With the warmer weather I always tend to spend more time outdoors. This summer I have a few hikes I want to do in the mountains. I thought I'd share some tips on how to be prepared and stay safe while hiking.
Pick an appropriate hike. While it might be tempting to do the hike with the amazing views, if it's too hard you'll be miserable. Going uphill for hours on end is tough, not to mention the added toll of the higher altitude. Play it safe and pick a hike that's within your fitness ability. You'll enjoy yourself instead of wishing you were already back at the car.
Know where you're going. Get a trail book for the areas that you'll be hiking. Read about the trail – the kind of terrain, the elevation gained, distance, and how difficult it is. Get a topographical map of the area and look up your hike. Get to know the landmarks around it. It's kind of fun to know what mountains you're looking at once you get to the end of the hike. I have the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide (affiliate link) and I love it. It provides all the details you'd want to plan a hike.
Take enough food and water. If you're going to be gone for any length of time it's a good idea to take food and water with you. In fact, take more than you think you'll need. If you end up staying out longer than expected you'll be very happy you have it. Trail mix, granola bars, and jerky are some of my favorite hiking foods. Make sure you pack out any garbage with you.
Dress appropriately. The weather can change extremely quickly in the mountains, so it's always a good idea to be prepared. Dress in layers so you can take them off the warmer you get. Also remember to bring extra warm layers as well as a waterproof one. You never know when that 10% chance of rain will turn into a raging thunderstorm.
Sunscreen and bug spray. There's nothing worse than spending the day outdoors and being eaten alive by bugs. It sucks all the fun out of what you're doing. Suffering with a sunburn for days afterward because you forgot sunscreen at home is pretty miserable too. Make sure you reapply both as needed to keep yourself protected.
Check the trail conditions. Many hiking areas have visitor information centers or ranger stations. Stop in before heading to the trailhead to get the latest info on the hike you want to do. There's nothing worse than getting to the parking lot of the hike and finding out it's closed due to bears in the area or that there's sections of the trail washed out from flooding.
Leave details with someone at home. Make sure someone who isn't going with you knows where you're going and when you're expected to be back. That way if something does happen, they'll know you're missing. They'll also be able to tell the authorities what your plans were.
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Leave one of your hiking tips in the comments.