What makes somewhere good for hiking?
When looking for somewhere to hike there are always a few things you want to keep in mind.
First, you need to know the trail you plan to hike on. This can be as well planned out as studying an online map of the trail and committing it to memory. Or, as simple as following trail markers.
Whilst you can wander off into the hills hiking if you wish you may find yourself getting lost. It is better to have a clear idea of where you are and where you are going at all times.
There is a popular saying, “take the road less traveled”. While this is a nice saying it applies horribly to hiking. It is always best to take the road most traveled.
A well-traveled hiking trail indicates a few things to you: it will likely be well signed, you aren’t likely to get lost, and if something goes wrong people are going to stumble upon you and be able to help far more frequently. Bumping into people on the trail is a common occurrence, bumping into strangers in the woods is less common and far more alarming.
It is important to know your limitations. Hiking can become very strenuous over many hours. With this in mind finding a trail that is the right length for you is important. One thing people seem to forget is that unless a trail is specifically signed as a loop a trail signed as a 4-hour hike could mean 4 hours each way. This is not always the case but you would hate to reach the 4-hour mark only to realize you are only halfway done.
How to check if it is safe to hike
One of the most important things to consider when deciding if somewhere is a good place to hike is how safe it is to hike. Hiking on a dangerous trail is not a good idea, even for experienced hikers. There are a few ways to check if your trail is going to be safe or not. The easiest methods are as follows:
Check the trail online
By giving the trail you plan to hike a quick Google you can quickly discover whether or not there is any warning in place. If a trail has been affected by flooding or landslides it is often reported online by fellow hikers, park rangers, or the local authorities. This can save you driving out to the hiking location only to find it was marked closed or didn’t pass the eye test. Another problem is the trail may look fine and only become dangerous further on, by then it is already too late.
Think about where you are
Think about where you currently are. If you plan to hike through Canada and its avalanche season you may want to reconsider hiking at that time, or at least find a trail that doesn’t take you up into the risky parts of the hills. If you are somewhere like Arizona where you won’t find a water source for the entire trail do you have enough water to make it the whole trail? This awareness can save your life.
Think about what season it is
If you are hiking through bear country and they aren’t hibernating you might want to prepare for the chance of bumping into a bear on the hike. If you don’t have bear spray its not a good idea to be walking through bear country. You will probably never see a bear, but you don’t want to be caught out if you do.
Use your eyes and trust your gut instinct
If you arrive at the trail and it immediately looks off. Like it has been caught in a mudslide, it is more flooded than you expected, or the trail markers are unclear and badly damaged it is best to just find somewhere else to hike. It is not worth the risk attempting to just wing it. It might be annoying but it should be easy enough to find an alternate trail.
What should I do if the trail is hard to follow?
If you find that the trail you are walking on starts to become hard to follow it is best to just turn back. You could notice all sorts of problems with the trail that indicate it isn’t safe to go any further.
First, if you can see the trail has been damaged by flooding and landslides you have no idea how unsafe it will or won’t be further on down the trail. In this situation, it is better to just turn around and go home. If you find that the trail markers are vague and hard to follow this is an indication of a poorly maintained trail. This means that you are more likely to get lost and injured, you are also less likely to attract the attention of a park ranger should you need one.
Additionally, if you start to struggle to see which way the trail goes you are going to end up getting lost. This is a big problem with poorly maintained trails, the path starts to wear away and it stops being clear which way you are supposed to go. Never just guess or you run the risk of getting lost. Turn around, and go home. Always.
Hopefully, this article has given you a good idea of what to look out for when picking which trail is ideal for hiking. You are normally pretty safe but it is better to be cautious. The repercussion of being overly confident and putting you or your family in danger is severe. If you keep the ideas in this article in mind you will be just fine. Happy hiking!