When should you hike a trail? Some hikes lead to fascinating forests, some have tremendous views and others are rich in variety. Share your favorite trails with other hikers and nature lovers.
The glacier is open year-round. The best time to visit Franz Josef depends on what you’re looking for. Mild temperatures? Ice highlights? Fewer Crowds? Read on for our detailed ‘WHEN TO GO’ tips:
Weather / Crowds / Highlights
In general, the weather is highly unpredictable in this region, regardless of the season. Within one day it can change radically. Always bring rain gear, despite a sunny weather forecast. The Franz Josef town experiences more than 5 liters of rain each year and 10-15 meters of snow at the top of the glacier. However, in the winter it’s more stable.
June - August (winter): Temperatures are low: 5 – 15°C (41-57°F), but the weather is more stable than during other seasons. Winter has the clearest days; everything is clean and pristine. Highlight: The ice moves less in winter, resulting in amazing ice features like crevasses and ice caves which stay much longer. There are significantly fewer tourists, and it’s a lot quieter than in summer months.
September - November (spring): Temperatures are rising: 9 – 17°C (48-63°F). September is still quiet but also still a cool month with 6-13°C. October gets a little more busy and warmer. November is already peak season which means it gets crowded during the day.
December - February (summer): Mild daytime temperatures between 12 and 25°C (53-77°F). Great for exploring. However, the weather is very unpredictable and can quickly change from sun to heavy rainfall which might last for hours or even days. It’s also the very busy peak season: Starting in November (spring) and lasting until March with up to 2700 tourists each day. Be prepared for crowded tracks and photo spots.
March - May (fall): Temperatures continue to be pleasant: 9 – 17°C (48-63°F). However, be prepared for rain like in the summer. In March it’s still busy. The heavy crowds start to dissipate during April and thin out even more in May.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
It’s usually very busy and crowded in high season between November and March with one million visitors each year. Especially if you want to take the popular 45 minutes walk to the glacier (90 minutes round trip). Although there is plenty of parking space, it fills up pretty quick by mid-morning. In peak season it can become quite difficult to find a parking spot after 10 AM. The main track itself gets crowded as well, although it thins out a little as you near the glacier. When parts of the track are closed during or after heavy rainfall, it feels even more crowded. Moreover, the helicopter sightseeing and hiking flights start at 8 AM making a lot of noise. Expect one helicopter each minute during the peak season. To dodge the crowds and avoid the disturbing helicopter noise be there early around 7 AM. You’ll experience a much more peaceful walk to the glacier and enjoy the fascinating sights in solitude. You might also try to go after 5 PM in the summer, after 3 PM in the winter when the crowds dissipated again and heli flights are terminated for the day. However, the views often get worse since the clouds descend later in the day.
Where to Stay
- Best Hotels - Franz Josef. Use the comfortable search: Enter your preferred dates and then check the list of hotels. Make sure to change the search criteria to your liking at the top bar. We usually select 'Review Score & Price'.
- Top Tip: Aspen Court Franz Josef. Outstanding experience! Great location close to hot pools (across the road) and restaurants. 10-minute drive (google maps route) to the Glacier parking lot. Friendly staff, clean and modern rooms (hotel opened December 2013), some rooms have a spa bath!
- We'd chosen the Glacier Highway Motel opened in December 2017. All have a kitchenette, the motel is quietly located, and the staff is super friendly.
Best time for hiking the Kalalau trail is the drier season between May and October however showers occur frequently. After Hanakāpīʻai Beach it is almost impossible to hike this trail in very wet conditions. It is very slippery and muddy on the narrow footpath. The only option is a pair of mini-crampons.
Trail closure due to immense flooding mid-April 2018. The highway and bridges to the Haena State Park got also flooded and destroyed. The park and trail remain closed for an indefinite time. Local people believe it will take almost a year due to the massive destruction. Meanwhile, it looked like the trail could be reopened in December, but due to additional storms, the Kalalau trail may be closed until mid-2019!! Do you look for alternatives to explore the Napali Coast? Scroll down for more details.
Update Feb 2019: Trail remains closed at least until mid-2019!
Kauai is wetter than the other Hawaiian Islands, therefore, called "The Garden Island". The rainy season starts in November and lasts until April. The north and east coast gets more rain than south and west which is the leeward side. Mostly showers are short, often in the night, and the sun returns quickly.
The first part of the trail until the Hanakāpīʻai Beach is accessible without a permit. The reason that it gets super busy here. Afterward, the crowds thin out. The Kalalau Trail is almost always fully booked. You have to get your permit far in advance. Tuesdays are often not full due to Haena Park closure. Shoulder season in spring between mid-April to mid-June and in fall from September to October. Crowded during summer with hikers and kayaks, during Christmas, New Year's Eve, Independence Day and June 9th is a bank holiday.
