Labor Day is nearly here and it’s summer’s last hurrah before we hunker down for fall. We won’t deny it, the traditional way to mark the occasion – by firing up the grill and watching the game with friends and family – is great. Hiking in the great outdoors, however, is another time-tested American tradition and we can’t think of a better way to spend the holiday.
Before you start making that potato salad and stocking the cooler, get your hiking boots on and hit the trail. It can be a short walk before a day of relaxing and feasting, or a backpacking adventure to take advantage of the long weekend – whatever you choose, here are six great reasons you should go hiking this Labor Day weekend.
1. The weather’s perfect
After a scorching summer in many areas, temperatures are finally beginning to return to levels that are safe for hiking. If you’re lucky enough to be in one of those areas, you can finally enjoy setting off after 6 a.m. and hiking without having to carry five liters of water. Because you work up a sweat while hiking, cooler weather is actually better than warm temperatures – just don’t forget to bring a base layer or fleece jacket in case it’s chillier than you think! Get out there and enjoy the trails before they’re covered in snow.
2. The days are still long
Over Labor Day weekend, we’re all but hurtling towards the fall equinox, after which you’ll really start to notice those shrinking days. At this time of year however, you can still enjoy a good chunk of time between sunrise and sunset, so it’s ideal for taking on a longer day hike without running out of daylight. That said, you should still set off early to get back to the trailhead before dark, and always carry a headlamp in case you misjudge your timing or take a detour.
3. It’s great for mental health
Speaking of shrinking days, many of us struggle with mental health over the winter, suffering from the condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Hiking has proven to be great for mental health, with studies showing that physical activity combined with spending time in nature, known as Green Exercise, helps combat stress, anxiety and depression by boosting your mood and even improving your relationships.
4. The gyms are closed
Okay, we can’t say for sure that your gym will be closed this Labor Day, but we sure hope that they’re giving their employees the day off. It can be annoying when you finally get a long weekend and can’t get a good long workout in, but who needs a gym when you have mother nature? Hitting a hiking trail on a good incline beats the Stairmaster any day of the week, and you don’t have to wait for the machines or wipe off the equipment afterwards (just remember to Leave No Trace to start with).
5. Trail closures start soon
Very few of us ever hike as much as we want to over the summer, between attending all those weddings, childcare, summer vacations and wanting to spend time at the beach. If you’ve been putting it off until the fall, remember that autumn also brings hunters and wildlife migration to the trails. Hiking during hunting season isn’t forbidden (unless it is) but it can be a little unnerving and may be dangerous. Furthermore, your favorite trails might soon be closed for wildlife moving to lower elevation areas, so get out and enjoy them while you can.
6. The wildlife viewing is great
In addition to the spring nesting season, the fall is a great time to view wildlife which can be migrating or busy getting ready for winter. Bring your binoculars along and depending on where you live, you might be able to enjoy some elk rutting, monarch butterfly migration, beaver dam-building and birds flying south.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.