One of the most beautiful hiking seasons along the North Country Trail is upon us. The Trail offers sweeping views of fall foilage, the weather offers a slight chill, and bugs begin to dimish–all adding up to superior hiking experiences. Now is a great time to go explore the Trail. Fall also presents some unique challenges. Follow these tips for the best experience possible on the North Country Trail this fall.
1. Check a fall color guide.
Different trees turn at different times, and across our seven states, the colors will peak at varying times.
Check out this fantastic interactive map from the National Forest Service. Check the colors by state, or by specific national forest.
2. Be prepared for changes in temperature.
Temperatures can change 20 or even 30 degrees throughout the day. Pack an extra layer in case your hike takes longer than you expect and the temperature begins to drop.
3. Be prepared for shorter daylight hours.
In the summer you can hike in the light until after 9 p.m., but in the fall the sun starts to set much earlier. It’s easy to lose track of time during a hike and not realize sunset is approaching. Make sure you take a flashlight or headlamp on your hikes, even if you don’t think you’ll be out after dark.
Refresh yourself on the 10 essentials to take on every hike.
4. Stay hydrated.
Even though the air is cooler and you may not feel like you sweat as much, it’s still important to stay hydrated.
Follow these 7 tips for staying hydrated, and make sure you take enough water with you on your hike.
5. Be aware of hunting seasons.
Fall begins hunting season in many areas. Hunting season not only presents the need for extra safety precautions, but also brings about temporary trail closures and re-routes in certain areas.
Visit these sites for each state to check hunting seasons:
Know potential re-routes. In particular, if planning to hike along the Superior Hiking Trail (MN) or the Finger Lakes Trail (NY). Check with the Superior Hiking Trail Association and the Finger Lakes Trail Conference for potential re-routes.
Please pay attention to trail signs as you enter an area. Different land managers have different requirements during hunting season. Posted signs will let you know if an area is closed for hunting. If a sign is posted, respect the land owner’s requirements. Not respecting a land owner’s request could result in the Trail being kicked off their land.
Avoid hiking in the early morning or at dusk when most hunters are active.
Wear bright colors, especially orange. We’ve stocked high visibility orange, neon green, and neon yellow t-shirts in in the Trail Shop.
Read these helpful articles for specific hiking safety during hunting season:
- North Country Trail’s safety coordinator Dan Watson’s tips.
- American Hiking Society’s post on staying safe during hunting season.
- USA Today’s article on staying safe
6. Enjoy campfires, but in designated places only.
Fall is the perfect season to cozy up to a campfire, especially if you’re out backpacking overnight.
Make sure you practice Leave No Trace principles and keep fires in fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
Keep fires small and only use sticks that can be broken by hand.
What other tips do you have for fall hiking on the North Country Trail?
photo credits: title photo, John Pottenger; work crew at Superior National Forest, Matt Davis; sunset, Dove Day; river, Peter Zelinka; crew in orange, Matt Davis; campfire, Dove Day