Parking at the Kalalau Trail
Limited parking at Haena State Park. Arrive early the car park fills up quickly. Don't leave any luggage in the car. It is not safe, and the car might be broken-up!!
Where to Stay
You can stay at Haena State Park and campground, but it is closed every Monday from 10 a.m. to Tuesday 12 p.m. for maintenance. The reason that the Kalalau trail is often not fully booked on Tuesdays. Be aware of leaving your valuables and bags in the car is not recommended. We, a part of the team, saw a couple of rental cars on Kauai which had a broken side window and glass on the ground respectively.
Close by is the town of Princeville; ideally located in the north to buy your groceries and to enjoy the Queen's Bath. Also not far away is the gorgeous Hanalei Beach Park. Have a closer look at the different private apartment rentals and hotels. Princeville accommodations
First of all, hiking on the Haiku Stairs is illegal, and the stairs are officially closed! A $1000 fine and an appearance in court was something we wanted to circumvent. This fine really exist! Therefore, we had chosen the more difficult and dangerous trail through the Moanalua Valley. However, even trespassing the Haiku Stairs will be prosecuted, but usually, there isn't any police at the top. And of course, when you reach the popular stairs, you want to access them and take the best snap of your whole vacation. We only recommend to hike up and down the legal way, otherwise, you may get into trouble. We even saw a police helicopter while walking a part of the stairs.
Update Feb 2019: Don't even think of hiking up and down the Haiku Stairs. There is more security now and a regular police presence. Occasionally police helicopters check if people are on the stairs. A guide is not needed a good preparation for the Moanalua Track is relevant!
Most important for the hike is the weather. Pick out the day with the most stable weather and if it was dry the day before even better. Although Honolulu is dry rain may occur in the valley and on the ridge. You can’t avoid getting dirty on this adventurous path. Don’t underestimate the trail difficulties. Much needed for the steep ascent and descent back through muddy and slippery soil are “mini” crampons. If you want to use the provided ropes gloves may be necessary, too. Do you like to do the hike and see the excellent view down the stairs? Read all our insights on how to be prepared and experience one of the most thrilling hikes ever.
Hiking Conditions and Crowds
The Moanalua Valley, especially the ridge to the Keahiakahoe summit and also the Haiku Stairs experience a lot of rain even during the drier season in summer. The exhausting hike can be done all year, but it’s easier to cope with all difficulties in the drier season. There is often a strong wind and fog which makes hiking along the ridge difficult. Read on for detailed tips by season.
Spring (Low Season)
It starts to get drier, but the trail is still extremely muddy and slippery. The Moanalua stream may have low flow and fording or hopping from stone to stone is necessary a couple of times. This improves in June, and the stream may be dried out. The temp along the trail is above 70°F, but it gets chilly on the ridge and the top due to the strong wind. The islands are not much crowded in spring. It starts to get busier in June, but still acceptable. June is one of the best months for this hike. Nevertheless, always check the weather forecast before; flooding can happen.
Summer (Peak Season)
It’s drier but the humidity is higher, and it gets hot while hiking and climbing. If you can avoid, don’t travel to Oahu in July and August. Prices are at the highest and hotels are booked to capacity.
Autumn (Low Season)
Usually, September is the best month for the hike. The stream may be dried out and it’s easy to walk the first 2.8 miles / 4.5 km. It’s less busy on the island, and the temps are pleasant. October is fine as well. November gets wetter, and trail conditions are getting worse. Monitor the clouds on the mountain ridge. It may be possible to hike, but it’s even more difficult and dangerous in rain and clouds. We can’t recommend hiking in the rain.
Winter (Low and Peak Season)
Expect more rain during the winter. It’s more likely that the Moanalua stream gets flooded. The north and east experience more rainfall. It’s the coldest time of the year but still up to 80°F in Honolulu at daytime. It's possible to hike the trail but expect the worst conditions when climbing up. The way back is even more slippery than usual. Don't hike in rain and clouds. The first part of December is still not too busy, but it gets crowded from the second half of December and in January. Although it’s not the best time for Hawaii hotels are fully booked, and hotel rates are the highest.
The Ballroom Overhang is a hiking highlight in the Paparoa National Park. This trail includes 8 river crossings one way and can be hiked only in right weather conditions. The Fox River shouldn’t be higher than your knees at the first crossing. Check the weather forecast before hiking. Consider if there is rain predicted the water level can rise quickly and hikers can get trapped. It’s dangerous to hike here in flood. Weather Forecast Punakaiki Area
It’s a mild climate due to the close location to the sea. Weather in NZ and especially on the West Coast is very changeable. You can experience 25 degrees one day and the next day heavy rainfall and much colder temps. The warmest months are November to March. If you camp consider the average low night temps of around 10°C. The average day temps are below 20°C but can reach up to 30°C in summer. Nights are pretty chilly from May to September. Rain is very common coming from the Tasman Sea on the West Coast on average each month more than 200 mm except February which is usually a little drier. Generally, spring (Sep.-Nov.) is the wettest time of the year.
