You don’t have to wait until summer to go hiking. Spring is a great season to explore the trails, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Check out some handy tips from MEC Ambassador and hiking expert Taryn to have fun and stay safe on the trails this spring.
Embrace “liquid sunshine”
If you’ve never tried it, you might be surprised to hear that hiking in the rain can be a beautiful sensory experience. The plants look greener. The sound of falling rain is calming. The forest smells amazing. Fog moving through the trees makes for gorgeous photo ops. And without rain we wouldn’t have one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena: rainbows!
Dress for the weather
Spring in Canada can be rainy, windy, brutally cold, snowy, sunny, and blisteringly hot… all in the same day! Check the weather forecast before your hike, and dress accordingly. A good rain jacket and waterproof pants are absolutely key. Use a layered approach underneath to make sure you stay warm but don’t overheat, no matter the weather. And keep your gear dry with a rain cover for your backpack or some dry bags inside.
Bring the ten essentials
No matter what time of year you’re hiking, pack the “ten essentials” to help you stay safe. They include navigation gear, food, water, sun protection, warm clothing, flashlight, first aid kit, fire starter, repair kit, emergency shelter, and a communication device. In spring’s fickle weather, I like to add in a little luxury, like an insulated vacuum bottle of hot chocolate or soup.
Splash right through puddles
Mud and puddles are a fact of life in the spring. But don’t let that deter you. Lace-up some waterproof hiking boots, layer a pair of gaiters over top, and splash right on through. Leave No Trace tip: by walking through mud and puddles, rather than going around, you don’t erode the trail or damage fragile vegetation. If the trails are a true quagmire, consider hiking somewhere else to protect the trail. Deep mud needs time to dry out.
Be safe on snow and ice
Winter may be officially over, but snow and ice can stick around, especially in the mountains. Bring a pair of traction devices for your boots so you don’t slip. I also use trekking poles to help keep my balance and to probe for hollows under the snow or melting snow bridges. And if you’re heading to the mountains, be sure to check the avalanche forecast and pack avalanche safety gear. Spring is prime time for avalanches as the snow melts and destabilizes the snowpack.
Slow it down a bit
Spring is a time of new growth in nature. Slow down and observe carefully on your hike and you’ll see some beautiful things. Watch for new leaves budding on the trees, wildflowers blooming, and fiddleheads on ferns unfurling.
Check trail conditions before you go
Know what to expect before you hit the trail. Find out if there are any hazards you need to know about like flooding, lingering snow, downed trees or washouts. I like to check park websites, local hiking clubs, or hiking Facebook groups. Each spring, our trails need some TLC to get them back into shape. Consider volunteering with a local trail club to help with trail maintenance.
Go chasin’ waterfalls
A hike to see a waterfall is absolutely worth the chase and spring is a great time to do it. The snowmelt and extra rainfall ensure that they’ll be gushing! But be extra careful around the water. Avoid fording creeks as they can be especially dangerous in the spring when they run high and fast.
Pick a mellow trail
In spring, slippery conditions and changeable weather can make hikes on slippery rocks or along an exposed ridgeline dangerous. Don’t give into the temptation of summit-fever; instead, pick a more mellow trail to a lake or waterfall, or a stroll through the forest. Be prepared to turn around if the conditions aren’t safe. In the spring, I like to hike interconnected trail networks. That way I can choose my own route and make a longer loop if conditions are right, or turn back easily if they aren’t.
Watch for wildlife
There are tons of wildlife watching opportunities in spring. Migrating birds return and start building nests. Many animals have new babies. And bears wake up from their winter hibernation. If you spot wildlife, give them lots of space. Spring is an important time for them to raise young and start to fatten up again after the long winter. I bring binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens to help me get a closer look without stressing out the animals.