Hiking in May; What To Expect
So you want to go hiking May?! Before you head out there are a few things you definitely need to know before you hit the mountains. Hiking in May in Canada is considered to be shoulder season. It is a great time to hike because the trails will not be as busy compared to peak season, you have a better chance of seeing wildlife, and you get totally unique views! Shoulder season hiking is my favourite time to go because you have a better chance of having the trails all to yourself.
As always, make sure you dress appropriately and be ready for anything the outdoors can throw at you. Weather can be unpredictable and change at any minute. Respect the wildlife by staying at appropriate distances and stay on the trails in order to preserve the forest! For more information on each hike you can check them out on AllTrails.
Chaser of Waterfalls
A few of the things you need to think about before you head out is weather, clothing, food, and of course safety. Shoulder season is much more unpredictable than peak season for all of these aspects and so you need to ensure that you are well prepaired for your adventure!
In Canada, May weather is all over the map. You can have +20 days and you can have -10 days. Spring time is a time of fast changes in the mountains. Snow is rapidly melting, plants are growing, and the landscape is changing. It is important that you check the weather and plan accordingly. On any hike I conquer in May I always make sure I have my rain jacket, extra socks, gloves, a toque, and a long sleeve in my backpack. Sometimes I even bring a pair of pants too. I generally hike in shorts and a t-shirt (even on colder days, I’m a VERY warm person!) but I always make sure to bring my warmer clothes with me because the temperature at the summit will almost always be colder than the base of the mountain and there is nothing worse than finally reaching the top and wanting to head back down right away because you are cold.
May hiking is also a very muddy time. If you are heading anywhere with melting snow you can expect there to be a ton of mud as well. Get yourself a pair of waterproof boots and you will be all set! I like to wear a comfy pair of shoes on the way to and from the hike, and just wear my boots for when I am on the trail. This way if they get really muddy I also don’t make my car muddy afterwords.
Rain is another fun piece of weather you need to be prepared for if you plan on hiking in May. It rains at least once a week in may and sometimes for a full week at a time. But don’t let this discourage you from your trail adventures! If you have a proper rain jacket and waterproof boots (you can make any boot waterproof with spray) then you can still head out on that hiking adventure! I HIGHLY recommend the Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Rain Jacket. It is super light weight, folds down extremely small for easy packing and is completely waterproof!
Now its time to talk the dirty S word…SNOW!!! Yes, we have snow here in Canada in May. In fact there’s so much snow here in May that many of the mountain roads are actually closed until June or July. You don’t necessarily need snow boots though. I hike in my Merrell boots in the snow all the time (even in the dead of winter) and they work perfectly! Just spray them with waterproofing spray and wear thicker socks!
Many of the trails in the Rockies will have snow on them for most of the summer. The base of the trails melts usually around late April to Early May, but the higher you climb the most likely you will find snow. Especially if you are driving up through Kananaskis, the closer you get to Upper Kananaskis Lake, the higher elevation you are at. I was there in late May this year and the lake was still frozen with tons of snow along the banks. The trail heads in the area were completely covered with snow. You could still hike them, but with more difficulty of course.
Hiking in May is one of the best times of the year to hike! It is a great time to avoid the crowds and get totally unique views of the mountains! Weather can be unpredictable though so planning ahead and making sure you are dressed properly is even more essential than normal! Don’t let the weather get you down, get out there and climb!
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