Monday, June 8, 2009

Night Hiking in Tucson, Arizona

Image Above: Midnight in the Catalina Mountains
Night hikes feel like odysseys through a parallel universe. The familiar elements of the day are replaced by strange counterparts. The sun is replaced by a ghostly reflection, and the songs of birds are replaced by the eerily similar chirping of bats. The outlines of plants and stones, cloaked in a veil of darkness, appear suddenly and unexpectedly. And it is all wonderful!

Here in Tucson, the summer is really starting to heat up, and hiking during the day can be nearly unbearable. Night hiking is the brilliant solution to this problem. The weather is much cooler, you have the trails to yourself, and you can explore the brilliant nightscapes of your familiar daytime hikes.

Night Hiking Tips
  • Go when the moon is close to full. Once my eyes adjusted, I found that the moon provided enough light to hike. Check this site for moon rise/set times and lunar luminosity (fullness).
  • Bring two lights. The moon does not always provide enough light, particularly if the terrain is rocky or the weather is overcast. Bring two! I had a flashlight break in the middle of a Hawaiian lava field. With no back up, I was stuck trying to get back with nothing but my phone for light. Needless to say this is a major pain.
  • Bring a GPS unit or a compass or both. It is much easier to get lost in the dark. Landmarks are difficult to spot, and it is much easier to accidentally get off the trail.
  • Bring Water. It may be cooler, but you still need to drink.
  • If you plan on taking pictures, you will need a tripod and a remote shutter release cable. Both the images above were taken using 20+ second exposures.


  1. I absolutely LOVE the cactus and the moon! Amazing!

  2. Hi Ben,

    Your Tucson series is amazing... :D It's hrd to find a favorite among your photographs...

    I haven't tried night hiking... I am considering it now... :D

  3. i actually have been wanting to be in the desert at night, to witness the wonderful the sky. seeing your pictures just further encourages me to do it one day.

  4. Tucson is just too beautiful!

  5. Thanks Mark. I am really enjoying capturing these beautiful moments and spots. Night hiking really is very interesting. It opens up a whole new realm of photography, too.

    Betchai, you really should. Arizona has many spots that are free from light pollution, and consequently great spots for viewing (and photographing) stars.

    It is, isn't it? I feel like I'm only just beginning to capture its beauty.

  6. Great site!!! I really need to do more outdoor stuff. I actually went hiking in the south of France near Biarritz, and when I was driving to the mountain my tire went flat and I had no idea how to change it. A helpful stranger gave me a hand but I think everyone should know how to change a tire especially if you are going on a long trip somewhere. I found this video a couple of months ago that explains how to change a tire but I wish I had had watched before

  7. Night forest walks are very different from hiking in daytime. In the night every familiar track becomes full of new exciting impressions.
    What about flashlights it IS better better to take two. Once our flashlight broke when we were far away from home (20km or so). Good thing my husband new the roads too well to get lost.
    I enjoyed your photos very much especially the one with cactus. Gorgeous!

  8. Nice! I will have to drop a link to your site on mine for our viewers!

  9. Thanks! I always appreciate feedback, and I love when people share my posts.