A father walking next to his daughter that is carrying a walking stick on a gravel trail in the woods.

Tips to Keep You Safe on the Trail

Author: Kaytee Smith

You’ve got your hiking gear, your sunscreen, and plenty of water. You’re ready for a day of fun on the trail. But wait — is it really as safe as you think? Hiking is a great way to get outside and enjoy North Carolina’s beauty, but if you aren’t careful, it can be dangerous. That’s why we’ve compiled these tips so your next hike is full of adventure and not accidents:

Know the trail you’re about to hike.

If you’re going to be hiking, it’s important to understand the trail you’re about to hike. Before you set out on a hike, get as much information as possible about the trail and area in which you will be hiking. This includes:

  • Trail difficulty and length
  • Location of the trailhead
  • Surface type (e.g., single track or wide path)
  • Elevation change over distance (e.g., steep incline/decline)
  • Topography of the land through which it runs (flat vs rolling hills)

Bring the essentials.

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen/lip balm
  • First aid kit (be prepared for blisters, cuts and scrapes)
  • Map and compass (or GPS) in case you get lost. Remember, technology can fail. Even if it doesn’t break, batteries do die and sometimes the network goes down.
  • Extra clothes: a hat to protect your head from the sun and rain, sunscreen on exposed skin (even when it’s cloudy), extra socks or shoes if one gets wet/ripped/lost etc., a towel for drying off after swimming or getting rained on. If you’re walking out of town for an overnight hike or camping trip then bring along some extra food as well!

A weather app is your friend.

  • It has current weather conditions, so you can check the temperature and know whether or not to bring a jacket.
  • It gives you alerts when there are severe weather alerts, so you know whether or not it’s safe for you to go out on that hike today.

Be aware of where you are.

  • Be aware of where you are and what your surroundings are.
  • Don’t leave the trail and explore on your own, especially if it’s a new terrain that you haven’t hiked before or if it is nighttime (if it’s dark out, make sure to bring a flashlight).
  • Stay away from cliff edges and waterfalls because falling rocks could injure you or knock someone else over the edge of a cliff or waterfall into water which may cause drowning injuries.
  • If hiking in muddy areas, try not to step off-trail so that others don’t slip on slippery mud puddles (or worse yet — in them!).

If you can, go with a buddy.

  • If you can, go with a buddy.
  • It’s always safer to hike in pairs. You can share the load and keep each other company, and if one of you has an injury, it’s easier to help out when there are two of you instead of one.

Pay attention to your surroundings.

  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Watch for other people and dogs on the trail.
  • Pay attention to the ground and animals.
  • Look for obstacles and hazards before you get there!
  • Beware of poison ivy (it’s really not fun).
  • Make sure you can see where you’re going before stepping off into space!
  • Watch out for falling trees!

Stay on the trail, especially when it’s muddy or wet out.

If you’re worried about getting stuck in the mud, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, stay on the trail. If there is one big muddy puddle that you can see coming up ahead of you on the trail, it’s better to walk around it than to risk falling into it by trying to cut across switchbacks. This will only create more mud and cause issues for other hikers as well.

Have fun and stay safe while enjoying North Carolina’s trails!

The most important thing is to have fun and stay safe while enjoying North Carolina’s trails. Whether you’re a novice or a veteran, it’s always advisable to take at least one buddy with you when hiking on any trail. The second most important thing is to pay attention to your surroundings. You never know what might be lurking around the corner!

The third-most important thing — and there are only three of them so far — is that it’s best not to stray from the trail. 

Other basic precautions include bringing along some essentials like food and water, as well as knowing where exactly you’re going before heading out into nature’s vast unknowns.

And with that, we’re going to send you off on your way. Remember: stay aware of what’s around you, don’t stray from the trail, and research all the information you can before setting out. That way, you’ll be sure to have a great time hiking!

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