Now that fall is right around the corner and the days seem to be getting shorter, many people take to the mountains and trails to get a glimpse of the bright reds, the deep orange and vibrant yellows that will begin popping up all over East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. No, we’re not talking about college football; we’re talking about beautiful fall colors that are painting the trees all around us. As the first two weeks of September are behind us, we will start to see the leaves changing over the next couple weeks. Here are a few things to keep in mind this fall while hiking.
Check a fall color guide. Different trees turn colors at different times. The elevation of your hike can also determine the period when the trees will start to show their true colors. A quick google search for a fall color guide will bring up a plethora of hits for the Appalachian region. You can search by state, specific National Forest or even our own Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Don’t miss the wonderful color show this fall!
Make sure you are prepared for changes in temperature. During the fall, the temperature can change 20 or even 30 degrees throughout the day. Make sure you check the national weather center and your local weather station to be fully informed of the area you are hiking in. Remember if you are climbing in elevation
on your hike, the temperature will drop as you get higher. Here is a calculation to use when fall hiking with elevation: If you start out at 1000 feet, and climb to 6000 feet, that’s a 5000-foot difference (6000 – 1000 = 5000). So, since you’re gaining 5,000 feet, you’ll use a 5 in your calculation. 5,000 feet, times 3.5 degrees. Just drop the (thousand). So, (5 x 3.5 = 17.5 degrees). So roughly, you’ll expect to lose at least 17.5 degrees. We always round up to the nearest 5 just to add some safety buffer, so a 20-degree difference. Simply subtract this number form your expected low, according to the forecast, and you have your expected temperature. If the low at 1000 feet will be 65 degrees, when you reach the top at 6000 feet, the high will be 45 degrees.
Remember the days are much shorter the further into fall we go, so you will have less hours of sunlight. In the summer, we all get accustomed to hiking in the evenings up to 9PM. Those long days are great for all-day hikes, but now they pose a problem. Make sure to know what time ‘sunset’ is before you set off on your trail and take a watch or something with the time on it so that you can keep track of how long you have. Something helpful to remember is to carry a stopwatch. If you have 8 hours of daylight when you start your hike, set a timer for 4 hours. That way no matter where you are in your hike, you will know when half of your daylight hours are left and you can then judge if you need to turn around and head back to your car or not. Pack a flashlight or headlamp just in case!
Be aware of hunting seasons. In the National Park you are safe as there is no hunting of any kind allowed. But in many areas within our national and state forests, hunting is allowed. You should always be aware of the season and how to keep yourself protected. During deer season, you should always check out the website for the area you are hiking as some parks and forest in our area do close some trails and offer reroutes to hikers due to popular hunting areas. Avoid hiking early morning or at dusk as these are the most popular hunting times. Observe all posted hiking/hunting safety signs and wear bright colors like orange so that you can easily be seen. Talk with your hiking buddy(s) as you are on the trail so that any hunters in the area can also hear your approach and not be startled by you.
Share a hiking plan with someone you trust before leaving so they know exactly where you are planning to hike. Let them know where you will park, what trail you are hiking, and any side trails you may take to get to your destination. Make sure you give them all the details of your trip and stick to that planned itinerary in case something happens. You’ll not only feel more relaxed during your adventure, but so will your loved ones.
As we always say, take a first aid kit. In the fall leaves may collect on the trail; they may hide rocks, roots, or collect moisture. This creates a perfect recipe for some nasty falls. In addition, take extra precautions by wearing shoes with good treads and solid ankle protection. Don’t forget to bring along a walking stick or good pair of trekking poles.
Fall hikes are some of the best ones for those amazing colorful views and our favorites to do. If you decide to head out this fall and enjoy the mountain in all their
color, plan wisely and pack safely. Enjoy your hike and be sure to come back here and leave a comment and tell us and our readers about it. Are you ready for your