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Spring Hiking Tips

Categories: Hiking Tips & Tutorials

7 spring hiking tips

Spring is making its away across the Red Plaid Nation. We love spring for so many reasons: hiking without bugs; rivers and waterfalls at their fullest; crisp, fresh air; spring-green grass; and flocks of birds returning home. Did we mention hiking without bugs?!

Each week, you’ll see something new along the Trail. So take a hike, get in some #Hike100NCT miles and enjoy this beautiful season.

Keep these 7 tips in mind when you head out to the Trail this spring.

*Always carry the 10 Essentials with you, (including plenty of water, see #1: water sources may be frozen) even for a short day hike.

1. Check snow and ice conditions

photo by David Turner
photo by David Turner

Snow is the last thing you want to think about during spring! Yet, some parts of the NCT may still have snow and the lakes (water sources) may still be frozen. Be sure to wear proper footwear and take gear appropriate for trekking across icy patches such as trekking poles and crampons or yak trakks.

2. Be prepared for mud

Slippery Rock Gorge by Cindy Newman
Slippery Rock Gorge by Cindy Newman

Avoid hiking after heavy rain – this can damage the trail tread. Parts of the NCT (like the Superior Hiking Trail) get really muddy in the spring after the snow melts and should be left alone to dry.

When you do encounter wet and muddy spots, walk directly through them. Walking around them will widen the trail. You’ll want waterproof boots and maybe gaiters.

3. Wear proper clothing

Watkins Glen, NY, photo by Dove Day
Watkins Glen, NY, photo by Dove Day

In addition to waterproof boots, make sure you have proper clothing in your pack – full rain gear and warm clothes. Depending on where you hike, the Trail could be several degrees cooler, and the temperature drops significantly when the sun goes down.

4. Be prepared for obstacles and high water

Salmon Creek Falls
Salmon Creek Falls, NY, by Dove Day

In later spring, rivers and streams may be running high. Be careful with any crossing that involves a ford. Check out this document about safely fording a river.

Be prepared for obstacles. It’s likely that many limbs and trees fell through the winter under the weight of heavy snow. Our volunteers may not have had a chance to take care of them all in the early spring.

5. Beware of invasive species.

Spring is also the season for invasive species to begin to spread. Play Clean Go is bringing the message to “Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks.” Simple steps like removing plants, animals & mud from boots, gear, pets,& vehicle; cleaning your gear before entering & leaving the recreation site, and staying on designated roads & trails can help prevent the spread of invasive species.

This video from Play, Clean, Go explains more:

6. Wear sunscreen

photo by David Turner, MI
photo by David Turner, MI

We know, we know. You’re so ready to soak in some sunshine after a long, dark winter. But even in cloudy, spring conditions, it’s important to put sunscreen on. Your mom was right. She always is.

7. Look for birds and wildflowers

Spring flowers by Cody Magill
Spring flowers by Cody Magill

Every week, new flowers pop up along the Trail and birds migrate home. Remember to practice the Leave No Trace principles and leave the wildflowers for other hikers to enjoy, and don’t get too close to birds or nests.

Take a guidebook with you to identify flowers and birds, or do a bit of homework ahead of time using these links: