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Hiking

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.

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!

Haiku Stairs view from the summit

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.

Windy Ridge Moanalua Valley

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. 

Haiku Stairs and upcoming clouds

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. 

US United States

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

Fording the Fox River to Ballroom Overhang in the Paparoa National Park

Weather Westport

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°C / 77°F 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 / 50°F. The average day temps are below 20°C / 68°F but can reach up to 30°C / 86°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:
  • If you want to spoil yourselves close to the Pancake Rocks, the Punakaiki Forest Retreat might be the best option.
  • Just within walking distance to the Pancake Rocks are the beautiful Hydrangea Cottages. They are perfectly located to watch the sunset.
NZ New Zealand

Yosemite National Park! Mesmerizing and spectacular views! Read on for our complete season guide updated in 2019 or scroll down for tips about the most breathtaking places. Looking for something specific besides our season tips? Here's a quick navigation:


Special Tip: If you have limited time and like it hassle-free, take a look these tours: Yosemite National Park Tours (Service by the excellent provider GetYourGuide). Outstanding guides, stunning experience, and you get picked up and dropped off again at your hotel in case you're staying in San Francisco (depending on the tour)! Quote from a recent visitor: 'Brilliant guides very knowledgeable, had a brilliant day, amazing place to see , absolutely outstanding!'

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. However, even in summer you can dodge the tourist crowds. Follow our tips below 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)


Firefall by Ken Xu, CC BY, cropped

 

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Weather

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.

Sunrise on the famous Mount Kinabalu in the Sabah region

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. 

Top Tip

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.

MY Malaysia

The best months for a sunrise tour to the top of Mount Hehuanshan or Hehuan are during the driest time of the year from December until March. The sunlight has a little variation from summer to winter rising in June shortly after 5 and in January around 6.40.

Consider Three Things If You Like to Watch a Sunrise Above the Clouds

1. Go weekdays
2. Don’t book your room far in advance. 
3. Travel to Taiwan during the driest months to increase the chance.

Sunrise on Mount Hehuanshan in Taiwan

Do you like to know more? Read the following tips to be successful in watching the sunrise for a jaw-dropping moment in your life.

Watching the sunrise on Mount Hehuanshan is very popular in Taiwan. If possible go on weekdays, weekends are super busy and fully booked. Don’t book the room far in advance. Check the weather forecast when traveling through Taiwan  Taiwan Weather

Pick a date when the forecast for the mountain range is good or even excellent. The receptionist told me often people are disappointed due to the bad weather. The whole week before our stay in November it was always foggy and rainy. 

Weather

Taiwan's climate is subtropical with wet and humid summers. Snow is common during winter mostly in January and February, and it gets very busy here. Most precipitation from April to July. There is less rain from August to November and the driest months are December until March, but pretty cold. Anyhow, even in the driest season, you can expect rain. During summer it's refreshing cool on 3000 m elevation. 

Highlights/Information

  • Visitor center opening hours: 8.30 until 4.30 pm but closed each month on the first and third Monday.
  • The whole area is famous for its beautiful Rhododendrons in April and May.
     

Check out complete Taiwan Guide from 2019 – Must know destinations and tips

TW Taiwan

Welcome to our unique Denali guide (updated 2019) with tips for each month, hiking insights, and everything you should know about the bus transport service. When is the best time to visit? Denali is open year-round. However, main activities and tours are being offered in summer only. Shuttle busses will get you into the wilderness from May 20 until mid-September. Now, read our season guide below the quick navigation or jump directly to the top hiking and bus tips.

Quick Navigation:

Special Tip: Don't forget to check out our unique Denali Bus FAQ at the end of this article. It's extremely helpful and answers all of your questions!

Weather overview? Find helpful weather details at: Denali Park Weather Monthly averages here: Climate Denali National Park (switch from C to F at the top right. Keep in mind that the temperatures vary depending on the elevation and the part of the park). Check the Denali Webcam at Wonder Lake and read on for more details about a summer, winter, spring or fall visit:


The best time to experience amazing fall foliage in Denali: Late August/early-September
 

Mid-May - late May (spring): May is the driest month and the weather starts to get warmer. Average high: 52°F (11°C). Most tours and the shuttle bus service start around mid-May. However, some snow has still to melt. As a result, the deeper parts of the park are often not fully accessible. Rates are low and there are no crowds.

June (late spring, summer): June is also a very dry month and temperatures climb. Average high: 66°F (19°). Flowers are in bloom and you get the most hours of daylight (Sunrise-Sunset Denali). After the first week of June, the park is usually fully accessible. Early June until mid-June is a great time before it starts to get crowded with tourists coming from cruise ships and everywhere else. Drawback: Mosquitoes are an issue from June until the end of July.

