We’ve been hiking together for more than a decade, and we can never get bored of mountains, especially high mountains. We’re always happy to spend a week or two exploring them. Which trails we can actually take or how much time we can spend outdoors, however, is usually a gamble. Weather in the mountains is unpredictable. In the high mountains, hiking season is restricted to the summer months, and even then, any day could bring some rain – or a thunderstorm. The hottest days can easily end with a hailstorm. It can be drizzling or pouring rain for days. What can you do about it?
Certainly, you can’t do anything about the weather. But you can still try getting the most out of your hiking trip. We’re sharing all the things we learned on our rainy days (and there were many…) in the mountains. Hopefully, you can make use of them.
But first thing first, you need to make peace with the fact that things are unpredictable in the mountains. You’re always the weak one out there in mother nature, so you have to adapt and be flexible. When planning a hiking getaway, calculate with some bad weather days. Most probably, there will be some. This is not to discourage you, just to help you have realistic expectations.
We love the high mountains, no matter how many bad weather days we had (and as I said, we had many-many…). When the sun finally shines out, you forget everything else. You just look around, amazed. But, wait, we’re still in the rain, so let’s see how to make your day more enjoyable.
The obvious: waterproof clothes
No one would venture out onto high mountain trails without a waterproof jacket, right? Even if the sky is blue and the sun shines, and it doesn’t look like it will rain, it can happen later. Storms can build up very quickly. Especially on extremely hot days. So have your jacket with you, that’s my point.
Also, waterproof footwear is just as important as the jacket – if not more. Getting your feet wet and cold is the worst thing on a rainy day, we tell that from experience. That’s why we hike in waterproof hiking boots which are also useful on muddy terrain or when crossing small streams.
So waterproof hiking boots and jackets are our essentials on each hike. But when some chance of rain is forecasted, especially if we plan to do a full day hike, we also take our waterproof pants with us. Why do we need them? Hiking pants dry easily, don’t they? Yes, but only if the rain stops. When we hike hours in the pouring rain and our pants are soaking wet, that’s not a comfortable feeling. So we have a waterproof layer that can be zipped onto our hiking pants.
If we hike high, we take gloves with us, as well, no matter the season. But the season is usually summer, because that’s when you can hike really high. Like 2000+ meters. Needless to say, our gloves are also waterproof. Temperature drops when it rains, and we need sweaters and extra layers, sometimes gloves, too.
Choose your activity based on weather conditions
Now that we covered the topic of proper clothing in rainy weather, let’s see the more exciting stuff: what can you actually do? If it’s raining in a city, you find a museum, a cinema or a café, and the problem is solved. In the mountains, there are often only outdoor activities to choose from. That’s what you want, anyway, isn’t it? Enjoying nature. Ahem.
Check the current weather and the hourly weather forecast, that’s the first two things. If it’s only drizzling, or cloudy but not yet raining, we usually go and do something outdoors. If the forecast says 50-50 to rain or not rain (which is quite common, by the way), we definitely go out hiking. Sometimes we’re lucky, sometimes not. Hence the waterproof clothes.
If it’s pouring rain and it’s not likely to change within a couple of hours, then we curl up on the bed in our room and read a good book. (Well, since our boy was born, we only wish we could do it. Anyway, a good book can save the day.) It’s not fun being out in the storm. Unless you’re not actually outside…
Are there any caves in the area that might interest you? Ice cave? Dripstone cave? An old salt mine turned into a museum? You’re lucky then. Go and enjoy them! But check the opening hours and whether you can visit them individually or on a guided tour only.
Do you need ideas? We’ve collected some great places under the ground in Eastern Europe in this post!
Find easy trails to waterfalls or lakes
If it’s rainy or foggy, there’s no point taking the scenic trails with peak views. If you’re high enough, rain means that the clouds are low, anyway, and you can’t see anything in the clouds. Waterfalls can save your day though. It’s quite likely that there are a couple of easy and short waterfall trails near you. You’re in the high mountains, after all, where it rains a lot. These short waterfall trails offer nice views, and if the weather gets worse, you can quickly hike back to your car.
Easy loop trails around lakes can be similar. Or short trails in valleys, or trails through wildflower meadows. And if the rain stops by the afternoon, any kind of short trail is great for the rest of the day. So wherever you go hiking, search for some shorter, easier trails. Even if you plan to do full day hikes and conquer peaks, they’re great backups in case of bad weather. We sometimes do these 3-4 hours return trails even if it’s raining. Especially if that particular day is not the first rainy day. We’re just itching to go out, and 3-4 hours is what we can more or less enjoy even in the rain.
Soak in a spa
Again, there might or might not be a spa close enough to where you stay, but it’s worth checking. Get soaked in a way that you enjoy. 🙂 As for Europe, where we hiked the most, it’s full of spas or thermal spas, so you have a good chance being close to one.
Never attempt conquering peaks in bad weather!
After giving you ideas about what to do, let us tell you what NOT to do in bad weather. Don’t conquer peaks! You might have guessed it, anyway, because it makes sense. You won’t see any of that wonderful panorama that the peak normally offers, because peaks disappear in the clouds first. And it’s extremely dangerous hiking to a peak when it’s stormy. You can slip and fall on the wet rocks. Lightning can hit you. Just don’t do it, it isn’t worth the risk.
Finally, embrace the mud 🙂
If you hike in the rain or after the rain, you’ll be dirty. It can happen on a good hike, anyway. Don’t let it steal the joy.
Any other advice you’d add to the list? Share them in the comments!
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