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Hiking and Trail Running Safety Tips

Not only do I love seeing more people with dirt under their feet and eating gummy bears or cold slices of pizza on summits, I love seeing them doing it safely and heading into adventures well-prepared.

There always room for something random to *potentially* happen while on the trail, but by going into the adventure with everything you need and all the safety precautions boxes checked, this can bring peace of mind and confidence.

I’ve outlined below my top safety tips for solo and group hikes or trail runs!

🔶 ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS LET SOMEONE RELIABLE KNOW YOUR PLANS

This may look like a simple note, email, or text. Let your check-in buddy know where you’re headed (trail name), where you are parking, how long you intend to be out there, and what you are wearing.

🚨 Here is why that last piece of information is REALLY important.

Once you are done and safely back at your car, let them know!

🔶 HAVE A DECENT UNDERSTANDING OF THE TRAIL

The first time on any trail will present newness, but going into the run/hike with a general understanding and idea of what to expect is CRITICAL.

Apps like AllTrails, Gaia GPS, OnX Maps, and Trail Run Project are great resources for scouting routes, elevation profiles, distances, trail markers to look for, and reading comments about trail conditions.

Be sure to download a map for offline use (no service) or carry a hard copy of a map (from the ranger station or printed online). Both are a bonus!

YouTube and blogs are also a FANTASTIC resources to learn more about the trail!

🔶 BE MINDFUL OF THE WEATHER, TEMPERATURES, and SUNLIGHT

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS check the forecast for any potential yucky or hazardous weather before embarking. Especially if you are running/hiking to different elevations, the weather and temperatures can change FAST.

Be mindful of sunset to ensure you have the proper gear (headlamp/flashlight) or head back to the trailhead in time. A light source is one of The Ten Essentials!

✅ Need help with what you bring? I got you. Snag this FREEBIE.

🔶 ENSURE YOU’RE PAYING ATTENTION AND BEING VIGILANT WHILE ON TRAIL

This tip is NOT meant to fear monger, but more so – encourage you to be aware of your surroundings!

This can look like peeking behind you every few minutes, making eye contact with the people you pass (take mental notes), LISTENING, and being observant of your surroundings.

It is HIGHLY encouraged only to wear one headphone (if you wear headphones), so you can still hear what’s going on around you (wildlife, people passing, tree branches snapping, etc.).

🔶 UNDERSTAND YOUR PHYSICAL LIMITATIONS WITH MILEAGE, ELEVATION, VERTICAL, TECH, AND SKILL LEVEL

I am ALL for challenging our bodies and doing hard things (big advocate for this), but it’s important to layout risk versus reward. You want to avoid putting yourself in a situation that is primarily outside of your physical limits and could become dangerous.

Don’t be afraid to start with shorter/smaller runs or hikes to build confidence, comfort, trail strength & stamina. Here is some guidance on how to choose the best trail for you!

PS – You are 1,000% allowed to turn around if something becomes too far out of your comfort zone or doesn’t feel right.

🔶 CARRRY SOME FORM OF IDENTIFICATION

ALWAYS. This can look like a piece of paper with your information written on it shoved in your pack, your license, or something like a ROAD iD. I personally wear a ROAD iD on my watchband with my name, 2 points of contact, my address, and my allergies.

Identification could help first responders quickly access information about you if something were to happen. Learn more here.

🔶 HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE AREA’S WILDLIFE

Remember – we are guests in THEIR home! 🐻

A quick search on Google or the park’s website will give you an idea of what you MAY encounter and information on what to do if you cross paths (getting BIG, making noise, staying put, etc.) or what you can do along your trek. This will also allow you to know any potential recommended forms of ‘protection’ (based on comfort) like bear spray, loud whistle, knife, bear bell, etc.

🔶 PACK ACCORDINGLY AND PLAN

Shorter runs and hikes will require less gear and planning, but are still important!

For longer adventures, things to consider are: water/electrolytes, water sources & filtration, nutrition/food, seasons [hunting season = bright colors], temperature, WEATHER, off-grid communication (Garmin inReach), first aid kit, maps, the trail passes/permits, access, insects/bug spray, sun protection, bathroom kit, and Leave No Trace principles. 

🧡 I have ALL of my favorite gear linked HERE!

On of my hiking safety tips - bring a reliable means of communication! In this image, Bethany (the author of this post) shows her Garmin inReach attached to her hiking pack.

Meet the author

Bethany Taylor

I’m a PNW-based outdoor educator, adventure athlete, highly-caffeinated creative, all-women adventure trip host, safety advocate, and obsessed dog mom. I am here to help you chase more stoke-filled days outdoors with confidence through education and empowerment.

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