Beating the Summer Heat on a Hike

Even though we're looking at Back-to-School times here in the south, it seems the relentless summer heat just won't give us a break!  The Dog Days of summer started here back in early June and are continuing well into mid-August.  You know the heat has been terrible when the weather reports we are getting a "break" from the heat when the heat index is below 100 (but still above 90!)  Other than for work, I've been trying to stay indoors as much as I can this summer, but when I'm out for a run or hiking at low elevation I still need a way to keep cool.  Here are my favorite ways to beat the heat during summer time. 


Stay at High Elevations

Where I live, the high elevation hiking runs consistently 10-12 degrees cooler than it does in the nearest town with a weather forecast.  Is it going to be 95 in the valley today? Chances are it will barely hit 75 up high with the gentle breeze!  A bonus for me is the fact that high elevation in the Smokies also means hiking on the Appalachian Trail and that means views for miles and miles on clear, sunny days.  It also means hiking in the overcast fog on not-so-clear days.  Either way, both options are beautiful and MUCH cooler. 

 Where I live, high elevations mean boreal forest, fog, and sunshine breaking through!

Where I live, high elevations mean boreal forest, fog, and sunshine breaking through!

Reduce Your Mileage

Can't get away from the heat no matter how high up you go?  Reduce your miles!  Just because you CAN hike 22 miles at a time doesn't mean you HAVE TO!  Starting a hike in the morning and doing shorter miles to get done before the peak of the summer heat helps you stay a little cooler - not to mention beat the crowds at whatever your destination may be.  

Get Up Earlier

If you've ever looked at sunrise hiking photos on Instagram with envy this is your chance to emulate what you've been coveting - start super early in the morning (in the dark by headlamp or flashlight!) and hike up to a vista or waterfall for a sunrise viewing!  Not only will you really beat the heat, you'll be finished before most people are even arriving at the trailhead.  You'll have done more before noon than most people do all day long on hot summer days!

Get Wet

Waterfall hikes are always popular in summer months, but you don't have to hike to a waterfall to get wet on trail.  Taking a hike with several stream crossings or river fords will give you an opportunity to jump in and cool off.  Bonus points if you get your hair/hat wet or drape a wet bandana around your neck for the next mile or so.  Keeping cool has never been easier

 Looks like a great spot for a swim break to me!

Looks like a great spot for a swim break to me!


Dehydration in the summertime - the most common trail injury I see as a guide.  Not only can the direct sunlight dehydrate you, so can the humidity.  In the Smokies, a temperate rain forest, dehydration can set in VERY quickly.  As a guide, I usually have 3-4 electrolyte options on me at all times, including salt tablets, Nuun hydration, Honey Stinger Chews, Fuel 100 Electrobites (code SPRINKLES will save you 25% at checkout!), and Enduropacks electrolyte spray in my backpack most, if not every, of the time I hit the trails.  If you're out on a hot day it is super important to check in with your hydration status.  Feeling thirsty?  You're already well on your way to dehydration!  With 75% of Americans in a constant state of dehydration it's hard to convince people to drink water.  Make sure you're carrying at least 32 ounces of water on a half-day of hiking and 64 ounces for a full day.  It also never hurts to pick up a cheap and reliable water filter (I recommend and use the Sawyer Mini).  

There you have it - my favorite ways to beat the summer heat on a hike.  What would you add? How do you stay cool in the Dog Days of summer?