Hiking is an excellent way to get exercise and fresh air this summer. It’s critical to be safe when you hit the trails. Follow these essential safety tips when you hike for a safe and fun time for everyone.
Plan Your Hike
The first step to planning a safe hiking adventure is knowing your limitations. Select a hike that is the proper distance and difficulty for your skill level. Most people hike an average distance of 1.5 to 3 miles an hour. Hiking speed depends on your fitness level, the terrain, elevation changes, and how much weight you’re carrying.
Want to plan to hike for an hour? Find an easy to moderate hike that is somewhere around two miles long. Keep in mind that young children will typically meander at a much slower speed. Also, it’s a good idea to print out or bring a photo of the trail map in case there isn’t one available at the trailhead.
Before Heading Out
Check the weather before embarking on your trip. Summertime can mean afternoon thunderstorms, which you don’t want to experience in the woods. Rain the night before may leave trails wet and slippery. Read trail reviews to find out if it’s worth waiting until the trails dry out if it’s prone to getting muddy.
It’s always safer to hike with another adult, so find a friend to come along. Inform someone at home of your plan and let them know where you are going and when you plan to be back. Then, they know where to start looking if something happens to you.
Make sure you’re properly hydrated before starting your hike. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, fatigue, and cramps, making it more challenging to hike safely. Also, be sure to pack a backpack with any needed supplies.
Bring the Right Supplies
Preparing for your hike with the right equipment will also prevent or prepare you for any safety issues. Sturdy shoes are a must! Rugged terrain and improper footwear are a recipe for falls and sprained ankles. Apply sunblock to prevent burns and bug spray to keep away mosquitos, ticks, and other insects.
Be prepared for all weather conditions. Bring layers because the weather can change quickly, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared. If rain is likely, pack a raincoat and an extra pair of socks.
Bring plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized, even if you only plan on hiking for a short time. You never know when you might get stranded, lost, or take longer than expected. A fully charged phone, first aid kit, and flashlight will be helpful in case there is an injury, or you lose your way. And, of course, bring your camera to take photos of the scenery and your hiking companions.
Protect Yourself from Wildlife
Educate yourself on what to do if you meet wildlife common to your area on the trail. For example, if you encounter a snake, give them plenty of room and back away, or try to walk around them if you have enough space. Do not throw rocks at a snake or try to move or harm it.
Never feed any wild animals. This will encourage them to approach you and other humans. If ticks are an issue where you are hiking, wear a hat and long clothing, and tuck your pants into your socks.
Stay Alert and Aware
Be aware of your surroundings at all times. This means keeping an eye out for animals, hazardous terrain, and other hikers. Be careful when crossing streams or rivers. Wet rocks can be slippery, so take your time and be cautious. When in doubt, turn back. If you’re feeling unsafe or unsure of your route, it’s better to turn around and head back the way you came.
Mind the Trail Rules & Courtesies
Following the trail’s rules ensures a safe and pleasant experience for everyone. Always hike on marked trails. This will help you stay safe and help you avoid getting lost. Pack out any trash. Walk on the right side of the trail and allow faster hikers to pass you.
Follow Dog Restrictions
Before bringing along your four-legged friends, find out if the trail allows for dogs and if they have any leash restrictions. Always bring plenty of doggy bags! And keep your dog within your leash or voice control, especially when encountering other dogs and hikers.
Following these safety tips makes for a safe and enjoyable hike and more fun for the whole family!
This content is brought to you by Metroparks. One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The Metroparks are open 365 days a year and encompass 25,000 acres of nature and recreational facilities. Each year more than 1.5 million people engage with the Metroparks to enjoy amenities such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, disc golf, cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and a diversity of outdoor programs and special events. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history and the environment. Learn more at Metroparks.com.