Here at Actively Northwest, we love hiking, and we love hiking in the fall. Already this season, we’ve shared some of our favorite fall color hikes in Oregon and Washington, not to mention some great trail races perfect for this time of year. But there’s plenty more to know about hitting the trails this season.
Fall hiking in the Northwest is a little different than in the spring or summer. So before we get too much further into this vibrant season, we wanted to share some helpful tips that will help you have a fun, safe and happy autumn day on the trail.
1. Start Earlier
Summer’s long nights mean you can sleep in, hit the trail by noon and still have plenty of daylight. But the fall equinox brings darkness early. Make sure you’re up and at ’em early, so you’re off the trail long before you lose your light. You’ll also want to make sure your headlamp or flashlight is working well and that you’ve got an extra set of batteries.
2. Be Seen
Some of the greatest fall hiking areas are also big with hunters. So use extra caution when hiking in popular hunting areas: wear brightly colored clothes, make your presence known and check state resources to see who may be hunting and where. Before planning your fall hike, check out this online information about Oregon’s and Washington’s hunting seasons.
3. Gear Up
You may have left your raincoat and long underwear out of your pack in July, but October’s a different story. Make sure you’ve got enough layers to keep warm, and definitely make sure your raincoat comes along. Also, bring an extra change of dry clothes for the car when you get back to the trailhead.
4. Watch the Weather
Smart hikers always check the forecast before they head out, no matter the season. Now that it’s fall, watching the weather is a habit you simply have to have. Torrential downpours or high-country snowfall, especially if you’re not ready, can lead to trouble.
5. Know Your Trees
Fall colors in the Northwest can be incredible from the hiking trail. What makes it even more fun is being able to identify the actors behind all those colors. Spend some time reading up on the region’s pretty maples, cottonwoods, aspens, oaks and other deciduous trees so you know what you’re looking at out there. To really drop your jaw, consider a hike that takes in Washington’s storied alpine larches — unique pines that burn a brilliant gold before they shed their usually green needles a few weeks later.
6. Read the Reports
Popular hiking sites like Portland Hikers and the Washington Trails Association offer lots of up-to-date trip reports from other hikers. Check for recent reports to get the latest about snow, trail conditions and fall colors at your destination.