Check the latest trail conditions. Check for recent trip reports from other hikers to confirm your chosen trail is snow-free. And always call ahead to local ranger stations for conditions.
Let someone know where you are going. Tell them when you expect to return (and call them when you do return). If your destination changes, follow up and let someone know. Here is an easy form to share your hike itinerary with someone.
Always pack the 10 essentials on any hike. These include a topographic map, compass, extra food, extra clothing, firestarter, matches, sun protection, a pocket knife, first-aid kit, and flashlight. In unpredictable weather, it’s also a good idea to bring some sort of emergency shelter, even on a day hike. Hiking poles or ice axes can be of help on stretches of unexpected icy or snow-covered patches. Remember, cell phones don’t always get reception and batteries can fade quickly in cold weather. They are not a substitute for carrying the backcountry essentials that could save your life.
Watch weather forecasts. This time of year, weather can turn cold and rainy, even snowy, in an instant. Hikers should turn back if encountering treacherous snow and ice unless equipped with an ice ax and knowledgeable about how to use it, and be aware of avalanche danger.
Be aware of hunting seasons. Autumn is hunting season, and each year hunters come out to pursue elk, deer, and other game. Be sure to wear blaze orange if hiking in an area where hunters frequent.