July (summer): July is the warmest months with temperatures climbing to 70°F (21°C) and still a lot of daylight (18-19 hours). There is slightly more precipitation than in June, but no need to worry about long periods of rain. July is the peak month in terms of visitation. Again, small drawback: Mosquitoes are still an issue.

August (late summer): It's still pleasant. However, temperatures already start to drop slightly but it's still a great month temperature wise. Average high: 62°F (17°C). Also, there are slightly fewer daylight hours in August (16-17 hours). August has the highest average precipitation of all months. However, nothing to worry about. You need to bring rain gear regardless of the month. In terms of visitors, it's still very crowded.

Early September - mid-September (early autumn): As temperatures drop it will be cooler in September and there is also less daylight (11-14 hours). Average high: 50°F (10°C). However, it's still a great month to visit as the temperature is still pleasant and all services are being offered until mid-September. After Labor Day Weekend (beginning of September) the crowds dissipate as well. You'll enjoy a much more peaceful park. Looking for the leaf color explosion? Fall foliage starts early in Denali. The peak time for the beautiful fall colors is usually the end of August and early September.

Mid-September - mid-October (autumn) and April - early May (spring): Most services are shut down, restaurants, hotels, and shops are closed from mid-September to mid-May. However, the shoulder season can be quite rewarding as you can experience the 'real' Alaska. In the fall temperatures can still be pleasant or already freezing cold in October. Always check the weather forecast. In fall and spring, you need to rent a car as the shuttle service is not available. More helpful details about visiting in shoulder season: Fall and Spring Visit 

Late-October - March (winter): It gets freezing cold and it's time for Winter Activities. Including skiing, winter biking and snowshoeing. Temperatures are ranging from -40 degrees Fahrenheit and colder, to high 20s on warm days.


Avoiding Tourist Crowds

The summer months experience the highest visitation. Check out the visitation chart below, then our tips for enjoying  a more peaceful visit to Denali National Park.

  • Shoulder Weeks (late spring/early fall):
    To avoid the most crowds at the popular spots (entrance areas, bus tours, visitor centers, famous spots) during peak season, still use the shuttle bus service and enjoy mostly pleasant weather: Visit during either in the very short late spring or early fall season: End of May until mid-June or early September (after Labor Day) until mid-September.
     
  • Popular Tours in Shoulder Weeks:
    The very popular day tours which do not include hiking like the Tundra Wilderness Tour or the Kantishna Experience Tour are usually fully booked during peak months. During shoulder weeks (see above) there is a good chance that a tour bus is less than half full. That means you can spread out. The tours usually run from mid-May until mid-September (Kantishna from early June until mid-September). Read below for more info on bus tours.
     
  • Own Activities / Trail Hiking:
    You can avoid crowds in peak season by planning your own activities. And even if you only drive to Savage River (by free bus shuttle or with your own car) for the short hike and to spend time there, you'll avoid tourist groups by starting early. Check the list of trails: Denali Trail Details. Always start early, and you'll avoid the crowds. If you take a shuttle bus: Make an online reservation and book the earliest departure.
     
  • Off-Trail Hikes/Walks:
    Even in the summer, it's quite easy to get away from every group of tourists and spend time in solitude: Book a transit shuttle bus early in the morning departing from the WAC (Wilderness Access Center). Get off the bus wherever you like and start hiking or walking. Regardless of your fitness level or age! If you feel intimidated, you can stay close to the park road the whole time and still experience stunning wilderness and wildlife. Get back on the bus to WAC whenever you like for free. Find more details about easy off-trail hikes (even short 1-2 hours hikes/walks) below in the hiking and shuttle text section.
     
  • Stay at a Hotel Outside the Park:
    The entrance area is always filled with thousands of people in the summer. The same applies to the hotels very close to the entrance (Princes Lodges, Bluffs Hotels, …). The easiest way to avoid those heavily crowded areas is to take advantage of the more quiet lodging alternatives in Healy (17 Minute Drive - Google Maps). You'd need a rental car in case the hotel doesn't offer a shuttle service (UBER is also available now), but the hotels there are also less expensive. Check the best prices and book well ahead: Healy - Recommended Hotels
 

Wildlife / Flora / Northern Lights

The best time of day to spot wildlife is in the morning or late afternoon/evening. Being on a bus long enough increases your chances. Best season is during the warmer summer months. There is not much wildlife in the winter due to hibernation. Denali also has a rich and amazing flora. Wildflowers begin to bloom in early June till late July. How to spot the Northern Lights? Since the Denali region is almost free light pollution,  it's an excellent area to see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights).  The sky must be dark enough and clear. With a partly clouded sky, it's less likely to experience it. Time of day? Usually, you can start looking after 1,5 hours after sunset. It's possible to see the Aurora here between mid-August and early-May. However, the highest chance to spot Northern Lights is in March/April and September/October.

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