The Best Time to Hike in the Summer


Best Time to Hike in the Summer

By planning for the best time to hike in the summer, you can make every journey through lush greenery even more rewarding. Hikers usually love to travel for miles through gorgeous alpine scenery. Timing is essential if you want to make the most of all that nature has to offer.

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Plan for the Early Morning or Late Evening

Morning Hike Sun Salutation
Stopping during our morning hike for a sun salutation. Not many better ways to start a day.

If you enjoy hiking even on weekdays and you live close to where you work and hike, you may be able to walk early in the morning. The cool temperatures at that time are ideal for long journeys and you’ll feel mentally energized for a hectic day.

Evening is also a good time for hiking because once again, the day will be relatively cool. The temperature difference is not as drastic as it is in the morning, but it’s definitely better than through the day. In addition, an evening hike will give you time to find solutions to any unresolved challenges that you encountered during the day.

Planning your hikes for this time should always be your underlying strategy. The cool temperatures that exist during the early morning and late evening allow you to be able to hike a little longer, more safely and more comfortably.

Hiking trails that are further from your residence can make hitting the trail early in the morning a little tougher. Either try to keep day hikes within relatively short drives, within about 60 to 90 minutes, or consider driving up the night before and spending the night close by the trail. This will allow to get up early, beat the heat and enjoy more time on the trail.

Summer Temperatures: Morning vs Mid-Day vs Evening

I know saying it’s cooler in the morning than in the middle of the day is stating the obvious. But, just how much cooler is it in the morning? Is there really that much of a difference? Well, I took some data from the National Centers of Environmental Information who tracks temperatures at over 6,000 locations across the country to see just how much of a difference there is.

I picked August 1st since it’s officially the mid-point of summer and selected a couple different locations across the country. A few of these locations are really close to some extremely popular hiking destinations. Here are the average temps for 7AM, 11AM, 3PM and 7PM.

City 7AM 11AM 3PM 7PM
Atlanta, GA 73.0 82.7 86.6 82.3
Fresno, CA 72.2 88.4 97.4 91.5
Kalispell, MT 58.0 74.2 81.6 77.7
Knoxville, TN 70.7 81.1 85.7 81.3
Phoenix, AZ 86.1 96.5 103.4 101.0

As you can see from the chart, the difference between the temperatures early in the morning compared to midday can be drastic! The average difference in the five cities above is almost 19 degrees. If you’re exposed to the sun then the heat index can be even higher.

Also, look closely at the evening temperatures. While they are cooler than midday and you at least have relief from the sun being directly overhead, the temps are still much higher than the morning.

Moral of the story: If you really want to beat the heat on those summer hikes, get up early and go get it in!

Keep your Body Cool and Healthy

Many people hike to maintain overall wellness. This includes their mental and emotional well being. Hiking in the early morning or late evening makes it easy for your body to adjust to changing terrain.

Even if you walk beside a cool lake in the middle of the day, the heat at that time will put your body under stress. That type of strain doesn’t add much to this type of exercise and for people with certain health conditions, it can negate some of the positive effects of hiking.

For example, if you have kidney problems or are on diuretic medication, hiking when the day is hottest can put you at risk. If you’re going on a 12-hour hike after a period of training and preparation, manage your fluid intake carefully and schedule a rest for the hottest part of the day.

It’s harder to walk for miles if you’re losing a lot of water through sweat. It is always better to plan hikes for when it’s cool. If your immune system is weakened, you’re pregnant or are recovering from surgery, hiking when it’s cool helps to avert any harm to your health.

People in their eighties and older may be very familiar with some hiking trails. They may also be more attuned to their body due to years of experience with hiking. Even so, their health may be compromised by excessive levels of heat combined with hours of exertion. If you’re an experienced older hiker, it’s still a better idea to hike in the cooler part of the day than to move at a brisk pace when the sun is really hot.

Tackle Slopes More Easily

Walking uphill can require a lot of energy. It’s a lot of fun but it’s not really as exciting when the sun is releasing heat in waves. You’ll be hot, sticky and every step may feel grueling. Several hiking trails start with the steepest section. This allows you to complete the most challenging terrain when your leg muscles have lots of oxygen and are fresh. The cool also allows them to rapidly lose heat from the work done on the incline.

Unburden your Spirit

For a very long time, people have recognized the importance of walking as a spiritual tool. Mazes built to allow humans to walk while allowing their thoughts to settle, exist in many parts of the world.

