Hiking in the dark can be very thrilling. However, it can be very dangerous as well. So, the real question is; is it safe to hike at dusk?
Night hiking is completely different from daylight hiking. The feel and the vibes are totally different, and it is a surreal experience. Yet, it can get overwhelming, and it is certainly not an activity for the faint-hearted. You can’t be sure about the dangers lurking under the night sky, right?
Hiking in the dark can be dangerous. However, it is safe to hike at night if you are on familiar turf and away from the wilderness. There is strength and safety in numbers so if you are starting night hiking, begin with a group of people. Do not go to places that you know are wild animals’ habitats.
Hiking at night can be adventurous and fun if you know how it is done safely. When you think you are ready for night hiking, make sure you know why night hiking is dangerous, the myths around it, tips and safety guidelines, and have a trustworthy group of like-minded people you can hike with.
As experienced night hikers, we have had numerous jump scares, false alarms, and our fair share of disasters to guide you about hiking at dusk.
Why is Hiking at Dusk Dangerous?
Hiking at night requires you to be safe, and that can only happen if you are aware of the dangers involved in hiking at night. Some people fear the dark, some are paranoid, and some have anxiety. No matter who you are as a person, it is essential to know the following dangers before your nighttime adventure.
Possibility of Getting Lost
The only light you are getting on your hiking trail is from the moon. It is difficult to navigate and you are very likely to get lost on the trail in the dark. Most of the time, the only light to see the marked trail is your flashlight. This is why we mentioned hiking on a familiar turf earlier. When you know the path and have been on it multiple times, your instincts can guide you to safety.
This is also why we would advise against a solo trip until you are well versed with the night hiking experience with a group.
The chances of getting hurt increase at night because of limited vision. Do not roam around when hiking at dusk and stay on the marked trail. It would be wise not to prod rocks with the hiking stick because it can cause you to slip. Falling is one of the major causes of hikers getting fatal injuries. It is better to be safe rather than sorry.
You may have thought of every situation and detail when planning your hike, but sometimes the weather isn’t your friend. The daytime may have shown favorable conditions for a hike, but sometimes the weather changes unpredictably.
This can be highly dangerous if you are not cautious, and you should not proceed until you are completely sure of your safety.
Every region has its own safety hazards, and you should be well aware of them before heading on for your hike. You should avoid going on night hikes during winter because of extreme weather.
Encountering Wild Animals
You might get to see some wild animals depending on your hiking area. Before going on your hike, research the potential wildlife you may encounter, so you are ready to face them. Many wild animals get active after dark, and coming across them can be life-threatening. When hiking at night in the bear country, try making lots of noise. You should also carry a bug spray for your safety.
It is also possible to find snakes slithering around on the ground. Remember, they are trying to get away from you and do not want to be in your way. That said, it is crucial to be in the right hiking wear and heavy hiking boots to save you from a bite around the ankles.
National Parking Authority has guidelines you can follow to watch while you encounter wildlife during a day hike, but it is better to avoid them completely during the night.
Some hunters hunt during the night. Make your presence known, and avoid wearing camouflage during the night. Winter and late summer are when you will see most hunters.
It is crucial to know the dangers to try your best to avoid all these things and be safe. Continue reading to find out the myths about hiking at night.
What are Some Myths About Hiking at Dusk?
There are many myths about hiking at night that should be debunked. Now that you have decided to go on your nighttime adventure, have a look at things you shouldn’t worry about just because of hearsay:
Myth 1: Night Time is Not the Best Time to Hike
Wrong! As long as you are cautious and safe, hiking at night can be wonderful.
There is a strange peace and tranquility at night that we find wondrous. Pick the right time which works well for you. We prefer starting late at night and reaching our destination in time to marvel at the sunrise.
Similarly, many people like heading out at twilight and experiencing the sunset that brings the end of the day. As a beginner, you should experience both to fall in love with night hiking.
Myth 2: Brighten the Night
Wrong! You need a flashlight and spare batteries on your hike, but you do not need to use artificial light the whole time.
Walking on the trail in the moonlight is very exhilarating. It heightens your senses and can even give you an adrenaline rush if you are into adventurous activities. Once you get familiar with the terrain and pathways, it will slowly get easier for you to navigate in the dark.
However, be smart and do not be over-confident when you are even slightly unsure. Use a headlamp to see your whereabouts. Make sure to follow night hike etiquette to help other hikers around you.
Myth 3: Night Hiking is Only for Pros
Wrong again! Everyone is a beginner at one point. Even the pros were amateurs when they began hiking at night.
If you are a beginner hiker, it does not mean you can’t explore night hiking. The one thing you need to keep in mind is that you know the area well, have your equipment, and are alert. Being attentive is a crucial part of hiking at dusk.
By now, you must have a good understanding of the dangers of night hiking and why you need to be safe while at it. Now, let’s discuss some safety guidelines and tips on how you can be safe when hiking at night.
What Are Some Safety Tips for Hiking at Dusk?
