Hiking in the dark can seem like a scary undertaking. It can be unfamiliar, disorienting and altogether daunting. It can also be surreal, exhilarating and positively life changing! Working up the courage to even try is a huge success, and if you are reading this article, that means you are at least contemplating the IDEA of exploring a night hike. So let me lay out the facts of why you should try hiking in the dark.
I don’t know about you, but bugs can be a serious deterrent when it comes to hiking. I grew up in Minnesota, a beautiful northern land where the state bird is the mosquito, and by midsummer, hiking can become unbearable. Hiking in the dark eliminates most insects, including the major biters such as black flies, gnats, horse flies and mosquitos.
Without a blazing sun above you, or the heat of the afternoon to contend with, strenuous hikes can be a lot more pleasant in the dark.
This is a huge plus for me! Have you ever tried to park at a trailhead during the day, only to find the parking lot completely full? This is usually not an issue when you hike in the dark! And, not only does the parking situation become a heck of a lot easier, the trails are way less crowded. I mean WAY less crowded. I have trekked night/early morning hikes where I have only come across a handful of other hikers. And, I cannot deny that I love it! I despise hiking in a crowd, so being able to have the trail virtually all to myself makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
Hiking in the dark gives you a chance to spot some wildlife you otherwise might not see during the day. Owls, bats, foxes and raccoons are some common critters. Other active nighttime species include elk, coyote, leopard frog and opossums.
What better way to stargaze than from a vantage point on the trail?! Night hiking allows you to spot constellations, aurora borealis, the Milky Way and so much more. Not sure where to go? Grand Canyon National Park and Joshua Tree National Park are top destinations for prime stargazing. Another is Headlands International Sky Park in Michigan.
With less crowds, hiking in the dark is the optimum time to get that solo shot you have been trying for. It’s also the perfect opportunity to set up for a long exposure shot of the night sky. Golden hour (the most coveted time for picture taking) can also be found right around sunrise leaving you with picture perfect lighting.
Totally worth getting up for in the wee hours of the morning! Whether you are hiking a 14er, a hidden beach or a sick overlook, this is the BEST time to take to the trail. I can almost guarantee that crowds will be on the slim side, and that the quiet before the sun rises will take your breath away. For every destination that I travel, I attempt a sunrise hike. This is also a super fun activity to do with friends and family.
Able to Experience a Familiar Place in a New Way
As you get older, it gets harder and harder to experience something new for the first time. This is a way to gain more of those experiences! Hiking a familiar trail in the dark is a chance to observe a well-known area from a different point of view. Maybe there is a rock formation you have never noticed before or a new path to take. Give yourself an opportunity to find another reason to love your favorite hiking trail.
Relying on Your Other Senses to Guide You
As humans, we rely heavily on our eyesight to take in our surroundings. By limiting it, we are forced to use our sense of touch, taste, smell and sound to experience a place to its full potential. Instead of seeing the owl, you might hear it hoot. You might reach your hand out to check your distance instead of being able to see it clearly. Hiking in the dark can give you an entirely new perspective.