I am no expert on hiking. Do hiking experts even exist? Maybe you could call guides and search and rescue workers expert hikers. Anyway, like I said, I’m no expert. I have run out of water, gotten lost on the trail more than once, and have surely made other hiking mistakes. However, I have hiked quite a bit, especially in National Parks, over the years. I’d like to think I’ve learned from my mistakes and have some tips and ideas to share with others who might not have too much hiking experience. I don’t know if these will help, but even if they can help just one person that would be good enough for me.
#1 Start your hike early
My first tip is to hike early. That may not be for everyone, but I have learned it works best for me. There are a few different reasons. First off, I don’t like hiking around a lot of people. I prefer my hike to be quiet. I feel it gives me a more intimate experience with nature. The earlier you hit the trail, the better chance you have of avoiding crowds. At least that’s been my experience.
Another benefit is the weather (especially in Summer). I like to hike before it gets too hot. Also, afternoon thunderstorms are very common in a lot of places during the summer (especially in mountains). So, you don’t want to be stuck out in a storm, especially high up on a mountain.
One more advantage to starting early is it is a great time for photography. If you like to take a lot of scenic photos along your hike you probably know that the sunny afternoon light can be very harsh. The light is usually soft and can provide subjects with a warm glow in the morning.
Lastly, I feel like I usually have more energy in the morning. I suppose it makes sense to get tired as the day goes on. I like to hike early and then eat lunch when I get back (unless it was a real long hike) and then relax in the afternoon or maybe try a short hike later on.
You might want to hike in the evening if you want good light for photos and want to hike when the temperature is starting to drop down again, but then you have to worry about it getting dark. If you get lost or the hike simply takes longer than you expect, you could be finishing in the dark.