Hiking in the early mornings makes it possible for you to unravel some of the tension that may be affecting your productivity. If you want to pray about a situation, you can do so without being distracted by lots of other pressing matters.

Problems with your business become smaller when compared to the vast power on display around you. As the sun rises, you’ll be ending your hike armed with fresh solutions.

Maximize Off-Peak Hours

Hiking During the Morning
One of the best benefits of hiking in the morning is there is generally less people on the trail allowing you to experience nature to it’s fullest.

This is one of the most underestimated aspects of hiking in the morning! When you hike early in the morning, you’ll be out and about when many people are still sleeping. This means you won’t have anyone calling you to set up meetings or ask for information related to work projects.

You can actually have some time just for yourself. If you hiked later in the morning or in the early afternoon, that advantage would not exist. Everyone would be up and some would be seeking your input, putting you under pressure.

Enjoy the Quiet

If you’re planning on hiking along a fairly popular route, going in the early morning is usually better. You’ll avoid the huge groups of people who may be stopping and talking with each step.

The quiet makes it easy to appreciate the sound of water as you cross a stream or the silent rustle of leaves in trees sheltering lizards that are endemic to the area.

Your senses will be fully engaged because you’ll even be more sensitive to slight changes in pressure and humidity as the morning mist lifts and shifts around you. You’ll smell different blooming wildflowers, without being hindered by concentrated colognes and other artificial chemicals from large crowds.

Observe the Early Birds

Several hikers are also birdwatchers. Starting your hike at the same time that your favorite species begin their day allows you to observe them without prying.

As you casually meander through their natural habitat, you’re likely to see them gathering materials for nests. Some may observe you as well, while they perch on branches close by.

The early morning allows you to see local birds in all their splendor, wherever you choose to hike. As the day goes on and the ambient temperature rises, some may choose to be less active.

Birds are not the only animals that retreat to cool, shady areas as the sun rises higher in the sky. If you choose to wait until 11 a.m. to start your hike, you’ll miss out on a host of remarkable revelations of forest life.

Avoid Afternoon Thunderstorms

Avoid lightning strike while hiking.

Some relaxing hiking trails become slippery with streams of water even after a light shower of rain. If it’s heavier, you’re even more likely to have your hiking boots soaked.

Hiking in the morning or late evening can help you to avoid that sometimes. In regions where the summer rain falls at midday, you’ll avoid the mud altogether with a morning hike. Many guides will give you details on what you can expect with the weather in their region.

Drawbacks to Hiking Early or Late

While hiking in the morning or later in the evening are the best times for hiking in the summer, there are a few potential downsides to keep in mind.

Bugs

Flying insects all have a preference for a particular time of day. Unfortunately, some that aren’t fun, like mosquitoes, are often out and about when the sun is lowest in the sky.

Mosquitoes don’t really like the heat but you can prepare for them. Use a safe insect repellent on your skin. Wear colors that they don’t like and ensure that your arms and legs are fully covered.

Dim Light

Walking before sunrise and in the late evening allows you to see the world in a different light. The still surface of a lake at evening time can be a source of inspiration. So can watching the sun rise as you look out to the ocean.

Despite that, it can be hard to discern subtle variations in hue that become evident in bright sunshine. The sky is also transformed at different hours of the day and you won’t be able to enjoy the same bright blues in late evening.

Sleepy Flowers

Hiking through a Field of Flowers
Some flowers don’t open up until later in the day when they get more sun.

All plants are sensitive to light. With some, this response is evident in the way their leaves close up towards late afternoon. For that reason, you won’t be able to see some at their best if you walk in the evening.

Several blooms also respond to the intensity of sunlight, along with other factors that vary according to the time of day. If you complete your hike by 7 a.m., you won’t view flowers that open around 10 a.m.

Final Thoughts

The best time of day to hike in summer is when it’s cool. That could be either in the early morning or much later in the day, when the sun is going down.

While there are a few cons to walking at this time, they are far outweighed by the pros. The sense of peace that you can experience as you enjoy nature in this way is magnified in the cooler parts of the day. Take your time and enjoy the wonders around you.

Ryan H

I love hiking and being outdoors with Jen and our two rescue dogs, Chompers and Mia. I also enjoy a good weekend trail run. I'm also really enjoying sharing some of the knowledge we've learned along the way here on Zenful Hiking!

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