfall – you want to be ready for any and every curveball Mother Nature may decide to throw at you.

Pack or wear a rain jacket, warm thermal base layer, waterproof pants, hat, gloves, and extra socks, since there are few things worse than wet feet on a hike. If you overheat, you can always throw the spare layers in your bag, or tie them around your waist.

Take advantage of daylight hours

Maximize your time on the trails during these short autumn days by driving to the trailhead early, before the sun is up. You’ll get to catch the sunrise as soon as you hit the path, and watch as the forest around you wakes up for the day.

Also, keep in mind that the sun sets earlier this time of year. Turn back early enough to avoid getting stuck on the trail in the dark. (It’s always a good idea to have your headlamp, just in case.)

Bring a (waterproof) map and compass

When hiking in isolated areas, chances are pretty great that you’ll end up outside of cell reception zones.

Instead of relying on your phone’s GPS – which could be spotty and drains a phone's battery – be prepared the old-fashioned way with a map of the area you’re exploring and a trusty compass. In the case of a downpour or otherwise soggy backpack, it’s best that you invest in a waterproof map.

No matter what the season, you should always bring these essential items with you on your hike.

Be aware of hunters

Fall brings out hunters of all ages and abilities. Even the most experienced hunters can make mistakes, and you certainly don’t want to get caught on the receiving end of their shot.

Wearing brightly colored hunter’s orange or neon yellow vest could end up saving your life. Vests like this are inexpensive and easy to find at any sporting goods store. The Washington Trails Association offers these additional tips for staying safe during hunting season.

Eat smart foods

Bring foods that are high in fat – ones that take a long time to metabolize and digest provide a body-warming effect. We suggest munching on a trail mix full of nuts, chocolate, and raisins.

Pack along a few peanut butter and banana or ham and cheese sandwiches too. Pack a thermos full of hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate to warm you up if it gets to be really chilly out. The caffeine jolt will also give you the energy to conquer that peak.

Where are your favorite places to hike and take in the gorgeous fall scenery?

Author Information

Katie Dobbs
Katie Dobbs's picture

Katie is a self-proclaimed food connoisseur who loves playing in the great outdoors, traveling, and learning new things.

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