52 Hike Challenge · HIking · Living in Alaska

Learning to Love Hiking in All Types of Weather

Every year I get more adventurous with the hiking choices that I make.  The first few years in Alaska I only chose hikes that were easy and mostly flat.  The next year I started hiking steep and long trails, and the next year I added in some backpacking trips and winter hiking.  But no matter what I’ve hiked, I’ve always chosen to hike in perfect weather conditions when possible.  I live in Alaska and can hike these trails whenever I want, so why not save an epic hike like Harding Ice Field for a sunny day when I can actually see the views?  But as I become more comfortable out on the trails I’m starting to find that sometimes the appearance of not so great weather can lead to some really great hikes.  Sure, I can think of many times where I was miserable due to the weather (a windy and freezing hike on a seemingly sunny and warm day on the Rabbit Lake Trail a few years ago comes to mind), but I also think about the time when we hiked up through the clouds on Bird Ridge and we saw sunshine and gorgeous views that no one at sea level got to see.  Embracing bad weather days on the trail can be tough, but it can also lead to some really awesome moments.

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Hiking above the clouds on Bird Ridge

On Sunday I woke up to yet another crazy windy day in Anchorage.  It was drizzling and I could barely see the mountains out my back window, but I was dying to hike with one of my friends.  We are both trying to get in shape for hiking season, so we wanted to go uphill but stay out of the wind as much as possible and we couldn’t think of anything that would get us both of those things.  Normally I would have just cancelled due to weather and laid around all day in my pajamas, but instead we chose to drive out to Eklutna Lake to see if the Twin Peaks Trail was hikable.  I wore fleece lined clothes and my Xtratuff in anticipation of heavy wind and rain and thick mud, and I had my rain jacket ready.  On the drive out there we commented on the new snowfall at high elevations and how low the clouds were on the mountains.  But as we pulled up to the trailhead, it looked completely snow free and it wasn’t even raining!

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We started hiking uphill towards the first bench on the Twin Peaks Trail, which is a couple miles up and has great views of Eklutna Lake.  The trail was in perfect condition and our dogs had a blast running all over the place and playing tug of war with sticks.  As we climbed higher and higher we started to see the lake through the trees but still felt warm and protected from the wind.  When we finally reached the overlook we almost blew off the mountain and had to put on all of our layers, but the views were worth it!  The lake is still frozen but it was gorgeous from up above.

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On the drive back to town it was pouring, and we kept saying that we were so glad we had taken a chance and gone for a hike despite the weather forecast calling for rain everywhere.  Even though we were prepared for the worst in terms of weather, we got lucky and got the chance to get in a good workout on a snow free trail.  To be clear, it’s never a good idea to ignore serious weather reports on a hike.  But waiting for perfect weather is tough in Alaska in the spring, and I’m glad we got out and hiked.  I’m keeping the Twin Peaks Trail in mind for the next time I need to find a good hike to do in not so great weather.  And I’m definitely not going to let a rainy weather forecast cancel my hiking plans in the future if it’s safe to get out there!

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Me trying not to blow off the mountain in crazy wind  while posing for a picture

Are you a fair weather hiker?  If not, what made you decide to hike in all weather conditions?  What’s your favorite piece of gear in bad weather?

26 thoughts on “Learning to Love Hiking in All Types of Weather

  1. I have hike and camped in sweltering heat, and dangerously cold temperatures. In snow sleet, rain and sun. Being dressed for what the day brings is my approach, otherwise it will be a horrible experience.

    1. Yes! In general I’m more concerned about if I’m going to be able to see good views on a bad weather day than I am with how I’m going to feel. Luckily I’m not usually very hot in Alaska but I’ve been in some terrible humid hiking conditions on the east coast and I’d rather have cold and snow over that!

  2. When traveling you often have limited time. Last summer a 4 day trip to Gaspé left us hiking Mont Jacques Cartier in pelting rain and thick fog. At the top we could barely see the trail markers ahead of us. Even with the right gear (my husband is a gear geek), we came back to the hotel soaked. But no regrets, it was an adventure!

