When the days get shorter and there’s a crisp feeling in the air, the leaves begin to change. Autumn aficionados get excited to drink cider, enjoy a bonfire, and go to a pumpkin patch. If you’re one of these fall-loving folks, seeing the brushstroke-like colors of the leaves is probably on your list, too. Leaf-peeping season is a gorgeous time of year. If you’re new to the activity, leaf peeping means hiking with the goal of taking in the beautiful fall foliage.
For both veteran leaf peepers and novices alike, preparation is key. After all, you want to enjoy your nature hike without worrying about comfort and your gear. Though spontaneity can be fun, knowing where you’re going and being safe is also important. Keep reading for ways to get ready for leaf-peeping season. That will help you have the best time this fall.
1. The Gear
Part of any grand adventure is the gear. For a fall hike, having the right clothes for the outdoors is paramount. You want sturdy and comfortable shoes, moisture-wicking socks, and layers. Fall is a fickle time of year temperature-wise. You can be hot and in a T-shirt in the afternoon and shivering in a sweater in the evenings.
Dressing in layers lets you adjust to temperature fluctuations, and a rugged pair of hiking pants will protect against branches and brambles. If you don’t want to break the bank on your gear, check out Carhartt factory seconds. Factory seconds are newly made factory items with minor cosmetic imperfections. They still have the backing of the brand, but the slight errors mean you can get them for a fraction of the price.
A backpack is a great addition to your gear because it can hold more clothing and other essentials. Pack a water bottle, a battery pack for charging your cell phone, and binoculars to see far-off views. A flashlight and matches are good additions in case you end up being out after dark. Extra socks are a great thing to pack, and don’t forget a first aid kit.
2. The Route
Now that you’ve got the gear assembled for your autumn adventure, plot your route. This is one area in which many go wrong. They take off without a plan or an understanding of the trail and the length of time it takes to hike. “Where’s your sense of spontaneity”? you might ask. While spontaneity has its place, an unknown wilderness is not it.
Heading off without planning can lead you to a scary and dangerous place. The thing to remember about fall is that the days are getting shorter. Gone are the 9 p.m. sunsets of July. If you’re hiking in Vermont in October, the sun will set on you around 6 p.m. If you don’t plan your hike accordingly, you might run out of daylight and be forced to navigate back in the dark.
Map out your route ahead of time so you know how many miles it is and the length of time it should take you. If you’re doing a short, one- to three-mile hike, you’ll just need an hour or two. If you want to do a 15-mile hike one day, camp the night, and then hike the next, that requires far more planning. Speaking of planning, for optimal leaf conditions, you should scout your route ahead of time. An online fall foliage map can tell you where and when you’ll see the most eye-popping hues.
3. The Food
Raising a toast to celebrate the summit of your hike can create as much effervescence in your chest as in your drink. The sense of joint accomplishment coupled with the view is all part of why you hike. But you can’t “Cheers!” your companions if you don’t bring some beverages. So when packing, consider what you might want to eat and drink on the trail.
Water is a necessity, of course, and so are some protein bars or nuts to get you through. Should you want to have an end-of-hike feast, think of what you can reasonably carry. A backpack cooler can accommodate some cheese and charcuterie along with a bottle of something bubbly. If you’re going to camp, your food needs will obviously be more substantial and require more people to tote the load.
Another option is to plan your route around food and drink stops specifically. Fall is apple-picking time, so a stop at an orchard can yield apple cider doughnuts and a glass of the amber liquid itself. Another venue destination that screams fall is a trip to a winery. Many wineries hold fall wine festivals and aren’t far from popular hiking and biking trails. A hike in the morning followed by a glass of the local vintage in the afternoon can make for a great day.
Falling in Love With Fall
There’s just something about that crisp air and the leaves changing colors that make autumn easy to love. After the heat of the summer, it’s nice to be outside without sweltering. If you’re a nature lover who is all about pumpkin spice and crunchy leaves, try out leaf peeping this year.
It’s a great way to get away from your screens and revel in the outdoors with family and friends. You’ll get some amazing photos and make memories that you’ll treasure long after the leaves have faded.