With a little bit of common sense and some basic safety tips, hiking alone doesn’t have to be high-risk.
It happens to nearly every single day-hiker: It’s a beautiful day, but there is no one to hit the trail with. Hiking doesn’t have to be dependent on finding a hiking companion, and as long as common sense is used, hiking alone can be done safely and be an entirely unique experience.
Essential Tips for Hiking Alone
Take well-known or popular trails — Solo hiking isn’t the greatest time to be trying to find the great lost trail or discover a whole new way to a favorite lake. Stick to the beaten path. There’s plenty of solitude even on the popular trails and help is never far away.
Be aware of the surroundings — This isn’t solely restricted to solo hiking, but it’s that much more important when a hiker doesn’t have a partner and an extra set of eyes and ears. True, the lack of companion chatter allows the chance to see and hear more, but don’t get complacent. Keep an eye out for signs of bears, cougars and other predators. Look for fresh tracks, droppings or scratches in the trees. Listen for noises in the forest close to the path. If anything doesn’t seem right in any area of the forest, turn back.
Make noise — Sing, talk, yell, clap hands, or do anything that will let any wildlife in the area know there is a hiker there. It might feel a little goofy at first, but after a while it becomes fun to loosen up in the forest — within reason of course.
Follow groups — Bears will often wait many minutes after a large group has passed before venturing close to a trail. Many solo hikers use this tactic to lessen their chances of a bear encounter. There’s still a chance of surprising a bear, of course, and unless following at the exact pace of the group, this could decrease the enjoyment of the hike, but it’s something to consider.
No headphones or music players — This one is a no-brainer. Don’t bring anything that’s going to hamper the ability to hear what is going on around the trail. Besides, hiking is for coming out to nature to experience the wild, not to listen to the latest top 40 hits.
Check weather and trail advisories ahead of time — Before even considering hiking alone, check the local national, state/provincial, or municipal web site for predator warnings, trail closures, trail conditions and weather forecasts.
Bring a whistle — If injured or lost, a whistle will carry further than yelling and can be heard over wind and rain conditions.
Following these rules doesn’t make a solo hike immune to danger. Hiking alone is always going to be riskier than hiking with a friend or in groups.
It’s important to be confident about hiking alone — there’s not much point in hiking alone if the very thought makes a hiker nervous. But for those seeking a little mountain therapy and solitude, there’s no reason it can’t be safely done.