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Moonlight Hiking


For myself, moonlight hiking is something that started when I was a teenager prowling the streets and fields of Michigan. Later I found that if I planned my backpacking trips to coincide with a full moon, I could hike every night. There are two primary motivations for doing this. One is the adventure and mystery of night hiking, and the other is the practical advantages that it has.

Moonlight Hiking - The Beauty and the Practicality

It really is a great experience to hike away the hours of the night under a full moon. The first time I did this on a longer backpacking trip was on a five-day backpacking trip in the Sierra Nevadas. Each night I slept until the cold bothered me, then easily hiked through the rest of the night by moonlight.

Usually this meant getting up at two or three in the morning and hiking the rest of the night. Since I was moving during the coldest part of the night, I was able to get away with a lighter sleeping bag. In fact, since there wasn't a cloud in the sky, I just slept without tent or tarp every night. I also took a leisurely nap in the sun every afternoon to catch up on sleep.

Hiking at night meant there were never other people on the trail. Actually, crowded trails were not a problem where I was, but I would like to go moonlight hiking to avoid the crowds the next time I am in Yosemite National Park, or in the Smoky Mountains. It is nice to sometimes have the trails and whole mountain valleys to yourself.

You can make good miles at night, and you don't have any problems of over-heating. When the moon is full, or within three days of its fullest, the moonlight is more than bright enough for hiking in fairly open terrain. In the woods, you might need a flashlight for assistance in the darker parts.

If you want to try this, plan trips with the full moon right in the middle of the time span if you can. In this way you get the maximum use of the moonlight before, during and after the full moon. Note the time that the moon rises too. Starting an hour after moonrise you'll have enough light to hike, unless it is overly cloudy (something else to check on).

While moonlight hiking on isolated beaches in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I could clearly see animal tracks in the wet sand at the water's edge. These included fresh bear tracks. Black bears in this area are not usually dangerous, but it keeps your senses tuned in when you know there are eyes in the woods watching you and none of them are human.

Lakes reflect the moon, owls swoop by almost without sound, and animals move in the bushes as you pass. Shadows hide things, but you walk on by, leaving these little mysteries unsolved. The trees and rocks take on a different appearance than during the daylight. Moonlight hiking is a unique and beautiful experience.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Moonlight Hiking