"Getting an early start is always important," our founder said the August 2009 issue of Living.

By Nancy Mattia
February 19, 2020
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When Martha hosts overnight guests at her Maine home near Acadia National Park, there's something they should be prepared for: waking up at 4 a.m. to go hiking with our founder before the sun has risen. "Getting an early start is always important," Martha said in her column for the August 2009 issue of Living. An avid hiker who's trekked up mountains in India, climbed Kilimanjaro in Africa, and hiked in Colorado, Northern California, Utah, and Europe, she continued, "I love the solitude and the light of early morning and the opportunity to see wildlife undisturbed by the tourists and hikers who hit the park later in the day."

There's something magical and mystical about the entire experience. If you're thinking, "Should I try sunrise hiking, too?" consider the following benefits.

Many other hikers will be sleeping in, so the trails will be quiet.

At that early hour, a sense of camaraderie often develops among the few hikers on the trail who also didn't hit the snooze button. They tend to be respectful of nature and want to enjoy the experience as much as you do—unlike the massive crowds later in the day, some of whom may even slow down hiking on the trail.

A sunrise hike is a special experience to share with family and friends.

Martha and 18 pals once took a memorable sunrise hike in Acadia to celebrate the turn of the millennium. "The snow was a foot deep and the air was clear, the sky full of constellations," she wrote in her column in a special issue of Living published in 2000. "As we trudged through the forest, illuminating our way with headlamps and flashlights, we chattered on. At 6:22, we gasped as the first ray burst over the horizon in a vivid shade of green. We knew we had experienced a special treat of nature."

You'll get a good workout first thing in the morning.

Hiking offers a great cardio workout, strengthens glutes and hamstrings, and may lower blood pressure; you may also notice improved balance since hiking engages the core muscles. Some studies say early morning exercise improves cognitive function, too. "Wear comfortable, nonslip shoes or boots," Martha advised in her August 2009 column. "Dress in layers, and bring a hat and sunglasses. Bring a small, lightweight backpack, and fill it with basic first-aid needs, a compass, a trail map, tissues, bottled water, and a rain jacket. It's also a good idea to carry a small flashlight, a whistle, and a penknife."

You'll have a spectacular front-row seat to nature.

Sunrise is one of the best times to get closer to nature. When Martha hikes in Acadia, she loves the hiking trails that "crisscross rocky cliffs, gentle meadows, sand and rocky beaches, and dense evergreen forests." Knowing you're seeing nature all around you before most people have had their first cup of coffee is inspiring.

You can hike longer and not worry about the sun.

Experienced hikers know that starting a hike in the early morning hours means you can stay on the trails longer and not worry about rushing to get off before dark. Depending on where you're hiking, you might also miss the effects of the blistering sun. In very hot or dry climates, overheating or getting dehydrated are issues. "On long hikes (more than four miles)," Martha said, "bring along a healthy snack." If you're lucky, there will be no line at the popular breakfast spot in town. After your hike, you walk in and get a booth right away. At such an early hour, there's no waiting. You swear that those post-sunrise pancakes taste better somehow.

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