For people who love to hike, any sign of sun or warmth in the forecast at this time of year is practically an order to head to the mountains. Even the casual outdoor enthusiast is probably at least thinking about getting outside at this point.
“Hiking is a great way to get fit while soaking up the benefits of being out in nature, but you need to be prepared before you head into the woods,” says David Townes, M.D., M.P.H., an emergency medicine physician at the University of Washington Medical Center who specializes in wilderness medicine.
Some hiking safety tips—pack first aid supplies, understand how to read a trail map, tell someone where you’ll be—apply all year. But others are more specific to spring. Follow these tips to stay safe and have fun the next time the mountain is out.
Just because the forecast is calling for 60 or 70 degree temps doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day, and it tends to get way cooler as the day goes on.
“Especially in the spring, there’s a fairly dramatic difference between daytime high and late afternoon low temperatures,” says Townes.
The weather conditions once you reach a peak can be dramatically different, too, even on small mountains.
Pack more layers than you think you’ll need, including a hat and gloves. And since it’s the Pacific Northwest, bring something waterproof, too.
Know when the sun sets
When the days get longer, we can get tricked into thinking we’ve got all the time in the world on the trail. But just because it may feel like summer, remember that the sun doesn’t set at 9 p.m. Know when the sunset is before you head out, and give yourself more time than you think you need, as hikes often take longer than people think, Townes says.
Be prepared for lots of mud
Visiting a trail in the spring months that you've hiked before in the summer can come as a rude awakening. (Think mud, and lots of it. And maybe even some snow.) Wear sturdy, waterproof footwear to help you navigate wet and slippery surfaces and protect your feet, and consider buying or renting snow shoes or hiking poles in case you encounter snow or ice.