Night Hiking

Rockskipper

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I used to do a lot of night hiking when I lived in W. Colorado and wasn't able to get out much during the day (job). I always went solo and hiked trails I was familiar with. I've seen some of the most amazing sights - like a huge meteor over Mount Sopris in an incredible field of stars, aspens along a stream all lit up and shimmering in the winter moonlight, owls hunting, etc. I did have one huge scare where I was hiking along an old road next to deep forest and felt like something was watching me (I hightailed it out muy pronto), though it was probably my imagination. But in general it was totally enjoyable and a view into a different world. I never saw much wildlife, which was probably because it was dark (I used a light only when absolutely necessary), but I was hyper aware of night critters like lions.

I'm thinking of getting back into it as a way to find solitude and quiet. I've been told by friends it's unsafe, but my experiences were the opposite - I didn't have to worry about running into the wrong person and I never felt threatened by anything (except my imagination). I even ran into a coyote once and scared the beejeebers out of it. But I would like to know if anyone on here has done much of it, and if so, what your experiences were.
 

Yvonne

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I night hiked for years in Hawai'i and we always started our tours around 3 am or 4 am in the morning.
Even here in Southern Utah I night hike. Especially when it is still 100+ degrees until midnight. I really enjoy hiking around the full moon because you do not need a headlamp at all. I hiked a lot at night in Zion and enjoyed empty trails which you usually do not have anymore.
When I move to Washington next month, I plan to do more night hiking during the summer months. I really love the sights and sounds at night and the cool breeze and celestial events. Nothing beats a meteor shower while on the trail
 

regehr

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I like to hike at night but don't do it very often, and have frightened myself once or twice, or else had a narrow escape, who can say? if I were to do it more often I might carry a can of bear spray just in case
 

OwenM

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There is always something watching you.

The vast majority of my "night hikes" are early starts or late arrivals.
Summer night hiking in the SE can be pretty horrible, unless you just like walking in a cloud of bugs. I did ~12 miles of an 18 mile loop at night in July once, and was permanently cured of any desire to do that again.
 

Ugly

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I really like night hiking, especially when there is snow and any kind of a moon. I get people from work to go hiking with me pretty consistently and 6 months out of the year that means most or all is in the dark. For snowshoeing it is better, just colder.

I have gone solo at night or often early morning to get somewhere before sunrise, and prefer no headlamp too. Imagination for sure is the worst, but I've seen things like kitty tracks on top of mine in the snow, and a kitty and her two cubs in my headlamp. I think kitties prefer trail runners anyway.
Really the only scares have been the big dark mooses that like to sleep by trails and are ornery buggers when you wake them up.
In the desert there is no such moose problem, just more bugs and spiders in your path at night, but sending a tarantula running is actually pretty cool.

I do not think you are crazy or doing anything extra risky by hiking at night.
That song, Cool Change, it is about solo on the ocean, but sea of snow, sea of slickrock and sand... it still applies. "It's kind of a special feeling, when you're out on the sea alone, staring at the full moon, like a lover..."
 

Jackson

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I never night hike unless something has gone wrong or I'm skipping the last night of camping and have a long final day. The one time I hiked after dark in the Wasatch, I was solo and I ended up within 10 feet of a cow moose and her calf in some scrub. Very fortunately did not get trampled. I also rolled my ankle twice before I was back to the car. Walked with a limp for the next several days.

So I'm a big proponent of being able to clearly see what's around me now when I'm hiking.
 

b.stark

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Not much of a night hiker myself. Just never been a big fan of it. I'd rather watch the stars while relaxing in camp, personally.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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@Rockskipper Cool thread.

I used to x-c ski at night a lot on Rabbit Ears Pass just out of Steamboat. I was the only one up there and it was so peaceful. When I lived in Colorado, I eventually developed the habit of hiking out until nearly dark and hiking back in the dark, mostly on trails. When I started hiking fourteeners, rather than start out in the pre-dawn, I often started late afternoon (post thunderstorms), and hiked back in the dark. Because it was Colorado, I almost always ran into at least a few elk on the way back. The climbs I did in the winter almost always involved some night hiking due to short day length. I also completed a night climb of Mt Yale, which was just an awesome experience.

