Saturday, June 23, 2012

When NOT to hit the trail for a day hike

Avoid crowded trails by hiking the area during
off-season, such as early autumn.
One of the best reasons to stay off of a trail is because it’s too busy. Part of the allure of the hike, after all, is its solitude so that you can fully appreciate nature’s beauty. That’s difficult to do when people are blocking your views, talking over the sounds of songbirds, jostling with you for space on a narrow trail, or God forbid, lighting a cigarette as walking slowly in front of you (Where’s Smokey the Bear when you need him?).

To avoid crowded trails, always check to see if the area you intend to hike is in high tourist season or if a local festival is going on nearby. Both usually occur during dry, pleasantly warm weather – which coincidentally are the best days for hiking with children. Such events can result in busy trails and heavy traffic.

One high tourist season you probably won’t be able to avoid is flower and foliage displays, though. Often the main reason to go to some parks is for their wildflower displays.

As a side note, don’t hike during high hunting seasons. There’s really no sane reason, for example, to hit a Wisconsin trail during Thanksgiving week’s deer hunting season, when more than 225,000 armed hunters with buck fever comb virtually every woods and field.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.