If you’re looking for the ultimate guide with all the tips and tricks you need to hit the trails this spring, look no further. Spring time often brings a sense of excitement about dusting off those boots after hibernating all winter. Even if enjoy winter sports outdoors, there’s nothing quite like getting out for that first hike again. However, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when hiking from March to May. From weather, to trail conditions, to safety, you want to ensure that you are equipped with the knowledge and gear you need to safely hike this spring. This guide to spring hiking will give you all the information and confidence you need for hiking during spring months!
1. Assess your altitude
Altitude is a key player when it comes to what kind of conditions you can expect on the trails. Typically, higher mountainous areas experience freezing temperatures and sporadic snow storms well into the spring. The highest peaks (14,000 feet) will even hold snow through June! If you are hiking at sea level or lower altitudes, this won’t be a factor for you. However if you live in or are visiting a high altitude state, make sure you are prepared for snowy trails through May.
2. Pack with care
What you bring along with you in your pack could make or break the experience of your hike. And in emergencies, it can be there difference in life or death. If snow is still covering the trail, the likelihood of getting off track is much higher, especially if the trail is unfamiliar to you. Having the proper navigation devices is absolutely crucial. Additionally, if you think there’s even a chance you will experience snow/ice, bringing along micro-spikes to attach to your boots is advised, along with precautionary layers. Here are some other general items that we recommend packing:
- A rain jacket
- A warm hat
- Nonperishable snacks
- A map or charging device for a digital map
- GPS device to send emergency signal if service is lost
- An emergency blanket (should pack down lightly specifically for hiking)
- Plenty of water and a water filter if the trail is especially long
- Bear spray if hiking in an area where bears are a risk
The reality is, you really don’t know what kind of weather could roll in while you’re on the trails. Particularly if you are setting out on more remote, difficult trails, preparation and proper packing Is key!
3. Be aware of seasonal risk factors
There are certain safety hazards that can pose potential risk specifically in the spring. The following should be taken into consideration when embarking on a springtime hike:
- High streams and creeks – if the trail requires crossing any moving water, there’s a good chance that water is highest in the spring as snow melts. The water also typically moves at a much faster rate, so if you find yourself unsteady, the water can easily sweep you away. If this is a concern to you, simply check trail reports and know the landscape of where you’re hiking.
- Bears returning from hibernation – spring is also the time of year when bears make their reappearance from hibernating, often with babies in toe. For this reason, they can become especially territorial and aggressive if they feel threatened. They are also desperately hunting for food, and are “hangry” to say the least, making spring the most dangerous time of year for bear attacks. Knowing whether or not you are hiking in bear country is vital; and if you are, coming prepared with bear spray and even a bear bell.
- Melting snow + ice – while we all like to picture spring hiking as blooming flowers and sunshine, there is often a much more “slushy” reality. Trail conditions could be quite muddy, icy, or a combination of the two. Hike using boots with good tread and have spikes on hand just in case.
- Extreme temperature drops – from March to May, the temperatures may be starting to rise, but they often fall quickly when the sun starts to go down. Plan your hike accordingly to ensure you are back to the trailhead before the sun is down.
4. Check trail + weather reports
When in doubt, check trail reports. One simple way to do this is by using the app, AllTrails. They have a “review” section where other hikers give an account of their experience. You can see when they hiked there, and what they had to say about trail conditions. Additionally, ALWAYS check weather reports. Even if the trailhead is only 30 minutes from your home, it could be a completely different picture when it comes to weather (especially if an altitude change is involved). Checking these two sources is perhaps the MOST important action you can take leading up to a spring hike. Having the knowledge of what to expect will inform the route you take, how you pack, when you leave, etc.
5. Pick your apparel wisely
Ever slipped on a patch of ice and ripped your favorite pair of leggings? Been there. Wearing durable apparel makes all the difference when hiking; and spring hiking especially so! Here are a few of our top apparel recommendations for women:
- Hiking Pants: Quick-dry, lightweight, durable - we recommend this pair! Wear leggings underneath if temperatures are still very cold.
- Long sleeve technical base layer
- Beanie hat
- Socks: Specifically warm hiking socks, that are padded to protect your feet from blistering and/or getting too cold
- Jacket: Lightweight, water-resistant, such as an ultralite puffer or windbreaker
- Winter coat in case of low temperatures
- Sports Bras or tank top under base layer in case temperatures warm up
- Mid layer thermal button up if needed
- Waterproof hiking boots with good traction
- Spikes to go over boots
We hope this article equips you and gives you the confidence to get outdoors this spring, no matter the conditions! Do you enjoy spring hiking?