Of the hundreds of hikes I’ve taken in my life, the night hikes really stand out. Even the most familiar terrain feels and sounds different once the sun sets, especially if you plan ahead and know where to look.
Kids love these nocturnal adventures, as well. Not only does night hiking mean staying up past their bedtime, but the thrill of something special awaits. A whole other world of wildlife comes alive after dark.
In my early 20s, while working on AMC’s hut croo, I came to love visiting other huts at night. After cleaning up from dinner service, we would don headlamps and race across the ridge to the next hut. Years later I listened to nature’s symphony from a remote lake in the Peruvian rainforest. Insects buzzed, monkeys howled, and creatures splashed about on the shore. Scanning the water with my headlamp, I saw dozens of pairs of glowing-red caiman eyes.
But of all my night hikes in exotic locations, one of my favorites was with my kids, in our own backyard in rural New Hampshire.
Friends were visiting, and the kids were up late. The summer night was filled with crickets and fireflies lighting up our meadow. Our friend Keith told us he could find mushrooms and fungus that glowed in the dark. We didn’t believe him, so we made him prove it to us.
We walked through the meadow and into the woods, pausing so our eyes could adjust, then slowly felt our way along the trail until we came upon a rotted log. Keith pulled out a chunk of the soft wood. A greenish-white light softly emanated from the fungus. It blew our minds.
All kinds of amazing and memorable adventures can happen at night— if you plan ahead and make it fun and safe. Here are some basics to get you started: