Don’t let a little heat keep you off the trail

After one of the most gorgeous and prolonged springs in memory, a spring that couldn’t be better suited to being on the trail, the heat is finally arriving this weekend. We couldn’t be happier.

A near-perfect spring coupled with the coronavirus has has driven an unprecedented number of hikers to the trail. But, with the coming heat and humidity, coupled with more retail outlets slowly opening, we should see far fewer hikers on the trail this weekend.

Now, maybe you’ve never pictured yourself as a warm-weather hiker. But maybe that’s because you never appreciated the attractions of the season or how to work with the heat and not battle it. Today, we touch on both the why and the how of summer hiking with these tips taken from our 10-page Guide to Summer Hiking.

If you do decide to hit the trail this weekend, remember to practice social distancing, hiking no closer than 6 feet from the nearest hiker and avoiding groups of 10 or more. And if you show up at the trailhead and it’s packed, move on. This weekend, we’re pretty sure you’ll find one that isn’t.

Why summer?

Here are some things we love about summer hiking:

  • The green. If you live in a lush, warm environment, you’ll want to appreciate what that means in the natural world, to be enveloped from forest floor to the canopy in a world rich with flora, a world constantly in flux. 
  •  The birdsong. Early morning and evening are when birds, like hikers, are at their best in the woods. Stay out late enough and you’ll be treated to a bedtime lullaby. 
  • The quiet. Multiple layers of leaves, you’ll quickly discover on a summer hike, make the best insulation.

Minimizing the heat

Maybe you can’t ignore the heat. But you can minimize it.

  • Clothes. Wear lightweight clothes, preferably clothes that breathe. 
  • Shirts. Button-style fishing and hiking shirts typically have ample vents and mesh that do a good job of keeping you cool by letting you vent body heat. 
  • Pants. If you’re not a fan of shorts, the good news is there are several relatively inexpensive lightweight nylon pants on the market. Some even come with UPF sunblock protection.
  • Water. Water is important whenever you exercise. It’s especially important in the heat, when you’re sweating more than on a cool day. Two key factors on the topic of water.
    • Remember to take it. At the bare minimum, take a liter of water. Even if you’re doing the 1/2-mile nature trail, take a liter of water. If you’re going longer, say, between 2 and 5 miles, take two liters of water.
    • Make it so you’ll want to drink it. Do you look forward to a nice, tepid glass of water, water warm enough to brew tea? Likely not. If you use water bottles, the night before your summer hike, fill the bottles 3/4 full and toss them in the freezer. In the morning, top off your water bottle of ice. Depending upon how hot it is, you should have cold water for 2-3 hours. If you use a hydration pack, fill the bladder with as much ice as possible, then fill with cold water. If you have an insulating bag, drop your bladder in it. You should have a half-day worth of cold water.
  • Wet bandana. Soak a bandana in water, drape it around your neck. When you cross a stream, refresh the bandana. It’s go a long way toward keeping your heat regulated. A bandana is especially useful right now: when you encounter other hikers, use it as a face mask.
  • Cotton … refreshes. Normally, you’re discouraged from hiking in a cotton T-shirt. In cold, even cool weather, your T gets wet from sweat, you stop to take a break, you catch a chill. On a really hot day when you’ll only be on the trail when it’s hot, that sweat-cooled T will feel refreshing.  

When to hike

Summer heat is a given in most places — work with it. Here’s how.

  • Early morning. Early morning, right after sunrise, is typically the coolest part of the day. On a day that might see the temperature climb to 90, you might see a temperature around sunup in the upper 60s. 
  • Early evening. We lead after-work hikes in summer that start at 6 p.m. That’s not long after the temperature typically peaks (around 4-5 p.m.). Once the sun starts to make it’s descent, the temperature can drop significantly, often by 5-7 degrees in two hours. That might not seem like much, but you’ll definitely notice the temperature headed in the right direction. 

Where to go

Where you go can have as much of an impact as when you go. 

  • Single track trails. Traditional single-wide hiking trail typically offers the advantage of full canopy coverage, and that layer of leaf protection overhead typically makes you feel about 10 degrees cooler. 
  • Along creeks. Trails that spend time along moving water tend to make you at least feel cooler (not so much trails along creeks with standing, stagnant water). Plus, you can take advantage of their proximity to shed your shoes and wade in. 
  • Elevation. As a general rule, the temperature drops about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain. So here in the Raleigh area, at about 350 feet above sea level, when the temperature is 80, it will be closer to 60. Other factors come into play, but that’s the general idea. 

So if you think it’s too hot to hike where you are and you have a mountain handy, do the math. You may even need to dig out the fleece.

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If you do get out this weekend, share your experience at our GetGoingNC Facebook Page. Did you hike a trail particularly well-suited to a hot hike? Did you have the trail to yourselves? Help your fellow hikers make an informed decision about their next hike.


GetHiking! Guide to Summer Hiking. Download our complete guide to summer hiking FREE through May 18 by entering code “summerrules” at checkout. Find the guide here.

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