A Guide to Hiking in Spring

Hit the trails with a spring in your step

As winter comes to a close, spring ushers in light, color, and new life. Warmer weather and the natural world’s resurgence make spring the perfect time to enjoy the vast and glorious wonders of nature. It’s a delight to all the senses.

Hibernating wildlife awakens and ventures back into the world; birds return and fill the trees with song; baby animals abound. Meadows spring to life; trees and flowers bud and blossom, and newborn leaves emerge. In other words, it’s time to rouse your slumbering hiking boots, hit the trails, and explore the magic!

Tips for Hiking in Spring

Warmer temperatures allow you to safely venture outdoors without having to worry about extreme cold, while the searing heat of the summer is still a few months away. However, there are still a number of things you should look out for to ensure your hike is as safe and enjoyable as possible. 

Variable weather. While spring is mostly warmer than winter, there can still be major temperature fluctuations that mean you need to be prepared for a variety of weather situations. Take some wet/cold weather clothing with you, just in case the weather changes unexpectedly. Likewise, make sure you have your waterproofs in your backpack, as rain is not uncommon in the springtime. And of course, don’t forget to check the weather forecast before heading out and keep track of it during your hike.

Swollen rivers. Melting ice and snow can cause rivers to swell and run faster than normal. What is a dry riverbed in the summer and a trickling stream in winter can become a raging torrent in the spring. Be careful when crossing streams and rivers, and be aware that fast, deep water can sweep you downstream and into serious danger. 

Avalanches and mudslides. Increased temperatures can mean that ice and snow are more likely to slide and avalanche. Stay clear of avalanche danger areas and be aware that mud can also slide downhill and cause problems.

Wildlife. Animals are very protective of their young and their territories, so take care not to get too close to nature by inadvertently wandering into an animal’s habitat. Animals can become aggressive and even dangerous, if they perceive they or their young are being threatened. Plant life is also at its most fragile in the spring. Be careful where you are walking to avoid unwittingly trampling on fledgling plants or flowers. 

Gear 101

What to Wear Spring Hiking

The most important take-home message for spring hiking gear is “be prepared”. One minute you can be walking in balmy summer-like conditions and then, within minutes, you could be caught in torrential rain or a huge temperature-drop. Just because the sun is shining when you head out, doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way!

To ensure you are adequately prepared for the changing weather you may face, hope for the best but plan for the worst that nature might throw at you.

Spring weather tends to be less severe, which means you don’t need as much in the way of specialist clothing compared to winter hiking. This also makes it less expensive to gear up – ideal if you are hiking on a budget. 

1 Dress in Layers

Start off with a base layer to ensure you’ll stay warm if the temperatures plummet. Choose a light, wicking material such as silk or a manmade equivalent.

Next, select a light but warm mid-layer, that can double as your outer layer when the weather is good. Light fleece is ideal, as are other wicking materials that are both flexible and breathable.

Finally, you’ll need an outer layer which is water- and windproof, as well as breathable. This layer may well stay in your backpack on warmer, drier days. Also pack a hat and gloves to keep your extremities warm should the temperature drops. 

2 Hiking Boots

Walking shoes are fine in the summer. However, a waterproof, breathable pair of hiking boots are a must for spring hiking, due of the mixed terrain you are likely to encounter and the changing conditions underfoot.

Consider adding a pair of Gortex socks and knee-high gaiters to your ensemble, in case you need to cross waterlogged ground or shallow streams.

3 Sun Protection

Be prepared for the sun, as well as the cold. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are stronger during spring, as well as the summer. Temperature is no guide, as UV radiation can be high on days that are cool, causing sunburn. Even an overcast day affords no guarantee, as UV rays can penetrate thin cloud cover.1

Use a high SPF sunblock on any exposed skin, including your face, neck, and arms. Reapply every 2 hours – more often if you have been sweating. Wear a sun hat and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes. 

Hiking is not just a fun, relaxing way to incorporate physical activity into your life, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to reconnect and commune with nature, unplug from technology, and spend quality time with people you care about. And while you can hike any time of the year, one of the most enchanting times is in the spring. 

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