When considering a hike, most people wait for a day when the weather is mild and the sun is shining.
However, some hikers know that the best times to hike are often those when it’s raining or has just finished raining.
Hiking in light rain can have a surprising number of benefits, many of which hikers never realize if they always wait for fair weather.
It’s an Excellent Workout
Muddy trails require more effort to traverse since they can be slippery or pull at your feet, so if you hike in the rain, you’ll be getting more exercise.
In addition, rain can often wash debris, such as branches, onto trails, creating a bit of an obstacle course.
Mud and obstacles can force you to use a different set of muscles, particularly those in your core, so hiking during or just after rain is a truly excellent workout.
Trails are Less Crowded
Most people don’t consider the benefits of hiking in the rain, so casual or even more experienced hikers stay in when it’s raining and wait for better weather.
This means that popular trails are far less crowded just before, during, or after a rainstorm.
If you decide to go hiking in the rain, you’ll often find that you have the trails and rest areas or lookouts all to yourself.
Wildlife is Abundant in the Rain
Most animals don’t mind the rain, and some even wait to emerge until they sense moisture in the air.
When you hike during or just after it has rained, you’ll likely see many birds enjoying the puddles that have gathered or hopping through the damp leaves of trees.
Other animals, particularly amphibians such as frogs and salamanders, only come out when it’s damp.
Snails and slugs also love the rain and will come out to eat and explore in the dampness.
You may be able to spot a wide variety of wildlife in the rain, including animals you might not have seen during fair weather hikes.
Fresh Air and Petrichor
As rain falls, it collects particles from the air. These particles can include dust and pollen.
If you hike during or after a rainstorm, take a deep breath. It’s likely that the air will smell fresher and greener, and this is because it’s actually cleaner than it was before it rained.
When you breathe in, you may also notice a fresh, rich scent. This scent, called petrichor, only occurs when it rains.
Petrichor is actually caused by a certain chemical compound, called geosmin, which is released when rain hits soil that was previously dry.
There are Many Unusual Photo Opportunities
For those hikers who enjoy photography, rain creates a number of amazing and unusual photo opportunities.
Puddles might form where there were none before, ponds fill, streams swell, and raindrops cling to plants.
Experimenting with different subjects can be an exciting photography prospect, and it makes a hike in the rain an appealing idea for casual and serious photographers alike.
Remember to Dress Appropriately
Hiking in the rain has many benefits, but it’s hard to enjoy those benefits if you’re wet or cold.
For this reason, and for safety reasons, it’s important to dress appropriately before setting out for a hike in the rain.
When hiking in the rain or damp weather conditions, you’ll most likely want to dress in layers.
A durable, water-resistant outer layer, such as a windbreaker or slicker, will help to keep you dry.
However, this layer can trap sweat or moisture. Wearing a moisture-wicking inner layer, such as a t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt, can help to keep moisture away from your skin, which in turn keeps you feeling dry and warm.
Many synthetic fabrics, as well as merino wool, are great at wicking away moisture. Try to avoid cotton if at all possible.
A good pair of water-resistant shoes is also essential for rainy day hikes.
Many types of hiking boots are durable and offer protection from water, but you may want to consider boots or waders that are specifically made for wet conditions.
Whatever footwear you choose, make sure it has good treads. You might also want to carry an extra pair of socks, just in case you accidentally step in a puddle that’s deeper than expected.
Wet feet are very uncomfortable and can quickly ruin a hike.
Consider a hat and gloves for your hike in the rain as well. Damp weather often means colder weather, and a hat can greatly increase your body temperature.
A good pair of gloves will keep your hands and fingers warm and flexible, which is helpful for grasping objects as your maneuver over the trail or for taking pictures.
Hiking in the rain is the perfect opportunity to experience trails in a way you never have before.
However, rain and inclement weather can make hiking a little more tricky, so it’s important to take precautions to remain safe.
If you notice lightning occurring nearby, you may want to call off your hike and head home.
You can also judge how close a storm is by counting the interval between lightning and thunder.
If the time is less than 30 seconds, it’s probably best to stay in for the day.
Remember that the goal is to hike in the rain, not in a thunderstorm.
As mentioned above, hiking in the rain can be more strenuous, and if you become cold or wet, it can make the hike uncomfortable.
Assess your own comfort and stamina levels periodically, and make sure everyone else in the group is still happy to keep going.
When you’re hiking in the rain, it’s often best to choose a shorter trail.
You can also start down a network of trails that offers options for choosing a shorter trail if you become tired or cold.