A wonderful time of year is almost here – those glorious early days of autumn when the leaves start changing, the air gets a fresh tinge of coolness, and your favorite hiking trails take on a special aura of magic.

You need little more than some comfortable shoes and a light jacket to get the most out of a fall hike, but here are a few more tips to get a peak experience as the leaves achieve their peak color schemes.

Check This Fall Color Guide

The National Forest Service offers a fabulous interactive fall colors guide online. It will tell you which fall colors are peaking and where state by state. Different trees turn at other times. Finding out when and where Mother Nature puts on the best shows in your state will enhance your experience.

Dress for Temperature

It’s common for temperatures to fluctuate as much as 20 to 30 degrees on a typical fall day. That means a long hike of several hours could find you coping with a significantly different outdoor temperature from the start to the finish of your sojourn through nature. Make sure you have an extra layer that is easy to take on or pull off.

Gets Dark Sooner

After seemingly endless summer nights of light, fall means faster nightfall than one is accustomed to. It’s easy to lose track of time on a fall hike. If you go too far in one direction, you may wind up heading home in the dark. Look up the time of sunset in your location before heading out!

Hydrate

Bring along a water bottle. It’s always a healthy idea to keep your body hydrated during physical exertion. Cooler temperatures mean less sweating and water loss from the body. You’ll still benefit from a fresh drink as you hike, however.

Hunters May Be Out and About

Fall is also when the season begins for several species of birds and other kinds of animals pursued by hunters. Search online for hunting season starts in your state and the local area. Hunters most often shoot during predawn and early-day hours as well as near dusk. Wear bright colors to increase your visual appearance to warn hunters of your presence. You may also want to avoid popular hunting locations.