Benefits of Fall Hiking

posted in: Hiking 101, Washington | 0

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.

– John Muir

Mount Rainier from Paradise in late September.


Fall has long been my favorite hiking season. Temperatures start dropping. Insect hordes stop horde-ing. The landscape glows with color. And trails are less crowded. Here are a couple more healthy reasons why you should hit the trails today. (Quick! Before our glorious Indian Summer fades and the rains return):

Physical Benefits:

  • According to the American Hiking Society, physical benefits of hiking include lowering your risk for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
  • As a weight-bearing exercise, hiking and walking can also help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis and arthritis.
  • Hiking and spending time outdoors may also be linked to reducing depression and cancer and increasing the strength of our natural immunities.

John Muir was on to something.

Mental Benefits of Hiking and Walking include:

  • Increased cognitive benefits and working memory performance, reducing anxiety and other mood disorders, boosting creativity, and strengthening social ties.
  • Increased happiness levels and an improved sense of well-being and peace.

Speaking of mental benefits, you don’t want to hit the trails without packing your brains. Like when:

  • A really, really stupid hiker left her head at home and missed the cut off to the Forest Lake Trail at Mount Rainier, continuing on the wrong trail for miles. It only took half a day to correct my mistake.
  • An epic face-plant ensued after a hiker misjudged a downed Douglas fir on the Wynoochee Lakeshore Trail on the Olympic Peninsula. Thankfully, my fall was cushioned by an obliging slab of granite or I might’ve been seriously injured.
  • A World Class Brainless Wonder met Mama Black Bear and her two cubs hiking Mazama Ridge at Mount Rainier. And decided to whip out her tablet and take pictures. Good thing Hiker Dude hauled her down-trail at warp speed. It took all afternoon for my head to stop spinning.

Additionally, I do some of my best thinking on the trail. There’s nothing like a brisk hike under crisp autumn skies to get the mind going, the heart pumping, and the creative juices flowing.

Are you a year round hiker or a seasonal?  What’s your favorite hiking season?