How to Plan My Hiking Route Part 3: Seasons & Weather

We’re into our third post on finding a hiking trail. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of Finding a Hike, check them out as well!

  1. How do I find a trail/route? 
  2. What is in the route: distance, elevation
  3. What season is it?
  4. What are other logistics?

Shorts or pants? Sun hat or beanie? The season and the weather can be huge factors in choosing your hiking route.

If you’re hiking in the summer, you may want to look at routes that are shaded and at higher elevation to find cooler conditions; however, if it’s winter, that same route may be icy, snowy, or otherwise impassable. Similarly, a desert hike that is delightfully sunny and warm on a winter afternoon could likely be unbearably hot during summer.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on

It’s a good idea to factor in the season when selecting your hiking route, but don’t forget the weather. While most temperature and humidity trends are understood for spring/summer/fall/winter seasons, the weather is always changing. It’s important to look at the weather forecast when planning the trip, and to double check it prior to leaving on your hike to be sure you have the appropriate gear.

Weather can change throughout the day, and can affect the safety of your hike: a thunderstorm might bring dangerous lightning if you’re hiking in an exposed area (a meadow, beach, or above treeline), and could likewise bring dangerous flash flooding if you are hiking in a canyon or river bottom. Daily tides are important to keep in mind when hiking along beaches.

Time of day can also be a big factor: that winter afternoon hike might be pleasant if you start after lunch, however, shorter days and cold night temperatures make starting the hike at 6 AM much colder, requiring different gear. The blazing hot summer hike in the desert might be uncomfortable (if not dangerous!) at noontime might be warm but enjoyable at 6 AM.  

Photo by James Wheeler on

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