The first time you ever do it, people will think you’re crazy. You might even be telling yourself you are as you’re getting up at 2 in the morning just to hike. As you drive to the trailhead, coffee in hand, singing along to the radio to stay awake, you will tell yourself that you’re never doing this again. Never. But once you experience that first breathtaking sunrise at the top of the mountain, you will realize that you’re not the crazy one. That you will be doing this again. And again. And when people call you crazy you will tell them why sunrise hikes are the best.
- Being Awake Before the Rest of the World
The tranquility of the morning allows you to think and prepare for the day full of endless possibilities. With few cars on the road and the trailhead parking lot barren, you get to take on the world before anyone else opens their eyes.
You are the first person on the trail for the day. Not only will you transform into a ninja as you walk through every spider web but there’s a good chance of having the summit to yourself. It’s happened to all of us; you wander into the woods in hopes of finding solace only to arrive at the summit to be surrounded by crowds of people. An early morning hike increases your chances of finding the peace and quiet that you are searching for.
- Watching the Sky Come Alive
You will see colors that you never knew existed. And seeing the mountains in the distance getting hit with the first rays of light is phenomenal. No two sunrises are the same, so the experience is different every time.
- Post Hike Breakfast
Having an excuse to indulge in a giant breakfast full of delicious carbs (if you really need an excuse for that). Pancakes, waffles, hash browns, bacon, sausage, eggs, mimosas? I’ll have one of everything please!
- The Rest of the Day Awaits
We all have busy lives and as wonderful as it would be to spend every day hiking, it’s not reality for most of us. Laundry needs to be washed, groceries need to be bought, bills need to be paid. So whether you continue hiking or have to run errands, an early morning hike leaves the rest of the day for other commitments. If you have free time I personally recommend getting breakfast (refer back to reason #4) and a post hike hammock nap in the warm late morning sun.
It can be difficult to force yourself out of bed, lace up your hiking boots, and hit the trails before the sun rises. I challenge you to try it just once and I can guarantee that you will be hooked!
Tips for Your First Sunrise Hike
- Choosing a Trail Try to choose a summit or outlook with a 360 degree or east facing view. If you’re nervous about hiking in the dark, pick a trail that you have previously hiked and are comfortable with. If you’re wanting to hike a new trail, do your research and pick one that’s shorter and/or ascends gradually. Two of my favorite sunrise hikes are Crawford Path to Mount Pierce and Garfield Trail to Mount Garfield. Both trails are easy to follow, ascend gradually and have spectacular 360 degree views. If you are short on time, a few peaks in the Belknap range are great including Major, Piper, and Whiteface. Mount Kearsarge is also fantastic for sunrise!
- Give Yourself Extra Time Hiking in the dark is a fun experience that you don’t want to rush. Give yourself plenty of time to navigate the trail in the dark and avoid the hidden rocks and roots. If you get to the summit earlier than planned then you get the added bonus of star gazing where city lights are absent and the stars have no rival when lighting up the sky.
- What to Bring Most obvious; headlamps. It’s good to bring an extra headlamp or extra batteries too! If you’re like me and trip over every root during broad daylight, a headlamp or small light that you can attach to your waist is quite helpful for navigating the trail. Like any hike, extra layers are a must since it will be cooler and possibly windy at the summit. Plus you will be sitting there for an extended amount the time. You will also want to bring snacks and coffee/tea to enjoy while watching the sunrise.
- Embrace the Whole Experience Waking up ridiculously early, hiking in total darkness, watching the sun come up over the mountains in the distance with a warm cup of coffee in hand and having the rest of the day for even more adventures…it doesn’t get much better than that. Enjoy it!