There’s no better way to spend a day than out in nature hitting the hiking trails. With amazing views, plenty of fresh air, and lots of sunshine, the great outdoors is the perfect place to get some exercise.
If you love to hike but can’t seem to get your friends interested, then you’re faced with the choice of whether to go it alone. You may have heard some scary cautionary tales about solo hikers and weren’t sure if it’s safe to be on the trails by yourself.
So, is it dangerous to hike alone? Solo hiking can be a safe and fulfilling experience if done right. The key is to be prepared by knowing the area you will be hiking, bringing the right supplies and equipment, being aware of all the possible dangers of a solo hike and being ready for unforeseen situations or emergencies.
We will help guide you through all of this in this article so that you will not only be safe but have the confidence to enjoy solo hiking.
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Possible Hiking Dangers
To have a positive experience outdoors, it’s important to respect nature. Extreme temperatures, rain, snow, lightning, and even avalanches are all possible dangers depending on the location of your hike.
To avoid these, make sure to prepare based on the weather and season. Bring supplies to help you survive if you’re heading out into the wilderness. Prevent hypothermia and heat exhaustion by staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, and dressing appropriately.
We share nature with the animals who call it home and some of them can be dangerous to humans. However, the majority of them are not vicious predators who will attack someone unprovoked. Be mindful of the animals who live in the region where you’re hiking. Make any nearby wildlife aware of your presence and bring bear spray if you’ll be in bear country.
- Getting Lost
Trails may not always be marked very clearly so it’s possible to get lost while hiking. If you leave the trail for any reason, you could get turned around and lose your way. Bringing a map and compass or other working navigation can help with this. Make sure you know how to read your map and are aware of landmarks to find your way back.
Hiking isn’t an activity with a lot of contact, but there is always a chance that you could slip and fall. Rain may leave a trail muddy or make rocks slippery. If you are on a particularly difficult trail, you may have to scramble over a rocky section.
If you’re hiking alone and get injured, you won’t have anyone to assist you or to send for further help. Having a means of outside communication can help with this as well as being cautious and packing some first aid essentials. Make sure to always wear proper footwear and ensure hiking boots have adequate ankle support.
- Physical Attack
Many people fear getting attacked by a fellow hiker or another person on the trail when hiking along. However, the chances of this happening are very slim. Still, dramatized stories in the news or movies often stick in your mind for a long time.
You can protect yourself by bringing along a self-defense mechanism or even just having some trekking poles that could be used to ward off any unwanted advances. While the chance of this happening is low, it’s still a possibility when alone in the woods. However, state and national parks, for example, are much safer places than any other city.
How to Safely Hike Alone
- Choose a Busy Trail
Select a hike that will take you to trails that are frequented by a lot of people. Although you may be craving solitude, a busy trail means there will be people around to help you if you get injured or need assistance.
- Leave Your Itinerary with Someone
Once you’ve planned your hike, let a loved one know where you’ll be going and the approximate time you’ll be back. Alternately, you can check in with the rangers if you’re in a state or national park. Tell them you will stop on your way out and remember to actually do it so they know you made it out safely.
- Stay Alert
While hiking it’s important to remain aware of your surroundings. Resist the temptation to put in earphones and listen to music. Instead, constantly be on the lookout and keep your ears open for anything that doesn’t look or sound right.
- Make Noise
For hikes that take place in parts of the country with a lot of wildlife, making noise as you hike will alert animals to your presence. Whether it be bear, elk, or moose, it’s important not to startle them. You could sing, clap your hands, or get a small bell to jingle every so often.
- Pack the Essentials
Even if you just plan to take a short hike, it’s best to be prepared for any scenario. Pack the 10 essentials with you so you can easily survive if you are delayed returning to the trailhead.
- Check the Weather
Look up the forecast before you head out and make sure you are dressed appropriately. Do a bit of research to see what typical weather patterns are like in that area. Be ready for changing weather and rain.
- Stick to the Plan
Once you’ve settled on where you’ll park and which trails you’ll hike, don’t change things up at the last minute. If you’ve given your itinerary to someone, then make sure to stick to it. If something happens and people go looking for you, this will make it easy for them to find you.
- Know the Area
It’s best if you are familiar with the place you are hiking. Even better, choose a trail that you’ve already hiked many times. Find out the trail conditions before you leave home to make sure it hasn’t been flooded or isn’t covered in snow.
- Get a Personal Locator Beacon
For added peace of mind, consider investing in a small personal locator beacon that uses GPS to broadcast your location. Even if you never need to use it, you’ll have it in case of an emergency and feel much more confident and secure.
- Pack for Self-Defense
While it’s highly unlikely that a fellow hiker will attack you, it doesn’t hurt to bring along a small weapon like pepper spray. In bear country, don’t head out without bear spray, even if it’s just black bears that are in the area. While they rarely attack humans, you still want to be prepared just in case.
- Listen to Your Intuition
Use common sense both while planning for and during the hike. If you get a bad feeling, listen to your gut. Don’t be afraid to cancel your plans and turn back home. Even if you feel like you’ve let yourself down, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and live to hike another day.
- Pace Yourself
Hiking is a pretty leisurely activity and there’s no reason to push yourself beyond your limits. Know what your body is capable of and be aware of the time to avoid hiking once the sun goes down.
- Carry a Flashlight
Bring along a headlamp or small flashlight to illuminate your path. Some trails may go through forests or other areas that get dark faster than open fields.
- Avoid Wild Animals
No matter how friendly or cute an animal looks, never approach wildlife or attempt to feed it. Not only is this harmful to the animals, but it could make them aggressive toward you as a hiker.
Benefits of Hiking Alone
Going it alone may feel uncomfortable at first but it’s an excellent way to boost your self-esteem once you’ve done it. You’ll feel empowered and full of confidence as you learn to rely on yourself and realize all that you are capable of.
Putting your knowledge to the test is a great way to realize that you can take on any challenge. Hiking on your own teaches you how to be self-sufficient and take care of yourself no matter what happens.
- Spiritual Connection
Many people cherish their time in nature because they feel a spiritual connection with everything around them. The beauty and solitude of the outdoors can turn hiking into a sort of moving meditation. You’ll have plenty of time to think, contemplate, and be introspective as well.
It’s an incredibly freeing feeling to be able to walk for several miles on your own. Not only that, you won’t have to worry about other people getting tired, bored, or ruining your outing. You can choose where to go and when to stop for a break because you don’t have to consider anyone but yourself.
You may have read a lot of books about nature and hiking, but nothing can quite prepare you for the experience itself. You will gain valuable first-hand knowledge by being outdoors and putting the information to the test.
Like any activity, hiking does have some inherent dangers. However, many can be prevented altogether through advanced planning and packing wisely. Hiking alone really isn’t as scary as you may think and it has a lot of perks.
While it is always safer to hike with a partner or in a group, especially in the backcountry or wilderness, there’s no reason not to enjoy local trails on your own. Plan ahead, do your research, and you’ll have a wonderful time!