There’s no finer season for hiking or backpacking the Appalachian Trail than the fall months. It’s a superb time for hiking, especially for the curious who may be unaccustomed with the trail. Day hikes are popular, as well as multi-day and multi-week expeditions. Yet while autumn is perfect for hiking and backpacking, the rules are different from those which apply in summer.
Keeping tabs on weather before you set out is crucial in fall. At most elevations of the Appalachian Trail snow, sleet, and cold rain can occur any time. It may be dry and temperate when you leave home, yet turn threatening by the time you clamber toward the summits. Learn the signs of approaching bad weather and respond accordingly. Make sure you carry clothing suitable for fall travel; include wool gloves, woolen sweater (not down) and proper rain and wind gear. Be prepared to leave the trail or cancel your trip if foul weather sets in.
Leave word where you are and when you expect to come back. Do not trust a cell phone, especially as inclement weather and cold temperatures may decrease or cancel a reliable signal.
Hunters are afield in the fall months, so follow these additional safety rules:
Make certain you are visible! Put on clothing in colors which are highly visible. Shy away from dark clothes. Select bright colors like orange or red.
Walking too quietly in hunting country in ill-advised. Chat with fellow hikers. This will make your presence known to hunters. If you’re alone you can put a bell on your pack to make sound. Singing and whistling is also a way to alert others to your presence on the trail. If you hear gunfire be extra certain to make yourself known.