Hiking tips as the season changes

Fall is a great time to enjoy the outdoors, especially on one of the region's many hiking trails.

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    Now is the time to catch that last glimpse of color before trees shed their leaves for the winter.

    Fall also means seclusion. It is easier to find solitude on many of the areas popular hiking trails, which can be crowded during the summer months. Plus the changing seasons can change the complexion of the landscape in unique and surprising ways.

    But there's danger in both the lower temperatures and that there are fewer folks out on the trails.

    Here are six tips to keep in mind when venturing out for a fall hike:

    Start early

    Shorter days mean there's less daylight. Start early and allow yourself extra time to complete a hike. Encountering unexpected snow and ice can make a routine hike longer than expected. You don't want to get caught on the trail in the dark when temperatures start to drop.

    Carry the proper equipment

    With early season snow and cooler temperatures, trails may be covered in snow and ice or blocked by other obstacles such as branches. Hiking poles can help you navigate patches of snow and ice. Also, consider bringing a headlamp in case it's nearing dusk and you're still out on the trail. Even with the proper equipment, if you encounter conditions that you are unprepared for, it is best to turn back or attempt another trail rather than risk getting injured or lost.

    Check the weather

    Weather in the Sierra Nevada can change quickly. Check the forecast before you head out and pack accordingly, but also be prepared for unexpected conditions. Wear layers and carry warm weather clothing such as gloves and a hat.

    Communicate

    Even if you are hiking with a companion, let someone who won't be with you know where you're going and when you expect to return. It is also important to let that person know of any changes in your destination. If you reach a trailhead that is covered in snow and decide to take a different route, send a quick text with that information. When you return, follow up with that person so they know you made it back safely.

    Stay hydrated

    Even though the weather is cooler, be sure to carry plenty of water. Staying properly hydrated during physical activity is important regardless of the temperature. Drink water before, during and after your adventure. And make sure your water is easily accessible. Thirst is a sign that you are already dehydrated. Be sure to pack extra food as well.

    Keep an eye out

    Do you have a favorite trail you hike during the summer? Check it out in the fall. Vibrant colors from changing leaves and hints of snow provide a different perspective on a common landscape. Also keep an eye and ear out for sights and sounds of local wildlife. The cooler weather provides a perfect time to catch a glimpse of animals foraging for food, building shelters and preparing for the coming winter.

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