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Here’s a simple suggestion for those of you interested in hiking in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park that will likely enhance your hiking experience, and that is START EARLY! What Shannon and I have noticed throughout the years is that many visitors tend to head out about 9 a.m., 10 a.m., or even later. Now that’s fine and it’s everyone’s choice to leave when they want. Maybe you want to enjoy a nice breakfast at the lodge first, or maybe you just want to sleep in. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that whatsoever. However, there are several advantages to heading out on the trail earlier in the morning…
You’ll see more wildlife.
Animals tend to be out feeding more during the morning and evening hours. During mid-day, many species of animals bed down in the shade of the forest to avoid the heat. Therefore, if you leave early, you have a much better chance of seeing more wildlife on the trail because they are up and moving around along the trails.
The lighting is better.
There’s something magical about the early morning hours just after dawn… The sky is more blue (because the light is polarized), the greens are greener, and the mountains glow. The morning light truly makes everything more beautiful, and is something every hiker should experience. As the sun gets higher and higher in the sky, the sky becomes less blue, and the light becomes more and more harsh. This somewhat diminishes the “magic” that was present during the warm morning light. And by the way, quite often the mountain lakes are as smooth as glass during the early morning hours, so you will enjoy more “mirror” reflections in the morning versus mid-day.
You’ll be more likely to avoid afternoon thunder showers.
Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park quite often have afternoon thunder showers that can be completely avoided if you leave earlier in the morning.
You’ll avoid the mid-day heat.
Mornings are always crisp and cool, which makes for a far more pleasant hike versus heading out during the mid-day heat.
You’ll avoid having to hurry.
On long day hikes, the earlier you leave, the better. This allows you to enjoy your hike and not feel so rushed to get back before dark.
HOW EARLY IS EARLY?
Well, we like to begin our day hikes right at dawn. Even if you leave an hour after the sun rises, you’re still going to enjoy an extremely pleasant morning.
One thing about leaving early for a hike is that you might be the first hiker to be on the trail for that particular day. This means that you may have an increased chance of meeting up with a grizzly bear or black bear on the trail. Therefore, make sure you carry bear spray and know how to use it, and make sure you TALK LOUD so you don’t surprise a bear- especially around blind corners and near loud water. Make your presence known so the bear(s) know you’re coming. This will greatly reduce the chance of a problem on the trail.
The bottom line is this: Get on the trail as early as possible to help make your hiking experience in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park even that much more enjoyable. Even though the alarm clock might go off a little earlier than you’d like, it’s definitely worth it and you’ll be very glad you got up early to enjoy your hike.
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