Hiking Safety Tips

October 19, 2023
Hiking Safety Tips

Cooler temperatures and more breezes make fall weather great for hiking. If this challenging yet rewarding outdoor activity is on your bucket list for the season, make sure you’re prepared to tackle every aspect of a hike.

The National Park Service (NPS) encourages visitors and lovers of the outdoors to “hike smart” by taking time to prepare before hitting the trail. Here are a few ways you can get ready to take a hike this fall.

Know the trail — and your limits.

After choosing the area for your hike, study the available trails and pick one that best suits your skill level. Experienced hikers may prefer something more uphill that involves a bit of rock climbing. New hikers may want something easier with more of a chance to learn the terrain. Either way, it’s important to decide based on how well you can physically handle the hike and to learn the trail before you go. The NPS has more information to help you prepare at nps.gov/articles/hiking-safety.htm.

Avoid dangers on the trail.

While hiking can be fun, there are usually some dangers. Try not to hike alone, but if you do, let someone know where you’ll be hiking in case an emergency occurs. Depending on where you’re hiking, you might encounter aggressive or venomous animals and poisonous plants on the trail. Knowing how to avoid and handle bears, snakes, and other animals in their habitat is important. It’s also important to be able to identify plants that could cause problems. Learn more about identifying poisonous plants at cdc.gov/niosh/topics/plants/.

Be able to perform minor first aid.

Clumsy or not, most people get bruises, bug bites, scratches, and other minor injuries while they’re on the trail. Knowing how to take care of minor issues can keep them from turning into bigger problems. Before heading out for a hike, make sure you know how to execute first aid for minor wounds. This includes small cuts and scratches, minor burns, and non-serious bug or animal bites. The American Academy of Dermatology has information to help treat burns, bug bites and stings, cuts, and other minor wounds at aad.org/public/everyday-care/injured-skin.

If you do encounter trouble while hiking, the Arkansas Parks Department encourages you to remember the T.R.A.I.L.S. acronym:

  • Try to stay calm.
  • Remain where you are so it’s easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Alert somebody before you hike alone.
  • Insulate yourself from the elements as much as possible.
  • Listen for people calling for you and respond with a noisemaker or flashlight.
  • Save your supplies by rationing.

Preparation is the key to a successful hike, so it’s essential to know the basics of navigation, first aid, and species identification. These skills will help you successfully handle any potentially dangerous situations and provide valuable experience on the trail. Find more information about being a safe hiker at arkansasstateparks.com/articles/remember-trails-and-be-safe-hiker.