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How To Avoid Crowds When Hiking

How To Avoid Crowds When Hiking
16 March 2021

Part of the enjoyment of hiking comes from being away from cities and people and spending some time with yourself in nature. So whilst it is fantastic to see so many people enjoying the hills, there is no doubt that being stuck in a queue on a busy trail takes something away from the enjoyment of hiking and surrounding nature.

Fortunately, there are a number of techniques and tips you can use to help avoid crowds and make sure that you have the peaceful hike you are looking for.

Go Early

It has been said many times before, but there really is value to the saying ‘the early bird catches the worm’. Setting your alarm clock for an early rise is one of the best ways to get a head start on the trail and avoid the busiest times. Quite often you can be returning your car ready to go home just as most people are showing up for their hike - you can rightfully feel smug!

If you fancy a particularly early start, then sunrise hikes are a spectacular way to start your day, but bear in mind you will need a headtorch as it will likely be dark as you set off – for this reason, it's also worth initially sticking to trails that you know well.

Hike in all weather

It’s easy to be stopped by a rainy forecast. However, as long as you have the right gear and preparation, there is no reason to let a bit of rain stop you. Invest in a good set of waterproofs along with some comfortable waterproof shoes/boots, and you can be out enjoying the hills whilst others shy away at home.

If hiking in wet weather is an alien idea to you, then our 10 tips for hiking in the rain is a great starting place.

hiking route map planning

Use a map

Route preparation can be key to peaceful hiking. Whilst searching online and following route recommendations is great and can sometimes provide some quiet routes, more often than not these suggestions are typically going to be some of the more popular trails. One of the best options to avoid this and discover your own trail is to grab an OS map and start to plan your own routes.

You will be amazed at just how many trails and rights of way there most likely are near your area, and you can start to quickly discover a bank of paths that are quieter than the popular trails.

Avoid weekends/holidays

Trails are nearly always busier on the weekend, and especially so during holiday periods/bank holidays. Sometimes the best way of dealing with this is to avoid known popular areas all together on these days.

If possible, taking a day or two holiday in the middle of the week is a great way to find yourself some space on the trails. Rather than getting caught up in the crowds of a busy Saturday, head out on a Tuesday morning for a more peaceful hiking experience.

Hike throughout the year

Summer hiking is what draws most people to the sport. It’s warmer, usually drier, and there are longer daylight hours. However, with the right equipment and some extra preparation, there is no reason to stop hiking at any time of the year. In fact autumn, winter and spring can bring you some of the most enjoyable days and memories you’ll have hiking, and usually substantially quieter trails.

If you’re heading out in deep winter, then check out our top tips for winter hillwalking.

hiking on quiet trails

Find Alternate routes

Every area has main routes that stand out as the most accessible and popular (sometimes referred to as tourist trails) and as such, are usually busy. If you aren’t able to get out in the week and don’t fancy an early start, then it can be best to avoid the most popular trail routes during peak times of the year.

Fortunately, while this may initially seem like an inconvenience, it can in fact lead to the discovery of spectacular lesser-known trails nearby. 

Turn away from busy car parks

If you arrive at a full and chaotic car park for the start of your walk, then it is usually best to save the route you had planned for another day. A full car park is usually a good sign that the most popular trails will be busy. Ideally, if heading out in peak season, make sure you have a backup hike you can head to if the first is looking too busy.

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