While the idea of getting up at 3 a.m. for physical activity may not initially seem appealing, sunrise hikes are one highly gratifying experience.
For me, I completed this excursion by summiting Gunung Sibayak, an Indonesian volcano. Although the ascent was relatively short by hiking standards, only taking around two hours, it still provided the full experience, complete breath-taking summit views.
While this was certainly the highlight, every part of the journey holds its own unique experience. Armed with only a can of coffee (which I bought from a convenience store the night before, knowing how exhausted I would be at 3 a.m.) and my camera, I had the pleasure of encountering five extraordinary (and unexpected) reasons why I was glad I didn’t hit the snooze button:
1) Star gazing: Since most sunrise hikes begin in the middle of the night and tend to be far away from any light pollution, they provide the perfect opportunity to spot some shooting stars and constellations. Just make sure you don’t get too distracted while hiking and you bring a flashlight so you can watch your footing.
2) Waiting for the unveiling: The building anticipation combined with the hiking adrenaline provides a great boost to your system. Take the time to realize that you’ve put the hard work in and start to get ready for the reward.
3) The actual sunrise: You should be able to get at least a good half hour of beautiful, colour-changing skies and panoramas. Sit back and watch the scenery slowly reveal itself from behind a curtain of darkness and make sure you bring your camera and have plenty of space on your memory card!
4) The descent: Since the sun will now be fully up, the way back down will be a completely different experience than the way up. Stars will have been replaced with views of the natural environment and in most cases; the views on route also provide great scenery and photo ops.
5) That feeling of accomplishment when you realize it’s only 9 a.m. and you’ve already hiked up and down a mountain: I was lucky enough to be able to visit a nearby hot spring after my hike, and although it was still “early morning,” I had already earned the opportunity to just kick back and relax. Try not to plan a big night out after the hike though (or at least give yourself a nap beforehand)!