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8 Tips for Hiking During Shoulder Season

Shoulder season gives hikers some of the best weather. Spring and fall’s warm days and cool breezes make hiking feel fabulous. However, the less than ideal conditions of the actual trail makes it more difficult than usual. Here are some tips for hiking during shoulder season:

  1. Make sure you have maps – When a late or early snowfall covers the trail, it is hard to navigate. Having a map and compass can help you cross a snowfield and pick up the path again with more ease.

  2. Dress in layers – Cold mornings can lead to sweltering afternoons. When you round the bend and the mountain blocks the sun, you might get chilly again. Pack a puffy, hat, and gloves to prepare for changing temps.

  3. Use poles – Poles are fundamental always, but when negotiating across mud, ice, and snow, they are essential.

  4. Bring shoe traction devices – Microspikes, Yaktraks, crampons, and snowshoes improve your traction on ice and snow to prevent slipping, falling, and post-holing. Be prepared to take them on and off based on the changing conditions. The shadowy side of the trail may be icy, while the sunny side can be slushy or muddy.

  5. Widen your base of support – A bigger base of support improves your stability, and walking toward the edges of the trail provides more traction and helps you avoid the muddiest or iciest part.

  6. Bring extra socks – Changing conditions means that the trail can be a torrent of runoff and melting snow by afternoon. If you’re slogging through and your feet get wet, change into dry socks frequently to keep feet dry and warm and avoid developing trench foot.

  7. Follow trail recommendations – Some trails are delicate, and it’s better to avoid them during shoulder season when it’s muddy. Find out what your local trail maintenance organization recommends and respect those trails that should be left to dry out.

  8. Hiking essentials - As always, pack your 10 essentials and let someone know where you'll be and when to expect you back. Hiking safety is even more important when the seasons are changing and mother nature brings unexpected weather your way.

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