If you’ve ever been to camp, one of the most awesome adventures you can have is to take a night hike. Grab a flashlight and let’s head out into the dark woods to see what we can find!

When you’ve gone hiking in the past, it was most likely during the day. Why? Because it’s easier to see where you’re going, and humans are more active during the day.

So why hike at night? There are actually things you might never see unless you hike at night. More important, there are all sorts of things to hear and smell and even feel on a hike in the dark.

Human beings rely mainly on their eyes to sense what is around them. Human eyes are made for seeing in color with a lot of light.

When you go hiking after the sun goes down, you force your other senses — especially hearing and smell — into high gear when your eyes can no longer deliver the same amount of sensory information to your brain.

In fact, you can try an experiment right now. Go into a dark room or use a piece of cloth as a blindfold. Sit quietly and let your body adjust to not being able to see.

Can you feel your other senses becoming sharper? Do you find yourself listening more closely?

After you’ve been in the dark for a while (at least half an hour), your eyes will begin to adjust to the darkness. You’ll probably discover more than when you began your hike.

You’ll also begin to notice that it’s rarely ever completely dark. On a starry night, you may be able to see quite well. Take some time to explore the night sky. What do you notice that you can’t see during the day?

Night hiking is probably not in most people’s “comfort zone.” Being in unfamiliar surroundings with little light may make some people nervous or uncomfortable.

Taking a hike at night is all about challenging yourself to see things differently, though. If you approach it with an open mind and let your sense of wonder take over, it can be an experience you won’t soon forget.

In the woods at night, there seems to be an entirely new world that’s not around during the day. There are different sounds. There are different smells. And there are a group of animals that only come out at night.

We call these animals “nocturnal.” Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and are active only at night.

Some common nocturnal animals include bats, great horned owls, badgers, porcupines, beavers, tarantulas, skunks, wombats, raccoons and hedgehogs.

Nocturnal animals usually have advanced senses of hearing and smell. Some nocturnal animals, such as ferrets and cats, also have eyes that can adapt to both darkness and the bright of day.

Animals may be nocturnal for many reasons. Some animals are active at night to make it easier to find food. Others use the night to avoid becoming prey for predators.

Still others may prefer the night to avoid the heat of the day. This is especially true for desert animals that must conserve water.

When you go to sleep at night, there’s a whole other world that’s just starting to wake up. When you go on a night hike, you have the chance to explore this other world like a foreign land.

When you open your mind — and your eyes, ears and nose — to new challenges, you never know what you’ll find!

 

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  1. I would like to hike at night to try to increase my senses of smell and hearing and to see the differences between hiking in the day and at night. I also would like to look at the constellations in the night sky.

    • Thanks for this AWESOME comment, Jacob9, and for making today’s Camp What-a-Wonder GREAT! Let us know if you go an a hike at night with your family…we’d love to hear about all the WONDERful things you discover together! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder, Zach! We think hiking at night is a WONDERful experience!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why would you hike at night?
  • What does nocturnal mean?
  • Why do some animals only come out at night?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Lace up those hiking boots and grab a flashlight! It’s time to go on a night hike. Get some friends or family members to go with you.

If you’ve never been on a night hike before, start slow. Pick an area you’re familiar with. You can even start in your backyard or a local park. If you’ve been on many night hikes, feel free to pick a more adventurous trail in a local state park.

Before you head out, gather your supplies. You’ll want to bring along a flashlight, some water, maybe a few snacks and some bug spray.

If you can, you might also want to bring a camera and a notebook. If you see something interesting, take a picture or take some notes about your experience.

When you hit the trail, start slow. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness and your other senses heighten to help you navigate your path.

In addition to looking around, take some time to concentrate on your other senses. What do you hear? What can you smell?

Have fun exploring nature in the dark! We hope you have a great night hike. When you get back, be sure to email us or send us a note or a picture to let us know what you discovered in the dark!

Wonderopolis HQ
325 West Main Street, Suite 300
Louisville, KY 40202-4237

 

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Use Science NetLinks’ Star Search interactive to find constellations in the night sky!

 

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