Whether you heard it from a friend, participate yourself, or saw it while scrolling through Tinder profiles, hiking is an activity that everyone knows. However, it is less common for people to think of the less popular night hiking that takes place in the dark when most have already gotten into bed.
Naturally, as with everything in life, there are certain pros and cons to this niche of outdoor activities that make it the perfect adventure for some, and the worst experience for others.
To keep attention, let’s start with the good side of walking in the dark. First off, there are no monsters in the world. Now that we have that covered, one can actually enjoy being surrounded by darkness, knowing that there will be no vampires stalking you.
Once the initial jump is taken, the darkness can be relaxing and cathartic since there is no outside stimulus beyond the flashlight, that illuminates the path a couple of feet ahead. This tiny source of visibility leads straight into the next advantage to night hiking: the sky.
The classic blue sky that we are all accustomed to is great, but there is truly something special to seeing the night sky lit up by the thousands of stars and the man on the moon, especially for the city dwellers. Here in Grand Junction, the stars are hardly visible among all of the light pollution plaguing cities that cloud the night time beauty. If the trail leads far enough from the city lights, the Milky Way becomes visible and hangs in the sky like a giant cloud.
If you’re lucky enough, the moon is full as well, sometimes making it possible to turn off any lights that you are carrying and let mother nature guide. Also, if the hike is started early enough, you can see the sunset before the hike officially becomes a “night hike.” The first half can be done very easily and the sunset is always a great sight. Lastly, the benefits continue to the traffic on the trail.
Most consider hiking at night dangerous; however, those brave enough to venture out into the darkness will find that the trail is practically empty. This means that there are no jams in the trail when some family of eight takes up the whole path to tie the shoes of the four-year-old. Also absent are the people that play their music as loud as they can with no consideration for the others around them.
There are some considerable drawbacks to this type of exercise. First and foremost, is the very real possibility that you can get lost. Without the sun, it makes it considerably harder to find the trail that the hike started on, and without a clear indication of landmarks, there is practically nothing to help navigation besides the ground right in front of you.
There have been a couple of occasions in which the trail has eluded me and my friends while on such a hike, but after some wandering around and several minutes of confusion, we have always found the way back to the car. There is always the old Hansel and Gretel trick if the possibility of getting lost weighs heavy on the mind.
The other notable risk to night hikes are the increased chance of injury. Without sight, it becomes harder to miss the innumerable rocks, dips and branches that line the trail. This can lead to twisted ankles and tumbles down hills when the proper precautions aren’t taken, and paces slowed to remedy the lack of vision, think stubbing your toe on the desk, but with higher stakes.
However, most lights will fix this problem, so just use your eyes a little more and most injuries can be avoided. The only other downside is that, even though werewolves don’t exist, wolves very much do. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my, also wander out in the forest, some more than others and have the means to slobber on your bones, so be cautious.
The risks associated with night hikes, while possibly daunting at first, are only small hurdles that lie along the way to night hiking while the advantages are only possible with night hikes as stars aren’t visible in the day and walking in darkness with the sun out can only be accomplished by closing your eyes, and that’s just stupid. So if the risk of night hikes only makes it more appealing, this nocturnal activity is perfect for the daredevil in you.