Hiking in the Fall Shoulder Season Thoughts of Things to Come

Rocky crags on Vroman's Nose in Fall
Average read time 2 min

Today marks the start of meteorological fall. September is upon us, and I’m getting the bug for some colder weather. The warm weather here in the northeast will slowly fade to the cool days and chilly nights of fall. In many ways, this is a relief for hikers that don’t stop hiking when labor day comes—fewer crowds on the trail. The leaves will turn their brilliant colors then slowly fall,  the forest will open, and spectacles will present themselves hidden by their summer vail. All of your senses will experience the change. Hiking in the fall is an inspiring experience and will please well.

As later fall comes in the mountains, snow and ice are not uncommon. The hiker should be ready for almost any condition. A warm start at a trailhead can turn into a snowy summit event; as always, be prepared.

Days are getting shorter as the season moves toward winter. Daylight on the trail becomes limited. Of course, this matters if you don’t have a thing for “night hiking.”

Camping in the fall is equal if not more inspiring than hiking.

Early October backpacking in the morning
Scott | copyright Challenged Hiking Early October backpacking in the Catskill’s Neversink Valley in the morning

Imagine sitting at your campsite with the tree canopy empty and all the universe aglow and dancing above you—something hard to see at times during summer. The chilly nights make your tent and sleeping bag a special place, and on sunny mornings, the warmth of the colored sunlight brings you to life.

Donning some warm clothes and getting your morning fire and breakfast going is memorable as the chilled air will slowly warm in a usual crowd-free place. I have to say that sipping some tea or coffee on a chilly fall morning in the backcountry is memorable. In fall, the smell of your campfire seems different, more fragrant, but that may just be me. On a fall camping trip, solitude is generally the rule, not the exception.

I’m offering no “advice” in this post, just thoughts. What are yours? Leave your shoulder season hiking and camping thoughts in the comments.