Health Advocate Blog

Enjoy the great outdoors safely this summer

Get outside! Going for a hike can help you stay active while offering a fun opportunity to explore nature, whether in a local park or an exciting new destination. While hiking is a fantastic activity that can be done almost year-round, it is important to keep yourself and your fellow hikers safe so everyone can enjoy their adventures. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning your next outing:

Have a plan. Take a look at maps or local guides to determine the best hike for you. Ensure you select an option that matches your group’s skill level. Most guides will include an overview of terrain, distance and difficulty so you can prepare in advance. If you are hiking at a larger state or national park, most will have park rangers on staff to help you make the best choice.

Buddy up. Having a friend or family member along is motivating and fun, but it also helps keep you safe while out in the wilderness. If you decide to go out solo, make sure to inform someone beforehand about your plan and when you’ll be back. Call or text them when you return so they know you are safe. It’s also a good idea to leave a note in your vehicle or with the park office that includes your plan and emergency contact just in case anything happens. Even if you are hiking with someone else, it is still a good idea to notify other people of your plans.

Have an emergency plan. Part of the beauty of being in nature is being able to unplug, but not having cell service can make things difficult in an emergency. Planning ahead helps reduce the risk of something happening. In addition to notifying others of your itinerary in advance, think ahead to how you will get help if needed. Do you have a way to reach others outside your group? Can someone go for help if needed? Do you have a first aid kit with you? The park rangers can help you with any questions about resources available where you are.

Dress appropriately. The weather and terrain can change rapidly while out on a hike. Whether you are deep in the woods, trekking a desert landscape or climbing up the side of a mountain, temperatures can fluctuate and storms can spring up seemingly out of nowhere. Check the forecast before you go, and make sure you have what you need with you. Dress in layers, and wear appropriate shoes to protect your feet and ankles on uneven terrain (and make sure to break them in ahead of time!).

Protect yourself from the sun and critters. It’s best to start a hike earlier in the day when the sun isn’t as strong, but taking precautions against the sun and heat is still important. Bring lots of water and stay hydrated. Apply sunscreen before you head out, and reapply as needed throughout the day. Wearing a hat can protect your from the sun as well as from ticks. Check with the park rangers to understand what critters or wildlife you may encounter, and understand what to do if you encounter animals while on the trail.

Be aware of your surroundings. In order to protect both yourself and the environment you’re exploring, stay on the path. Not only could you encounter potential issues, but veering off the marked trails can cause problems in the natural habitats around you. Staying on the trail also helps prevent you from encountering poison ivy, ticks and other hurdles that could harm your hiking experience. Further, in case of a problem or emergency, it will be easier for help to find you if you stay on the trail.

Hiking is a fun activity that can help you unplug from the stress of daily life while connecting you with nature. Planning ahead and being prepared ensures it is a good experience you can enjoy time and time again.

Here are additional resources with more information about hiking safely:

National Park Service

American Hiking Society