Where to Stay Nearby:
Yosemite National Park! Mesmerizing and spectacular views! Read on for our complete season guide or scroll down for tips about the most breathtaking places: Half Dome, Lower Yosemite Falls, Glacier Point.
The best sweet spot months with mostly pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds are mid-May until early-June and late September until mid-October. July and August are ridiculously busy. However, if you can only visit in summer, we have great tips to avoid crowds (see below). Waterfalls are at their best in late May, and skiing the Badger Pass lasts through the end of March. Backpackers thrive into early October, while those who prefer to drive do best when all roads are likely to be open July through September. Take a look at our seasonal breakdown. We went to Yosemite ourselves many times, also analyzed thousands of reviews to help you determine the advantages of each season:
Please note: These are temperatures for lower elevations. It gets a lot cooler at higher elevations!
SPRING (April - May)
April's showers (and melting snowcaps) bring May's spectacular waterfalls.
Weather: Though it varies, temperatures are getting warmer. Average daytime highs hover around 70, though it is always possible to encounter a late winter snowstorm.
Accessible Areas: Lower elevation and good roads make Yosemite Valley and Wawona accessible all year long. It is difficult to predict the likelihood to enter Tioga and Glacier Point Roads due to residual snow. Crews begin clearing snow April 15, but work can last well into May. Weekends can be especially busy, be sure to arrive early to avoid unnecessary delays.
Highlights: Water is abundant in spring. Well-known rivers and waterfalls reach peak runoff in late May, and this is by far the most popular time to see them. Check out the booming rush of water at Ribbon Falls, which only flows through June. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in all of North America. Don't expect to be wowed by the wildflowers; it's still too early for the blooms, though you might catch a few poppies or redwood along the way.
Crowds: Light in April. It gets busier in May. Especially weekends are crowded in late spring, visit midweek, and get to the main hot spots first thing in the morning. Try to avoid the extremely congested Memorial Day weekend.
SUMMER (June, July, August, early September)
Sweet summer weather brings peak level crowds.
Weather: Ample sunshine. Average temps soar to nearly 90, but cool down significantly under the night sky.
Accessible Areas: Most of the park is accessible now, but it is still possible to discover your own private paradise. Venture outside of Yosemite Valley, and away from the crowds. Take in the stunning views in High Sierra where you will be met by little more than a cool mountain breeze.
Highlights: Waterfall flow is typically still at its peak in early June and often remains high by mid-June. Itbegins to slow in July due to warmer weather. Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil Falls run all year; however, their flow can be very low by late summer. Yosemite Falls may dry out completely by August. Check Yosemite Falls Webcam to see the current flow. Your draw in summer is the spectacular colors of the wildflowers. In the valley, the blooms burst in June. Follow the winding river in Tuolumne Meadows, and enjoy the sub-alpine flowers like gentium or shooting stars. Explore one of the many trails that begin in these meadows, including the route to the summit of Mount Lyell, the highest in the park.
Crowds: June is already busy, while July and August are extremely jammed. Popular spots will be crowded all season, and expect long lines at entrance points. Take a chance and hike a lesser known trail instead.
AUTUMN (early September, October, November)
Crisp breeze and colorful trees, along with dwindling crowds make fall one of the best times to visit the park.
Weather: Varies. Average daytime temps are in the 50's, but it is not unusual to see drastic ranges. Snow and rain are also possible, especially at higher elevations. Yosemite Valley is your best bet for comfortable daytime weather; though expect it to turn chilly when the sun goes down.
Accessible Areas: Most areas in the park remain open through October, though this is fully dependent on the weather. Services begin to shut down in mid-September, and the park does not allow overnight parking after mid-October. In late fall, your best bet is Wawona and Yosemite Valley, but even there you may require tire chains.
Highlights: As the snow begins to fall, so does the water. Yosemite Falls has been dry all late summer and early autumn but resumes its flow quickly usally by November (after a little snowfall). From Wawona, your best bet is Chilnualna Falls. You will have to hike to it, but the way it twists and turns through the rocks makes it completely worth the effort. Fall colors peak around mid-October, though don't expect to see radiant hues throughout. Most trees are evergreen, but shades of yellows, orange, and even some purples can be found sprinkled among the trees.