  3. One of my favorite hiking memories is hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park when it was snowing last February. Hardly anyone else was there presumably because of the weather, which made it even more magical. I love my wool buff for hiking in bad weather because I can adjust it so many different ways.

  4. I am a “just get out there and do it” type of person. I hardly look at the weather, except when it makes itself known in the sky lol. My boyfriend (and hiking buddy), on the other hand, is scared off at even the thought of rain! I’m slowly forcing him to go out in the wind and drizzle moments so he gets used to it hahaha….PS cute dogs!!!

    1. Haha I wish I cared less about the weather! It’s tough to ignore it when you’re going to be on an exposed ridge or mountaintop, but if I’m staying at sea level in the forest I don’t have to worry as much.

  5. When we lived in Colorado, we used to hike in the winter to avoid the summer thunderstorms. Alaska-like cold & wind but some of the views were amazing! No crowds either! 🙂

  6. I’m a fair-weather runner, although I’m trying to be more of an anytime hiker. I have more patience as a hiker, probably because of my experiences of hiking in hideous weather in Scotland. Scotland is EXCELLENT conditioning for crap weather, haha. But I’ve hiked in HORRIBLE heat with little prep and it’s been pretty bad. I have to keep adjusting!

    1. I was the total opposite! I loved running in the rain but hate hiking in it. I think because when I’m running I’m super hot and it’s only for a short amount of time, but when I hike I’m a lot cooler and I’m out there for a while. I have some friends who just moved here from Scotland and they keep saying how rainy and cloudy it was over there compared to Alaska, which I’ve always thought was super rainy and cloudy.

  7. I have become more of a fair-weather hiker, but in part due to poor preparation for some hikes that were not great, weather-wise. Abandoning a hike midway was necessary at least once, but it kept me safe. That said, length is also a factor. I can handle moderate-length hikes in foul weather, but backpacking? Nope. Going to wait for decent(ish) weather for that. Kudos to all those who muddle through, especially on very long backpacks.

    1. I’m with you! I’m so nervous because I have a 4 day backpacking trip planned at the beginning of June and if it rains I’m going to be so miserable. Usually I just wait for a sunny weekend to go backpacking but I had to ask off work in advance for this one!

  8. Love this! I’m so glad y’all found an awesome hike and ended up with good weather! That view is amazing! Here in Indiana I’ve learned that when the forecast calls for “rain” (not thunderstorms, just rain) 1/2 the time it drizzles, 1/4 of the time it doesn’t rain at all, and 1/4 of the time it pours – so I just go hiking anyways and take my chances. I had the trails at a state park completely to myself earlier this year because it was supposed to “rain” – it ended up being a light drizzle and a highly enjoyable hike 🙂

    1. That’s awesome! Yeah Alaska is super rainy so I always have to prepare for the worst, but the hard part is when you know you’re going to be above treeline on a sketchy hike – that’s when I don’t mess with wind or rain. We’re lucky we remembered that this trail was in the forest because it was a really cool hike even on a crazy windy day!

  9. Great post! Depending on the hike. If the trail is narrow and it has steep incline, I prefer fair weather. Generally, I prefer overcast or foggy days for hiking but they are hard to come by in Southern California. If it rains lightly while I am hiking, it doesn’t bother me. Photos come out moody and more interesting. As long as it’s not a downpour, I am cool with it. I need to be able to take photos, you know. 😉 Now the windy condition… I can do it without because it becomes an safety issues on some of the hikes we like.

    1. Yes! This is true for Alaska too. If I’m on an exposed ridgeline I’m not going to go out in super foggy/cloudy conditions due to low visibility, rainy conditions due to slippery trails, and windy conditions because I’ll blow right off the mountain. But I definitely don’t mind a moody cloud picture if it’s raining!

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