Five Great Tips for Fall Hiking

The lower temperatures and splendiferous colors of fall will entice many of us to take longer ventures into the woods in the coming days. This is a wonderful thing, but we want to remind you of a few things that will make your hike more enjoyable.

Eat. Do not look at a 10-mile hike as a crash diet, or crash you will. Just last week, one of our hikers suddenly went weak. Turns out that, in addition to a few other conspiring factors, she’d eaten only a fig bar for breakfast and had only a 16-ounce water bottle for a 5-mile hike in 85-degree heat. Calories are key to getting you down (and up) the trail. And we’re not talking HoHos and Ding Dongs, but the nutrient-rich calories found in whole grains, fruits, and nuts. Have a good breakfast, then pack up a lunch and healthy snacks.
Hydrate. In lower temperatures, when we might not sweat as much, we might think we don’t need as much hydration. Not true! Not drinking water is the fastest, surest way to stall your engine, even on a cool fall day. Some more modest hikers might be averse to drinking water because they don’t want to pee in the woods. But, you should embrace the idea that you’ll be ducking behind a tree once or twice a hike. It’s biology, people.

Note that the days are shrinking On June 28, the sun set at Umstead State Park in Raleigh at just past 8:30 p.m.; by the end of August, there was sunlight in the park past 8 p.m. Today, less than a month later, the sun sets at 7:04 p.m., and we’ll lose more than a minute of sunlight a day. The sunset creep sneaks up on you. Before determining a start time, check sunset, figure out your estimated hike time, build in some cushion, then set your start time. And pack a headlamp, just in case.
Check the forecast. This weekend, our GetHiking! Classic Escapes crew is visiting Mount Mitchell. In preparing our trip guide, I checked the weather and discovered that fleece should be on our packing list: the temperature will barely top 50. This time of year, it can reach 80 degrees one day, then only 55 the next. Checking the forecast before heading out is especially important this time of year.
Skip the line. On fall weekends, several state parks post a similar advisory: expect a wait for parking — if you can even get in the gate. (Crowders Mountain State Park is even planning to shuttle hikers from nearby Gastonia.) If you really want to visit a more popular park, check out lesser-known access points to avoid the more crowded parking areas (links below). To ensure that you get to see the color you’re stalking, check out websites where groups monitor fall color (links below).

Stay well and enjoy your autumn hikes.

Happy trails!



  1. Eat: 5 Food Tips for Hiking and Camping from cover the basics. Click here. WildBackpacker offers a more in-depth look into nutrition, here.
  2. Hydration: If you’re curious about why hydrating is so important, WebMD answers most of your questions in The Quest for Hydration
  3. Diminishing daylight: Find sunrise and sunset times near you, here.
  4. Avoid fall’s hot spots. To check on lesser-used access in North Carolina State Parks, go here, for Virginia State Parks, go here.
  5. Check the forecast. You probably have your favorite site for checking the forecast (we prefer For mountain forecasts, we like, which gives the forecast by elevation.
  6. Fall Color. For the North Carolina mountains, provides weekly updates, for Virginia, check the Virginia is for Lovers state tourism site’s Fall Foliage Report.

Find a hike

Check our seven GetHiking!/GetExploring! chapters for weekly hikes:

GetHiking! Charlotte

GetHiking! Charlottesville

GetHiking! Triad

GetHiking! Triangle

GetHiking! Virginia Beach

GetHiking! Western North Carolina

GetExploring! Greenville

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