Must-Know Night Hiking Tips: How to Hike for Sunrise and Sunset

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Hiking is a healthy and rewarding way to explore our national parks and other natural spaces. These walking trails are typically off the beaten path and allow you to experience less crowded destinations. And one of the best things about hiking is that you can do it in any season and at any time of the day! I have plenty of blog posts about hiking during daylight hours, but in this one, I will be diving into my top night hiking tips.

You may be thinking, why hike at night?! There are so many advantages to night hiking! Including:

  • Hiking in the dark is required if you want to experience sunrise (unless you go overnight backpacking)
  • You may want to cover more miles than only hiking in daytime will allow
  • Hiking at nighttime is a great way to avoid midday heat
  • Hiking back in the dark is the only way to enjoy a sunset in remote places
  • The night can give a whole new perspective on a familiar place and breathe new life into it for you
  • Hiking under a starry night sky or full moon is one of the most magical feelings on earth
  • Night hiking can provide photographers with unique conditions to take amazing photos

These are all great reasons to hike at night, but it’s important to understand the unique challenges that come with hiking in the dark so that you stay safe and enjoy yourself out there on your adventures. Let’s jump into some tips and tricks so you can hit the trail at night and actually enjoy it instead of feeling terrified the whole time!

MUST KNOW NIGHT HIKING TIPS: HOW TO HIKE FOR SUNRISE AND SUNSET

I love experiencing sunrises and sunsets out in nature, so often find myself hiking in the dark. This drums up A LOT of questions from my Instagram and blog followers. Most of the queries are focused on safety, required gear, and whether or not I recommend solo night hiking. This guide will cover all those most commonly asked questions!

BRING ADEQUATE LIGHTING

One of the most important aspects of night hiking is having a strong and reliable light source to illuminate the trail ahead. The most common and effective night hiking light is a headlamp. A good headlamp, like the Petzl Actik Core, will allow you to see the trail ahead, spot wildlife before you bump into them, and help you navigate setting up camp in the dark.

Headlamps come in many shapes and sizes, but just about any headlamp will work. The important thing is that you make sure that it will have sufficient batteries for your journey, and pack extra batteries (or charging banks) if in doubt. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the dark without a way to find your way home.

You can use a flashlight when hiking, though it’s often not as convenient as using a headlamp. Having your hands free to use trekking poles, bear spray etc., is preferred in my experience.

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

DRESS ACCORDINGLY

At night, you’re likely going to be hiking in cooler temperatures in comparison to hiking during the day. Depending on where you live, it still may be warm enough to hike at night in a t-shirt or light long sleeve shirt during the summer months.

In Washington State, I often need to throw on an extra layer when hiking in the dark, especially if hiking downhill where I won’t be exerting as much energy. In summer, this often means putting on a fleece layer or wind jacket, or in cooler months, I may even need to throw on a puffy jacket as well.

If you like hiking in shorts or skorts during the day you could consider packing a pair of hiking pants or leggings to change into once it gets colder.


TELL SOMEONE YOUR PLANS

This is important for any hike, but especially when you’re going to be hiking at night. Let someone close to you know a rough itinerary of your trip and your expected return date. This way, if something goes wrong and you don’t return, they can have a search and rescue crew looking as fast as possible and in the correct area.

Want more peace of mind? I highly recommend hiking with a satellite emergency beacon like the SPOT Gen4 Satellite GPS Messenger or the Garmin InReach Mini. That way you can press the SOS button if something goes wrong, notifying search and rescue crews. You can also contact family back home and let them know you are safe.

CONSIDER THE MOON CYCLE

Hiking at night during a full moon is a very different experience than hiking during a new moon. A full moon can entirely illuminate the landscape, making it far less likely to get lost or sustain an injury due to the increased visibility.

Consider the moon cycles if your itinerary has you hiking at night, and if it does, maybe plan it for a time when the moon will be as close to full as possible.

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