Flat Creek Inn

Hiking Safety

It’s that time of year again when hundreds of thousands descend upon the national parks, keen on exploring every inch of our country's beautiful land. As with most outdoor activities, hiking has an inherent risk. But with a little preparation, hiking can be an enjoyable and memorable activity for the whole family. Here are a few hiking safety tips to keep in mind before starting any adventure.

Hike smart

National parks offer a wide range of hiking trails to accommodate most skill and ability levels. Both advanced and simpler trails offer scenic views, wildlife sightings, and opportunities to connect with nature. Don’t overestimate your abilities. Before you go, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my experience level with hiking? Do I go often or am I a beginner?
  • What equipment do I need to carry with me and am I capable of carrying it for the duration of the hike?
  • Am I used to hiking at this elevation? Am I physically fit enough to do this hike? Have I hiked in these weather conditions before?

Even though the answers to these questions might be a little humbling, it’s better than being humbled by nature.

Plan your hike

Safety is your responsibility while hiking in any national park. An important step in safety is proper planning. Backcountry hiking presents its own set of safety challenges. If you’ve never planned a hiking trip before, the National Park Service offers a great trip planning guide. The NPS provides these guidelines to get you started:

  • Assess the ability level of all the hikers in your group and choose an appropriate trail.
  • Complete a trip plan and leave it with a friend or family member who is not participating in the hike. 
  • Have an emergency plan, including a place to meet if you get separated. Consider learning CPR and brushing up on your first aid skills as well.
  • Have a way to communicate. Your cell phone does not count as a map, flashlight, GPS, or survival kit. There’s often little to no service in many national parks. 
  • Be weather-ready. Check the forecast before you leave! Growing up in Washington, my dad never let us leave the trailhead without a spare rain jacket and an extra pair of socks. If weather conditions aren’t ideal, don’t risk it. 
  • Have a plan B.

What to bring

Most novice hikers have heard of the 10 Essentials, which are a collection of emergency supplies that can help out in unforeseen circumstances. And while these are, in fact, essential, they are the bare minimum of what you should be taking with you. In addition to the 10 essentials, consider the following:

  • Food and water. Consider the weather before hiking. Will it be unusually hot? How much will you need to prevent a heat-related emergency? Some hikes have water sources available, but others may not. Consider all aspects before heading out. No one likes a hangry hiker. Be prepared with nutrient-dense snacks and meals that don’t need to be cooked. Consider packing an extra day’s worth of food, just in case.
  • Proper footwear. I can hardly believe we need to go over this, but please wear proper shoes while hiking. Heels, flip flops, and most sandals are not ideal for hiking. 
  • Other items to consider are bug spray, moleskin, extra socks (thanks, dad!), and extra clothing layers.
  • If you plan on an overnight trip, the list would expand to include shelter, cooking apparatus (aka, a stove), and a sleeping bag, among other things.

For more information, the National Park Service once again has an excellent article with everything you should know before setting out. Happy hiking!

This post was brought to you by Flat Creek Inn.

Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write and travel and wants to travel more. She is adept at hiking in a constant drizzle.

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