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Night Hiking?

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Night Hiking?

Postby fishwrong » Tue Jun 28, 2016 7:53 pm

I've read quite a few reports with significant discussion about the enjoyment of the trip being affected by heat. In particular it sounds like heat is a factor in some folks planning, and even ruling out hikes because of it.

I had a buddy hike a portion of the Grand Canyon recently, and they had a 2:00AM wakeup to get out of the canyon before the hottest part of the day. These discussions have me curious about folks thoughts on hiking at night.

While night hiking is an obvious mitigation for heat, I don't hear much discussion of it. Maybe the reasons are obvious (Can't enjoy the views, limited terrain navigate, more likely to get lost and walk off a cliff). I'm sure there are others.

I have very limited experience with it. A few short hikes on familiar trails and some minor wanderings from camp in the back country. My experiences were all very nice. Cool weather, solitude, heightened sounds, smells a an overall calmness. Two moonlit night wanderings in the granite are some of my best memories.

Just wondered what others thoughts on the issue are.



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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby Jimr » Tue Jun 28, 2016 9:30 pm

I only did it once. I really enjoyed it for the same reasons you mention. We did half dome in a day starting at 3am. The mist trail was pretty surreal at night where you could hear the falls pounding, but could barely see them. I'd do some night hiking again, for sure.
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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby SSSdave » Tue Jun 28, 2016 10:14 pm

I've night hiked in the Sierra a lot for decades. But not because of heat during the day though if I hiked in warm areas like the desert, might do so. As a photographer, I often base camp backpack. In order to be at locations for dawn and sunrise shots may get up in the dark pre-dawn then start hiking with just camera gear. Likewise after being at locations for sunset and dusk shots may have to hike back to camp in the dark. And such efforts are more often cross country versus on trails. I also have been increasingly starting backpacking trips late evening if there is some advantage to getting a few miles up a route. That is most useful for short weekend trips after getting off work late afternoon in the San Jose area, permit already in hand, driving 3-5 hours to the Sierra, then moving up trails by headlamp.

Two weekends ago 3 of us backpacked in Desolation from Glen Alpine Springs TH about 1.5 miles and 500 feet up the trail towards Half Moon Lake that is about otherwise 4.5 miles and 1600 feet. Thus woke up at 5:30am Saturday morning with just an easy 3 miles and 1100 feet in front of us. On a 9-day Silver Divide trip mid July, three of us will do, one day I plan to pack up gear mid afternoon then work sunset and dusk locations near our camp zone. After that is complete we will immediately hoist our ready pack's up and in fading dusk light climb up a mile or so towards Rohn Pass with headlamps where we may camp right atop the divide. That will make it easy for me to do some dawn light telephotos the next morning right from my sleeping bag over the craggy crest peaks.

Just a few of the reasons I hike at night. For anyone starting out would strongly recommend staying on trails that is difficult enough. That way one will learn a lot by self experience without having to deal with navigation off trail that is a whole other significant challenge. Without moonlight such can be very difficult and dangerous. One can expect to occasionally stumble over obstacles, so moving in the dark even with a flashlight is not something for anyone not well balanced able to recover. Recommend a powerful headlamp with multi levels like my Fenix HP11.
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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby sheperd80 » Wed Jun 29, 2016 6:59 am

I did this last weekend actually, but not to avoid the heat. My gf and i hiked out to Upper Twin Lake for her first ever backpacking trip. Nerves and anxiety got to her as the sun went down giving her an unbearable stomach ache, so we packed up and hit the trail at about 9 pm. Roughly 3 miles back to the trailhead in the dark with almost no moonlight. My headlamp earned its place in my pack that night.

Fortunately it was a pretty easy trail to follow in the dark. Several wet stream crossings and a log bridge made things interesting. I wouldnt ever want to navigate a tough trail or x-country route in the dark. It would be really easy to lose a trail and not find your way back to it. But in this case i felt we were safe and i kind of enjoyed it.


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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby dave54 » Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:34 am

Did all the time when younger, even off trail solo. Full moon and clear sky, and good night vision makes it easy.
I am older now and my night vision is not what it once was, so I try to avoid it now.
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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Jun 29, 2016 5:23 pm

I've done my share of hiking at night, but it has been more or less--the hiking went into overtime, so to speak (or I didn't want to leave a spot until it was dark). I recall starting Shasta a bit before sunrise owing to the length of the hike (day hiking from Bunny Flat), so I guess that would be the only intentional night hike I've tried.
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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby oldranger » Wed Jun 29, 2016 5:38 pm

Done that! But for a real rush try riding a horse in the dark! You really have to know the trail you are on and the sound the hooves make. If you get off the trail for long chances are good that you will get low bridged by a low hanging branch . An added piece of excitement was the time I rode thru a fire in Sugarloaf Valley at night. It reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.
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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby sekihiker » Wed Jun 29, 2016 5:54 pm

My wife and I went out after sunset when we first started hiking. We had to work during the day, so we would drive to the trail head and it was dark by the time we got there. We started hikes to Lake Reflection and to Post Corral Meadow that way. When finishing the John Muir Trail, I hiked toward the summit in full moonlight and it was a delightful experience [see day 13 at http://www.sierrahiker.com/JohnMuirTrail/index.html]. Of course, I've finished a number of hikes in the dark because I didn't quite make it to the trail head before sundown [often it was at the end of a 20+ mile day].
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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby snowblind » Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:00 pm

I almost always start at night on my first day (esp when hiking in the eastern Sierra). My first night hike was on Pine Creek (the start is pretty uninspiring and exposed) and it gave me nearly an extra day. I usually hit the trail by 9pm after eating in Lee Vining and getting my permit from the night drop and hike for 3-4 hours. I really enjoy having the trail to myself and using my other senses. Also, not being able to see too far ahead can reduce mental suffering.
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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby fishwrong » Thu Jun 30, 2016 9:52 am

I appreciate all the response. Sounds like a lot of folks have different reasons for it, but most have pleasant experiences. I didn't think of it until giantbrookie mentioned it, but I've also hiked in the dark getting back to the car. One in particular wasn't much fun (no headlamp, getting cold). But that was a mistake, not an intentional thing.

When planning the logistics of hikes, I tend to have hiking in the daylight as an assumption, and I'm thinking I might change that. Most of my hiking is to go fishing. The last hour or two of light is often the best fishing, and most peaceful part of the day. Unless I'm camped right there, I miss more of that time than I need to, feeling I need to get back somewhere before things are completely dark.

Now that I've said that, I'll probably the subject of the next search after getting lost, twisting an ankle, stepping on a rattlesnake and getting chased off a cliff by a mountain lion. Or maybe I'll just bring a headlamp.

Thanks for the input.
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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby Aeropilot » Tue Jul 05, 2016 3:25 pm

Mt Whitney Trail by (full)moonlight is an experience not to be missed! So much glowing granite you almost forget it's night ... winds can be brutal though, had to turn around just before Trail Camp once as one of our group was too lightly dressed. The sunrise from the trail was amazing nonetheless.
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Re: Night Hiking?

Postby Cross Country » Tue Jul 05, 2016 6:22 pm

One time it rained all day and I was in my car. Therefore we starte late to meet up with Lee and Wendy. We were hiking in the dark and I was talking to (Saint) Diane and a voice ahead of us said "I know who that is" I said back "I'll bet you don't" and she said "Tom Carter". It was Wendy hiking with Lee and they were hiking out in the dark because of all of the rain for 2 day. We camped at a lake "illegal to camp" but it was dark and what's ya gonna do. The next morning a ranger came by before we left our campsite but didn't ticket us because he had sympathy for our plight.
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