When summer rolls around, thoughts of hiking in the warm sunshine to pristine mountain lakes and alongside cool streams sounds glorious. In reality, hiking in the summer can mean suffering. Whether it’s the sun beating down, sweaty clothes sticking uncomfortably to your skin, or concerns about carrying enough water, trail miles can quickly become insufferable. But with the proper outfitting and on-trail practices, hiking in higher summer temperatures (or in desert climates in any season) can still be glorious! Here are a few tips for keeping your cool on a hike in the heat.
Time of Day
This might seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked when trip-planning: Time your hikes to avoid the midday sun. Go early—or even late. If you’re able to head out pre-dawn or at dusk, bring a headlamp, and a friend for safety. Just don’t get in a position where you’re moving at high exertion, undertaking your hike’s most challenging ascent or largest elevation gain, during the day’s peaking temperatures.
Choose Your Route Wisely
If you have an option to hike either along or to water, do it. The air is generally cooler near waterways and bodies, and you’ll have the ability to splash cold water on your face and neck. Choose routes alongside a creek or river, or that cross one. Lake destinations also make a post-ascent plunge possible (if allowed) upon arrival.
In the shade
Plan hikes in the trees rather than exposed landscapes and open plains. Tree cover provides you with much needed shade. Keep in mind that in the Northern Hemisphere, north-facing slopes will likely be shadier than those facing south at certain times of the day.
If you’re able to hike at a higher elevation than where you live, doing so can help get you, generally, into cooler temperatures. Plan summer hikes at higher elevations. Still keep in mind the day’s peak temperatures and the heat of exposed areas or above treeline—and stick to the earlier departure times here, given afternoon thunderstorm cycles.