It’s a shame that we so easily take the moon for granted, but when we take the time to notice it, it offers us a little dose of magic. We’ve all seen the moon hundreds of times, but it still has the ability to inspire awe, evoke a sense of serenity, and sometimes make us dream. Or reflect. Or contemplate.

 

Full Moons are a great time for a nighttime hike or neighborhood walk. Most of us don’t spend much time in nature at night unless we’re camping, so consider an evening outdoors under the Full Moon.

 

Nature is different at night. Instead of songbirds, we hear owls. Instead of the constant sound of heavy traffic on the ground and in the air, we hear the crickets. Nature smells different under the stars, the air moves differently in the dark, and our non-sight senses are heightened.

 

As with any hike you embark on, a Full Moon hike requires some forethought for the most enjoyable and safest experience possible.

 

PREP YOUR EQUIPMENT

In addition to your usual hiking gear, there are a few extra things you’ll want to pack for your adventure. Start with the basics: wear sturdy shoes, dress in layers, bring plenty of water, and grab your hiking poles. Poles are especially handy in the dark. 

 

There’s a good chance you won’t need a flashlight for many portions of your hike, but you do need to bring a flashlight. But keep your bright white light tucked away for use in an emergency. For this hike, you’ll want a red light flashlight to preserve your natural night vision and to minimize your impact on the nocturnal critters. A headlamp is best if you’re using hiking poles. Whatever you do, don’t point your flashlight, whether it’s white or red, at another person. You’ll blow up their night vision, and it can take up to 40 minutes for the eyes to readjust to the dark. 

 

Full Moon hike

Stargazing Hike in partnership with Sonoran Conservancy of Fountain Hills, ©2024 Vicky Derksen

 

Download a stargazing app on your phone so you can identify things in the sky that catch your attention. Before your hike starts, turn the screen brightness all the way down and set your phone to night mode so the screen has a reddish hue to protect your night vision.

 

CHOOSING A LOCATION

Finding a place to hike after sunset can be tricky. Many hiking trails are closed at night, but you might be able to find some trails on public lands, including national forests and BLM land. If you’ve never hiked in the dark, choose a trail you’re familiar with for your first hike. This will help you develop the feel for hiking in the dark and build your confidence for future adventures.

 

FINAL PREPARATIONS

As with all hikes, you should let someone know your plans before you go. Let them know where you’re hiking, when you plan to begin and end, what car you’re taking, and any other information that will help rescuers find you should something go wrong. Just don’t forget to let these friends know when you’ve safely returned from your hike so they don’t worry about you.

 

Check for wildlife warnings before you hit the trail. Mountain lions and bears are espeically serious business. You might encounter other wildlife while on the trail, but most will steer clear of you.

 

Don’t hike alone at night. And when you’re hiking with others, it’s important for all parties in your group to be observant of the trail. It’s easy to get turned around at night, so make sure everyone has an idea of the route and pays attention to the path to make sure the hike leader doesn’t take everyone the wrong way.

 

DECIDE WHEN TO START

You can have a Full Moon hiking experience the day before the Full Moon, the night of, or the night after, but the moon rises about 50 minutes later the night after. This expands your choices if you’re busy on the night of the Full Moon.

 

Sunset at McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Sunset at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, ©2024 Vicky Derksen

 

Start your hike before it’s completely dark. For a truly magical experience, start early enough to watch the sunset in the West, see the Belt of Venus rise in the East, and watch the moonrise over the horizon. You can see the stars pop into view one at a time as the constellations start to take shape. Starting early also lets you experience the wildlife’s transition from day to night. You’ll hear the birds rustling in their nests, the coyotes chatting about their dinner plans, the crickets tuning up for their symphony. You’ll feel the air currents changing and cooling. This is a really special moment that’s just as exciting as being under the light of the Full Moon.

 

TAKE IT SLOW AND QUIET

It’s nighttime. There’s no need to be in a hurry. And there’s no need to disturb everything in nature. Step carefully and talk quietly. Be as unobtrusive as possible and imagine yourself as part of nocturnal nature. What is their home like at night? What are they saying? How are you walking through their space as a welcomed guest? And that feeling of magic? It gets spooked when you blow into the outdoors at night without regard for the atmosphere of nighttime. Experience the awe and wonder of the Full Moon and fall in love with the dark.

 

RESOURCES