There is no point in going for a night hike if you are not well-versed with being safe during your hike. Otherwise, it is just a dangerous activity, and you should avoid it due to the many hazards we have previously mentioned in the article. Let’s look at these safety tips below:
Familiarize Yourself with the Terrain
Yes, we realize we have mentioned this point numerous times. Yet, we cannot emphasize it enough. Going on night hikes in an unfamiliar place would not be very wise. There is a higher chance of getting lost and suffering an injury compared to a place you know well.
If you wish to try a new place to go at night, visit this area during the daytime to understand what the terrain is like. Look at the marked trail and follow it to your destination. Observe prominent things that will help you when you come back at night.
Pick an Easy Trail in the Beginning
Since you are a beginner, you would want to pick a trail that is easy to navigate at night. Right now, you are practicing and must be apprehensive about trying this new activity. There is no need to fear it, but from experience, we can tell you that every sound or shadow can scare you in the beginning.
Once you have had a few visits, you start recognizing the sounds and movements. Your senses start working remarkably well, and you will get an idea about the directions of the sounds.
It will be challenging to get used to the vision at night, but your sight gets better with time, and you will love walking under the night sky.
Plan Well to Avoid Any Trouble
Any outdoor activity requires proper planning. Our advice would be to make a list of things you need, study the area in daylight, get some snacks, and have a water bottle to keep yourself hydrated. Besides this, check the weather conditions and remember to grab a map.
If you are hiking in a national park or a common public place, you can reach out for help online and ask for guidance about night hiking in these specific areas. You will not only get the best advice from people who have experience but also meet new people who share your love for hiking.
Remember, whichever place you choose should be safe to hike at night. You can easily look up places online which are safe for night hiking and plan accordingly.
Invest in a Good Flashlight, Headlamp, and Spare Batteries
Yes, it is an incredible experience to walk around without your light, but it doesn’t mean you arrive at the site without light gear. As mentioned before, there can be unknown dangers lurking around those trees.
It is essential to keep a check on your surroundings. We would also advise you to carry a spare flashlight or a headlamp to ensure you have a backup. This depends on how long your hike will be and the area you are hiking in.
The general rule of thumb for hiking is to keep spare batteries, but you can always opt to carry an extra tool for light backup.
Go on a Group Hike
We do not recommend going on a solo night hiking trip. It can be overwhelming for beginners and would take all the fun out of the activity.
Either get a group of friends together or join some safe hiking platforms where you can meet people and go out on night hikes as a group. You often find experienced people who are always ready to guide you and help you work on your hiking skills.
Meeting experienced people is an excellent way to polish your skills and learn about things you were unaware of. Once you have experienced the night hike several times and you feel you are ready to take a shot at it, plan a solo hike but always remember to let your friends or relatives know about your whereabouts.
Don’t Forget the First Aid Kit
Night hikes are usually short but do not spare you from getting injured. It could be something as light as a scratch from a twig or getting your head bumped in a branch. It is still necessary to keep a small first aid kit to take care of the injury immediately.
Do not think of it as something unnecessary. You never know when you may need it. This tip is for hiking in general and is not just limited to hiking at night.
Carry a Light Snack
Personally, we love having a light snack with us on our hikes. We prefer having it at the end of the hike after reaching our destination. You can think of it as a reward. Once you have reached your destination, take a break, have your snack, watch the sunrise or set, pat yourself on the back, and then take the trail back to your home.
Do Not Use Earphones or Air Pods
It can be fun to listen to music while on a hike. However, this small device can be dangerous on a night hike. You must be alert and attentive to the sounds and movements around you. These random sounds can tell you if you are in danger, so it is important to be aware.
These are some basic safety tips you can follow to have a good time hiking at night safely. Let’s finish off with some headlamp etiquette that all hikers should know:
What Is the Headlamp Etiquette to Follow For a Hike at Dusk?
It is rare to find many people around during a night hike, but there can be times when you come across someone hiking on the same trail as you. Besides general trail etiquette, you should also be aware of headlamp etiquette, which is very important for nighttime hikes.
Here is some headlamp etiquette to follow on the trail during your night hiking:
- When taking a break, turn the light off so that the vision of other hikers does not get disturbed. If you want to make people aware of your presence because it is too dark, you can carry a whistle and use it lightly when not in danger.
- If you are looking for better vision and peripheral vision, you can use the red light setting. The red light makes it easier for your eyes to adjust to the dark and give you a better vision.
- You can shift the position of your headlamp so that it doesn’t cause spotlighting. Other hikers or animals will lose their vision for a few seconds before their eyes readjust to the dark. This is extremely dangerous for them, and your small gesture will help others from having an accident.
- When there are other hikers around who you might hit in the eye with your light, it is better to use a lower beam so that they can be comfortable. You can politely remind others to do the same.
Once you start hiking at night, you will be drawn to the magical and mysterious feeling of the night. All it requires is to be well prepared and be cautious of your surroundings. Find like-minded people who are experienced and passionate about night hiking. Do your research and find safe communities that are well-known. You will get to learn much from them and eventually go on solo night hikes for serenity and peace of mind. Planning ahead will make things easier, and you can have a fabulous time on the trail without getting overwhelmed.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks