10 Tips for Safe Fall Hiking in Vancouver

Looking down at a hiker's boots standing in a pile of colourful fall leaves

Photo: Ethan Unzicker/Unsplash

Fall is a great time of year to hike in Vancouver: the leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and rainy weather makes the forest green and the waterfalls gush. But you will be hiking in some serious wilderness, so follow these tips for safe fall hiking.


Pack the Essentials

AdventureSmart recommends bringing a backpack with essential safety and first aid gear on every hike. Read through the full list of equipment on their site for a great run-down on the things you need to bring to have a safe and fun hike.


Leave a Trip Plan

If you get lost or hurt, will anyone know to look for you? Leave a trip plan so someone knows where you are going and when you will be back. Using the AdventureSmart Trip Plan App makes it easy.


Check the Weather Forecast

In general, Vancouver in fall is pretty rainy, with temperatures typically between 5 and 19°C (41-66°F). But even though it rains a lot, there are always a handful of gorgeous sunny days and lots of days where it’s merely cloudy.

Keep in mind that it can be much colder and wetter up in the mountains than in the city. If possible, use the weather forecast for a nearby ski resort to get a better idea of how cold and wet it will be at higher elevations. Pack warm clothing and a rain jacket on every fall hike.


Avoid Stormy Weather

While fall weather in Vancouver is usually characterized by benign drizzle broken up by a few sunny days, we do get a few intense rainstorms. Keep an eye on the forecast for storms with lots of heavy rain and wind, often caused by atmospheric rivers. These storms can create dangerous conditions on the trails as trees blow over or rivers and creeks rise. If a storm is in the forecast, save the hike for another day.


Prepare for Snow and Ice

While it may be fall in the city, winter starts early in the mountains. In most years, the high mountain trails start seeing freezing temperatures in late October or early November. Check park websites and apps like All Trails or Instagram to find the latest trail conditions. Bring traction aids like hiking poles and microspikes so you don’t slip and fall on ice or snow and of course lots of warm clothing.

If you aren’t ready to hike in ice and snow, you don’t have to – just pick a destination near sea level instead! Most of Vancouver’s low elevation trails stay snow-free year-round.


Wear Waterproof Shoes

Even on dry days, Vancouver’s trails can be soggy and muddy in the fall. Having cold and wet feet can ruin your hike. Choose waterproof hiking boots or shoes that will keep out the rain and mud.


Be Bear Aware

Bears are more active in the fall as they try to fatten up for winter. Hike in a group and talk or sing to warn bears of your presence. Keep your dog on a leash. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. BC Parks has lots more tips on staying safe in bear country.


Learn How to Leave No Trace

Vancouver’s wilderness areas are special places. Learn the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace to keep the wilderness wild. These simple tips can help you learn to respect wildlife, prevent trail erosion, go to the bathroom without contaminating water sources, and lots more.


Remember That It Gets Dark Early

As the seasons shift, the days get shorter, which means it gets dark much earlier in fall than it does in summer. In mid-September, the sun sets around 7:20 p.m., but by mid-October, we have lost an hour of daylight and sunset is at 6:20 p.m. And in mid-November, it sets at 4:30 p.m. thanks to the change for daylight savings time.

Research how long your hike will take and make sure to start early enough to complete it well before dark. And always carry a flashlight or headlamp just in case – the flashlight on your phone isn’t very bright and will run down your battery quickly.


Stay Hydrated

Even though it’s not hot out and you may not feel like you’re sweating as much, it’s still easy to get dehydrated. Pack lots of water. While Vancouver’s mountain streams may look pristine, the water isn’t safe to drink without filtering or purifying. In general, most hikers drink about 0.5L of water for each hour of hiking.


Vancouver Fall Hiking Ideas

Looking for the perfect fall hike? Choose one from our lists of the best Vancouver hikes for fall colours, more hikes for fall colours, or the best hikes for rainy days. Or dig into our Vancouver hike of the month archives.


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