I pulled into the trailhead at around 9 a.m. and I could hardly believe my eyes: The scene that opened up before me was not a sea of parked cars crammed into every last nook, as I had become so used to seeing here. It was an open expanse, dotted with only two other vehicles. 

This was the Garden Trailhead in the heart of the Adirondack High Peaks, after all, where arriving any time after 6 a.m. was usually a lost cause. But not today, because after years of trying to beat the weekend rush, I was doing something revolutionary: hiking on a Thursday.

Okay, so maybe revolutionary is too strong a word. But since I’ve started working for myself and making my own schedule, hiking on weekdays has totally transformed my adventure experience for the better. And I’m convinced that everyone should try to make weekday hiking a more frequent part of their rotation.

Reason 1: Hitting the Snooze Button

The most obvious benefit of hiking on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays—safely separated from weekenders—is the lack of traffic. This is no small thing, especially in the Adirondacks. The summer of Covid-19 brought a rush of hikers the likes of which northern New York state has never seen. It was a new high-water mark after years of suffocating crowds in the High Peaks region, which regularly leads to overflowing trailheads on weekends.

My tactic for avoiding this mess had always been a matter of timing: How early could I manage to roll out of bed and hit the road? It wasn’t uncommon for my alarm to go off at 4 or even 3 a.m. Keep in mind, I only live two hours from most trailheads in the Adirondacks.

While I did derive a certain amount of pride from my hardcore hiking schedule, shifting my outings to weekdays has been a complete delight. Now I often don’t even leave my apartment until 7:30 a.m., without a worry in the world about finding a parking spot. 

Reason 2: A Softer Step

Enough about traveling to the trailhead. Hiking on weekdays is much better when you’re on the trail, too.

For one, I often go entire days without encountering another person. That gives me a real sense of solitude and space to let my mind decompress, especially in constantly-stressful Covid times. I can listen to the snow crunch under my boots, and marvel at the drooping branches encased in snow and ice.

Being mostly alone on the trails also helps reduce the trampling effect of large crowds who increasingly swarm popular mountains on the weekend. (For reference, about 34,500 people hiked Cascade Mountain in 2016, compared to 12,000 in 2010.) That overuse has contributed to soil loss, erosion and damage to natural vegetation, and highlighted the need for many trails to be rebuilt to handle higher capacity.

It’s not that I haven’t contributed to this problem — I’ve done many a weekend group hike in peak season. But now that Covid has totally reshaped how and when I hike, I can be one less set of boots beating down on the trails during the busiest times, which means I have fewer people to get around (potentially widening trails), can spread out a little bit more at the popular overlooks, and without a pile of cars overflowing onto shoulders and unintended parking areas, there’s less erosion to worry about near the road. 

How You Can Hike on Weekdays

This is great and all, but I realize most people’s work schedule doesn’t allow for hiking on any day they desire. Still, I think there are opportunities to shift even a fraction of your outings away from the weekends. 

Here’s one simple way: Burn some of that vacation time you’ve been hoarding throughout the pandemic. There’s no certainty about when you might be able to hop on a plane again, or go visit your favorite city. But what’s stopping you from taking a day or two off in the middle of the week, jumping in the car and taking a hike?

You can also think about taking advantage of weekday holidays. Especially in the time of Covid, when traditional holiday gatherings are all but out of the question, why not celebrate in a new way by visiting your favorite mountain? I’m willing to bet experiencing it without the rush of weekend crowds will make you love it even more.

It may be harder to carve out room for a weekday hike, but the benefits are so worth it. Once you’re out there enjoying a trail practically to yourself, you’ll be determined to make it happen again.