On Tuesday evening’s hike, I overheard a new hiker ask a veteran, “Someone told me you do this series in the winter — in the dark? Is that true?”
Indeed it is, replied the veteran of our winter weekly Tuesday night campaigns. She went on to explain why you would hike at night, in winter, essentially boiling it down to two factors: First, the practical: for most of us, if you want to get in a mid-week hike when all the daylight hours are consumed by work you have little choice but to hike in the dark. And two: it’s a good time. “It’s just a different experience hiking in the dark. It’s fun!”
As for our summer evening hikes, the motivation differs — to a degree. From a practical standpoint, the temperature is starting to cool, it makes more sense to avoid the daytime heat. And two, it’s fun, but largely because of what you can see — the light of dusk casting the world in an otherworldly glow.
It’s those latter two reasons that should motivate you to try an evening hike as the heat of summer settles in and swaddles us in 90-degree days with 70 percent humidity. Some options for the coming weekend:
Kick your weekend off early with a Friday evening adventure:
- Star Gazing at Lake Norman, Lake Norman State Park swim beach parking lot, Statesville, 8:15-10 p.m. First, enjoy the sunset (it officially retires for the day at 8:30), then let rangers and amateur astronomers help you make sense of the night sky. Learn more here.
- Sunset on the Ridge Talk, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Nags Head, 8-8:30 p.m. Take in one of the more unique sunsets in the state while a ranger discusses the dunes and history of this sand-swept state park. Learn more here.
Profile Trail Twilight Hike, Grandfather Mountain State Park, Banner Elk, 8 – 10 p.m. On this mile-and-a-half-long hike you’ll experience the gloaming as it settles over a mature Southern Appalachian Forest. Free, but participation is limited and preregistration is required by calling 828.963.9522. Learn more here.
Fireflies, Fact and Fiction, Lake James State Park, Nebo, 9 p.m. Did you know that this is the Year of the Beetle in N.C. State Parks? What’s that have to do with fireflies? you ask. Turns out fireflies are beetles. Learn more about these flashing phenoms on this ranger-led adventure. Learn more here.
Evening DIY hike
More the do-it-yourself type, but leery of not knowing what you don’t know? Hiking in the fading light of day is rewarding on so many levels, but to keep your newbie anxiety to a minimum there are a few things to remember. For example:
- Keep sunset in mind. Currently, official sunset is around 8:30. Ambient light can last another 20 minutes or so, but hiking in a dense woods can greatly diminish your sunlight well before official sunset. Keep in mind, too, that may public lands close at sunset. Check where you plan to hike for their closing time, lest you return a few minutes late to find an irritated ranger.
- Take a headlamp or flashlight. Even if you plan to return long before dark, things happen. And it can get really dark in the woods after sundown.
- Hike a trail you know. Especially on your first foray, hike a trail you’re familiar with. The fewer surprises the better.
What else? Find out more helpful advice for hiking in the dark by downloading our GetHiking! Skills Guide: Night Hiking Tips. Download it before Monday, July 19 and it’s free.
This weekend, remember: GetOut! And enjoy.