The popular sport of day hiking continues to attract those looking for a bit of adventure with limited time. On several recent day hikes at national and state parks, I've had plenty of company on popular trails of only a mile or two. But like most, I prefer very little to no hikers on trails. Not that I'm anti-social, I simply want to see and hear the natural surroundings that a particular hike offers. So to improve my odds of seeing and trading less greetings with passing hikers, I select trails and adjust my day hiking plans to find a bit of solitude or at least no crowds. Here's how.
Hike off season. I know the point of hiking during autumn may be to take in the fall foliage show, but if you go prime leaf-peeping season, you will be run over. If your hike is hindered by an ant-like stream of hikers on trail, your attention will be diverted from the leaf show to side stepping other hikers. If you enjoy taking in the seasonal changes, do so just prior to or as the season is winding down, as there is still plenty of photogenic scenes to see.
Hike mid week, not weekends. This is an obvious one, but still needs mentioned. Plan hikes for the year well ahead of time if possible, so while planning vacation days from work, your hikes can be considered.
Go early in the day — or late. Most popular trails become crowded by tourists checking out the trail they read about in the destination's coupon booklet. These extra trail users added in with avid hikers makes for tight hiking on trail. Hit the trail before the vacationers rise and begin their leisure day. You will be have way done with your hike before they finish their second stack of breakfast pancakes.
Select lesser known trails. Talk with locals at restaurants, fly fishing shops, and park rangers to find trails less traveled. Search the Internet for forums hosted by avid day hikers and don't be bashful. Share what area you plan to visit and the forum visitors will share a trailhead location or two.
Hike during not so sunny weather. Slip on the rain gear and enjoy the natural environment in another form. Wear sturdy, grippy boots and enjoy the day. Hiking during challenging weather makes the steak dinner afterwards taste even better.