The crisp air, the colourful foliage, and the lack of crowds are all the motivation you need to hit the trails this fall. But hiking this time of year does require some specific seasonal planning. Here are a few things to consider before heading out to have a safe & fun hike in autumn:
1. Early Rather Than Late
Days are getting shorter & shorter this time of year so that means less daylight to get your hike done. Prefer an early start especially if you are planning a hike of 6 hours or more. You should aim to be off the trail before losing your light. This will ensure that if anything goes wrong, rescue can get to you before it's dark.
TIP: Pack a headlamp or flashlight (and extra batteries) for autumn hikes.
2. Staying Dry Is the Aim of the Game
Rain gear is essential. I usually pack a waterproof shell all year round but in the autumn making sure your lower body stays dry is also key to keeping warm. The dew in the fall can be heavy and take longer to dry out so using gators will keep the bottom of your pants dry as well as the top of your socks and boots. Packing waterproof pants is also useful as they can double up as windbreakers for those windy summits.
TIP: Bring extra dry clothes to leave in the car. It will be a godsend if you get back from the trail wet!
3. Use Layering Wisely
When starting off on your hike, wear as few layers as possible so you are comfortable. Yes, I did say AS FEW AS POSSIBLE. Everyone's "as few as possible" will be different but you want to use the start of the hike to warm up. As soon as you stop for a break, this is when you should throw on an extra layer to trap your body heat so you stay warm. Once you're ready to head off again, peel it off and pack it in your bag.
TIP: Don't forget to use layering on your hands and head as well. Take along some gloves and a hat - or my preference is for a versatile tub scarf!
4. Calories Equal Heat
Take along plenty of snacks. Calories will provide fuel for your body to help it stay warm. Snack often, before you feel hungry. And taking along a thermos with a warm beverage can warm you from the inside out!
TIP: Pack snacks in small pouches or containers to stash in easy to access pockets in your jacket and pack.
5. Be Seen
This time of year you may encounter hunters on your hikes. Though many of them will hunt at dawn or dusk, you should take extra caution when hiking in popular hunting areas: dress in bright coloured clothes and make your presence known.
TIP: Check official hunting resources to know when hunting is on and where in the area you are heading to. For the Jura mountains consult:
Vaud - Hunting Information
Jura Cantonal Hunting Federation
Hunter Federation Jura Department - France
I've never been one of those people who get homesick. Home for me has always been where my backpack has been parked. Literally! That being said, every year when autumn shows up at my doorstep, I spend a lot of time reminiscing about the hikes I took that time of year with my mom, dad & sister growing up in Canada. Well really, we kept doing these every year until I left for my year of Uni in Europe. I especially remember the reds the maples splashed onto the landscape. And I miss them. Yup, I miss my Canadian maples and the bright rush of colour they deliver before a blanket of white embraced us for the next 5 months.
So once autumn shows up here in our part of the world, I become like a hound obsessed with a scent.... red leaves... There are lots of splashes of yellows, golds, and oranges in the Swiss foliage but not much red. I've hiked near and far, and learnt to appreciate what the Swiss landscape has to offer this time of year but in my heart, I still look for red.
Here are 4 of my favourite autumn foliage hikes around these parts:
1. La Vaud section of the Aubonne Arboretum
Le Vaux section at the Aubonne Arboretum boast a number of maples. A real red feast for the eyes.
*TIP: Start your hike at the Bois-Guyot entrance near Bière. It's a direction less travelled and has a magical feeling as you descent into the maple section.
2. Lac de Bonlieu trail in the French Jura
The Lac de Bonlieu trail in the French Jura. Only 30 minutes to loop around the lake. Perfect for a trek with little ones.
* TIP: Photographers, at the south tip of lake, there is a path that leads to a view point over the full lake.
3. Les Mélèzes de Balavaud
250 old larches looking ablaze in the pasture above Nendaz, Valais (Isérables). It's in mid-October that the golden color is the most intense.
* TIP: Head out mid-afternoon to view the larches in the warm afternoon sun that accentuates their colour.
4. Le sentier des Châtaignes
Between forest and the vineyards, hiking the Sentier des Châtaignes between Bursins & Luins lets you enjoy the coloured foliage, heavy grapes before the harvest, and golden colours reflecting on the lake.
* TIP: Pack an autumn picnic and enjoy it at the covered Refuge du Devens.
What are your favourite fall hikes?