I eventually moved to MT (grizzly country), and after reading a journal article that discussed grizzly use of trails at night, and other developed areas under the cover of night, I decided that was not a real smart strategy anymore. Before moving to MT, I did an off-trail hike out until dark in the Yaak valley of NW MT and hiked back in the dark, which admittedly was stressful.

My night hiking now is limited to taking our dog on walks around the neighborhood. A few times in the winter we run into moose so it's not completely stress-free.
 

Rockskipper

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No way I would night hike in grizzly country. I like open meadows and desert country. Sometimes I just like to drive way out somewhere and hang out by my car, looking at the stars. I do know Rabbit Ears well, having grown up near Steamboat. I would actually be scared to walk around places with moose with dogs. I mean, not moose that have dogs, but me with dogs around moose. :) Moose can be gnarly around dogs, unless you have @Perry the Moose Whisperer with you.
 

scatman

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No way I would night hike in grizzly country. I like open meadows and desert country. Sometimes I just like to drive way out somewhere and hang out by my car, looking at the stars. I do know Rabbit Ears well, having grown up near Steamboat. I would actually be scared to walk around places with moose with dogs. I mean, not moose that have dogs, but me with dogs around moose. :) Moose can be gnarly around dogs, unless you have @Perry the Moose Whisperer with you.

After all that Bailey's, you won't have any problem hiking around in the dark in grizzly country. ;)
 

Udink

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Backpacking part of the Uinta Highline, I hiked well into the night once. My friend and I hit Whiterocks Lake and it was plenty late enough to make camp, but we had a car parked at Chepeta Lake and really wanted to reach it so we could sit in real chairs around the campfire. The stupid thing is that we were finding geocaches along the way, where someone had placed a "power trail" of them about every tenth of a mile, so we had to stop every so often to find one. For the last mile we were almost delirious--just sleepy and physically exhausted, and we were acting pretty silly.

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Another time we were hiking at the Wedge at night. We heard what sounded like a coyote yipping, and my friend called out, "Hey coyote, we have a gun!" (I actually did.) From the darkness, we heard a deadpan reply, "So do I." We just turned around and got the hell out of there. The next morning we returned to the area and saw where someone had driven their 4x4 cross-country off the main road a few hundred feet and parked, with footprints in the soft dirt around their vehicle. Now I laugh about the situation 'cause I'm sure some Emery County local tells a funny story where he was coyote-calling at night and had a strange encounter with some hikers. :D
 

Outdoor_Fool

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@Rockskipper Willow is surprisingly good around moose. Grizzlies are another matter. I should say were another matter. She is old enough and slow enough now that I doubt she'd give chase to one these days.
 

Rockskipper

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I used to day hike up Marion Gulch (above Carbondale, CO - hello @Nick and @gnwatts), which heads up into the high country in the aspens. There was a small coal-mining town there once, but most of it's gone and just some junk here and there and tailings. It was dark when I got back down and was getting kind of spooky, as there are a lot of black bears in that area (lots of trees with claw marks), as well as lions (I'd had one kill one of my horses not far from there). I was trying to hurry and cut across a meadow when I nearly tripped over something. By then I was using my light and saw these kind of off-white things in the grasses here and there.

I was puzzled, but after looking closer I could make out old grave markers, some made of bleached wood. I'd hiked there many times and didn't know there was a small graveyard, as it was all grown over. I'm not superstitious, but it did make me stop and think - well, hurry up and get out of there and think.
 
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Even on a well known like th back of yer hand trail, a night hike takes on a whole nother world and isn’t recognizable much of th time. That narrow corridor of light and all those unknown night noises can, at times, lead yer imagination astray…was it bigfoot or a ninja grizz in those Central Texas woods? Who knows what lurks in th shadows? Only th shadows know….
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