For those who love to stargaze and admire the cosmos, a night hike can give you a uniquely engaging sensory experience like no other.

Not only that, night hiking can help improve your night photography skills and also let you encounter crepuscular or nocturnal animals like the elusive bobcat, dive-bombing bats, and the curious porcupine.

There are practical reasons to go night hiking too, such as beating the heat and dodging crowds on a popular trail. It can also help you mix up your daily routine if you take the time to go during a busy week.

Whichever the reason may be, we’re here to help you learn more about it. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it, shall we?

Letting Your Eyes Adjust to the Darkness

While humans don’t have the night vision capabilities of nocturnal animals like mountain lions, raccoons, or opossums, our eyes eventually do adjust to the lack of light. It just takes a bit more time.

How this works is that our pupils dilate within the first few instances of being exposed to low-light conditions. However, rods, the cells in our eyes that help us to see in the dark, require the use of a chemical known as rhodopsin to get it going.

It takes roughly 30 minutes for our body to produce rhodopsin after it’s been exposed to low lights. So before you start your night hike, make sure to give yourself enough time for your natural vision to settle in.

Keep in mind that even a few seconds of exposure to light will undo your natural vision, and your body will have to start all over again.

What You Need to Bring

Same as any other hike, you’ll need the usuals: snacks, water, navigational tools, a first aid kit, and a few extra layers to keep you comfy during the cooler temperatures. Don’t forget hats and gloves too. Check out these good tritium watches that are a must for any night hiker!

Appropriate Light and Batteries!

The most important part of a night hike is that you allow your night vision to take over. So bring a headlamp that has a red light setting on it. Red lights have longer wavelengths, and rhodopsin is not that reactive to it compared to the standard white lights.

Also, always pack extra batteries. They’ll help you when you get disoriented in the dark, and they’ll help immensely in case you decide to spend more time on the hiking trail than you had originally planned.

Making the Most Out of It

You can pack a few extra items to help you take advantage of the opportunities of hiking under the night sky, such as a thermos of coffee or rich hot cocoa, some yummy snacks, a pair of binoculars, and a sky map to help with stargazing.

Admiring the cosmos and a starry night sky can be really amazing, and having a cup of hot cocoa with your best buddy will make it even more memorable!

Staying Safe on the Trail

Now that we’ve discussed what you need to bring on a night hike, it’s time to move on to discussing how you can keep yourself safe. Here are a few ways to do this:

A Trail You’re Familiar With

Start with picking a trail you’re already familiar with, or a route that’s easy to follow. Avoid picking terrains with potential hazards that’ll be hard to tackle in the dark like dense, root-knotted forests, river crossings, or precipitous cliff edges.

A dense forest can obscure your view of the night sky, so avoid that at all costs. And since you need to get used to trekking by moonlight, choose landscapes that will be easy to navigate.

For instance, a sandy coastline, a vast meadow, or a forest road with minimum traffic that’s easily accessible to night hikers.

Take a Hiking Buddy

As we mentioned before, having someone go with you is not only the best idea but also a smart one. It also helps if you go with a group. Always make sure to let someone at home know where you’re going and how long you’ll be hiking.

Appreciate the Experience

While hiking at night, try not to think about setting speed records. When you’re planning your first few night hikes, don’t focus on mileage or reaching a specific destination.

Take the time to get used to your surroundings to help you navigate better in the dark. Appreciate and admire the nature and aesthetics around you, listen to the wandering wildlife all around, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for any shooting stars!

Be Wary of Creatures of the Night

One of the vital parts of staying safe on your night hike is to consider the local animals in your region. While night hiking gives you a chance to encounter fascinating creatures like swift-winged owls and singing coyotes, there are other animals, predators, that behave differently after dark.

They are extra sensitive to sound and get easily startled, so be careful when you’re on the trail. Always keep an eye out and try not to disturb their nightly adventures!

Check the Weather

Always check the weather prior to the days your hike takes place. It will help you to navigate better. It also helps to pay attention to the weather and learn the phases of the moon and plan your hike on a clear night when you’ll know the moon will be full.

Ease Into It

Remember, it’s all right if you’re not fully ready for a starry-skied hiking adventure. The idea is to ease into it with a few short treks in low light conditions at first.

This can be either at dusk or dawn when the trails are empty and less busy. Consider planning a few short treks that correspond with the sunrise or sunset.

There’s no rush; once you get used to it, you’ll be able to go on night hikes by yourself in no time.

Picking a Location, Where to Go

Whenever you’re choosing a night hiking destination, make sure to pick a location where it’s permitted to trail after dark. There are many places that don’t offer guided night hikes for stargazers, and there are many that do.

This can give you the opportunity to get some hiking experience under your belt and also learn about the night sky in your area. For those who love camping, you can plan a short hike around your campground and ease yourself into long night hikes.

Plan well and do your research thoroughly before you set out for your night hike!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we’d like to say that hiking at night can sound challenging, but it’s awesome once you get the hang of it. Many of us prefer the night sky more, and for them, this can be a wondrous experience.

We hope this article can help you get interested in it more and push you to start planning. Do let us know in the comments below if you have experience hiking at night and what difficulties you’ve come across!

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