Crowds: Warning. Early September (Labor Day Weekend) sees the highest crowds. After Labor Day it's less crowded but still busy. Even if you visit mid-September avoid weekends and try to get up early. Crowds start to thin out by late September. In October everything is much quieter. As long as the roads remain open, you are likely to have the place to yourself in late autumn.
WINTER (December, January, February, March)
If solitude is what you seek, winter will be a treat.
Weather: Cold. Snow and wind are a constant presence, though you might find a few sunny days in between storms. Temperatures in Yosemite Valley are more moderate, averages remain in the low 50's, though evening lows can dip below zero.
Accessible Areas: There are few trails visible enough to hike during winter, and once Tioga Road is closed vehicles are prohibited for your safety. Ski areas remain open, as the Badger Pass is plowed often. Both downhill and cross-country activities are popular here, and there are some great runs for snowboarders as well.
Highlights: Water is flowing again, thanks to the snow and rain, and it is possible to get some great winter shots of the falls. If you get to Yosemite Falls early enough, it is possible to see it frozen solid. If possible, consider visiting the Horsetail Fall Firefall. Only occurring in winter when the sun is at just the right angle, this natural beauty looks just like a cascading flow of fire. It is truly unforgettable. The peak time for the Firefall is usually from February 17-19. However, it can vary. The sweeping snowy vistas are magical in the winter, and the lack of crowds make it even better. Yosemite Valley is your best bet to find a route to hike, keep in mind the trails range in difficulty and distance, so plan accordingly.
Crowds: None. You are likely to encounter some crowds at the ski areas, but if your intent is just to visit the park, you may be lucky enough to never see another person.
How to Avoid the Crowds
Your best bet to avoid the crowds is to visit in spring, late autumn, or winter. If a summer trip cannot be avoided, follow these tips to get the most out of your visit.
Get up early:
There is nothing more spectacular than a Yosemite sunrise, and if you can make yourself get up early, you will essentially have the place (almost) to yourself. Take advantage of the morning's first light, and your reward will be some phenomenal photos. Park rangers suggest starting before 9 a.m. Although not packed, very popular places can already get busier between 9 and 10 a.m. in the peak months. The earlier you arrive, the better.
Stay up late:
If you are not an early riser, you might prefer the big sky at night. Under the light of the moon and millions of stars, you can't help but feel amazed at what nature has to offer. The park hosts free astronomy lessons, but to truly avoid the crowds, try to find a more remote spot instead. These night sky views are unforgettable. Crowds start to dissipate after 5 p.m.
Venture away from the main tourist sites:
Sure, they are likely the reason you chose Yosemite, but the same is true for everyone else. Consider a visit to the High Sierra, where there are no crowds and expansive views. This makes a great location for a multi-day hike, or a home base for camping.
Step out of your comfort zone:
Or your vehicle. Most tourists visit the park in their cars which can create traffic jams and on top of that, you only get a glimpse into what Yosemite has to offer. Park your car and take a hike instead. A little mountain fresh air is good for the soul, and the best part is, the views only get better as you go. Trails range in difficulty and distance, so be sure to consider your physical ability and time frame as you plan. Avoid the Mist Trail unless you arrive first thing in the morning, as it is one of the most popular, and does see a lot of crowd action as the day wears on.
Pack a cooler:
Pull off somewhere special to enjoy a private picnic. You will thank yourself when you see the lines at the restaurants. Not only do you have the freedom to choose when and where you stop, you have full control of your food choices. Park dining options are great in a pinch, but tend to offer mediocre food, for pretty steep prices.
Yosemite Firefall (Winter / See Tips Above)
Sabah can be traveled throughout the year, but June to September can be hot. Climbing Mount Kota Kinabalu is best during the dry season in March and April with a higher chance for clear views. Anyhow, rain can also occur at this time of the year. October to January is the North-East Monsoon that brings heavy and frequent rain. It is worst in November and December. Dry periods can occur, but the monsoon can spoil the whole trip.
Nowadays it's a very popular hike; early booking is essential minimum 6 months in advance! Climbing is limited to 135 people per day since the earthquake in 2015 where people and even children died.
If you want to explore a less busy part of the mountain; at Panar Laban Rock Face on 3.300 m elevation starts the world highest via ferrata. It was opened in 2007 with different routes and difficulties. More information about climbing activities.
Where to Stay
If you like to climb Mount Kota Kinabalu you should book an exceptional lodge before. It'll be pretty strenuous. If you want to explore Mount Kinabalu National Park without climbing to the summit choose a lodge which is not too far located. The very best location already inside the Kinabalu Park offers the Sutera Sanctuary Lodges At Kinabalu Park. An alternative but not as comfortable is the Happy Garden Resort close to the Kinabalu Park Entrance.