As the snow melts and the days grow warmer, it’s time to get outside and enjoy spring hiking! There are so many beautiful trails to explore, with new scenery to enjoy every day. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just getting started, here are some tips to help make your spring hiking experiences even better.
Why Hike in Spring?
Wildflowers. One of my favorite things about Spring hiking is seeing the pops of color as the outside world starts coming back to life. Wildflowers are abundant during this time and they are a beautiful sight after seeing bare trees and shades of gray for months.
Cabin Fever. If you’re like me, I do a lot less hiking in the winter time. I still get out, just not quite the few times a week that I am in the other seasons. So when Spring finally comes, I find that hitting the trail is a good way to shake that cooped-up-all-winter feeling I sometimes get.
Waterfalls All that snow melt and precipitation does amazing things for those waterfalls. Spring is usually when they’re at their highest volume and for those elusive falls, your best chance to catch them not dry.
Cooler temps. Hooray for the season where you can hike all day long and not have to worry about having a heatstroke in the middle of it. The nice cooler temps means you don’t have to worry about being off trail or in a shady area during the heat-peak of the day. It’s also makes for a more refreshing hike and it’s a lot less sweaty too.
Less insects and other bugs. Mosquitoes aren’t out in full force. The biting flies haven’t reared their ugly heads. Face full of spiderwebs? Probably not quite yet.
Though the bug population is still pretty scarce, ticks can still be an issue. Here at least, they’ve been coming out earlier and earlier in the year. I’ve even pulled one off in February! So despite the lack of creepy crawlies in springtime, keep up on your repellent and tick safety.
Challenges You Could Face When Spring Hiking
Mud: For hiking through mud, waterproof boots will be your best friend. Gaiters can help too, by keeping mud and other gunk on the outside.
Rushing Water: Snow melt and rainfall come together to create higher water levels and swift currents. If you have to make a water crossing, be sure it’s safe to do so. If it seems risky, don’t do it.
Difficult Trail Conditions: Washed out trails and downed trees are a common sight along trails in Spring. Checking trail conditions the day of or before your hike is never a bad idea.
Fast changing weather: Rain, fog, storms. Mother Nature can be at her worst in the Spring. Be prepared for her ever changing attitude with the proper gear and clothing we talk more about below.
What to Wear
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I make a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase through the link.
Waterproof boots. Shoes may not cut it if you encounter thick mud. Ask me how I know that digging in mud for a sucked off shoe isn’t really all that fun. I like wearing boots that at least cover my ankles when I know it’s going to be muddy. Not only do they stay in place well in sticky mud, but they also usually have more support which is nice for those inevitable slippery roots and rocks.
Base Layer. Don’t be caught off guard by the chilly dampness spring brings with it. Wear a base layer under your clothes just in case. You can always peel off your outer layer if you get too warm.
What to Pack for Spring Hiking
Rain wear A waterproof rain jacket and possibly pants too will be handy for when the wet weather hits.
Backpack Cover Keeping your gear dry is almost as important as keeping yourself dry. Should you need your extra clothing, they won’t do you much good if they’re wet. As for wet maps… well I keep mine in a ziplock bag now. A rainproof pack cover will help keep all your stuff dry.
After a rainy day mishap with a cheap backpack, cover and liner when I first started hiking, I started lining my pack with a large dry bag. I used a trash bag as a liner before that, but as I found out, some bags are better than others and they don’t always work perfectly. They can also tear pretty easily. Now I just roll the top of the dry bag shut and that combined with a pack cover have done well so far.
Here’s the pack liner I use. I use the medium size for backpacking and the small size in my daypacks.
Dry Bags An extra insurance policy for keeping your gear dry should you be caught in a downpour. If you use a dry bag as a liner and have a pack cover, you probably don’t need them to keep your gear dry, but they still come in handy for keeping your gear organized in your pack.
Extra Socks You may need them, you may not. But if you have to walk through wet vegetation or step in soggy mud, you’ll be glad you have them. And finding out your boots aren’t fully waterproof anymore, well that’s another great reason to have some extras 😉
Trekking Poles If ever there is a time I actually use my trekking poles, Spring hiking is that time. Between the slippery roots, rocks, and mud, I’d fall if I didn’t. They help provide more stability and have saved me more times than I count from being covered in head to toe muck.
Tips for Spring Hiking
Be prepared for anything. Find out the current trail conditions by calling the park or land management department. You can also talk to a ranger if they’re available. And be sure to check the weather before heading out too.
Layer up properly. With the weathers ability to rapidly change in springtime, layer up to keep comfy and safe.
Stay on trail if it’s muddy. Walking around the edge of the mud widens the trail and can harm the vegetation or new growth. Practice Leave No Trace and hike on the trail, even if it’s a mucky mess.
If a water crossing looks sketchy, don’t risk it. Fast flowing water is no joke. Be safe and find an alternate route or try again another day.
Use your poles. They can seriously help you in muddy conditions or when crossing water. They’re worth the hassle of pulling them out if only for the bad parts of the trail.
Bring your 10 essentials. The warmer weather doesn’t mean longer daylight just yet. But with the nicer weather, you may hike longer than you anticipated. Having your headlamp is great for if you’re out a little longer than the daylight sticks around for. And your first aid kit will come in handy if one of those pesky roots slips you up and you scrape yourself up on tree bark.
The best way to enjoy the trails this spring is by being prepared for all of the possible conditions. Make sure you pack the right gear and clothing, and that you know what to do if things take a turn for the worse. With these tips, you’ll be able to hike confidently in any weather condition and make the most out of your spring hiking experience.