‘Tis the season for outdoor adventure! Hiking is a popular activity for many Utahns, and many people get injured each year hiking in the state. The National Park Service reports that between 120 and 150 people die each year while hiking on designated trails throughout the country. Utah’s national parks are commonly called the “Mighty 5,” drawing in millions of people each year, both locally and internationally. Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon National Park all come with serious risks, with Zion specifically ranking in the top ten most dangerous parks in the country. This blog shares ways to practice safe hiking measures while enjoying the outdoors.
Know Your Limits
One of the biggest mistakes people make is overestimating their abilities. Assess your hiking experience and be honest with your physical fitness level. Don’t assume you can do that eight-mile Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon in the middle of August without some serious preparation. Consider the environmental factors before committing to any hike, such as temperature at the time you’re going, humidity levels, grade changes, drop offs, and the type of trail. No matter how excited you are for a popular hike, you need to be physically prepared before undertaking it or you run the risk of severe injury.
Plan Your Hike
Being prepared for the entire hike and for possible accidents will make for a good experience. Pick the right trail for your abilities, leave a complete plan with someone that is not going with you, have an emergency plan in place, make sure you have a way to communicate (such as a satellite phone), and be ready for the weather. Slot canyons are popular in Utah, but flash flooding can be deadly in these areas. Make sure you have enough food and water, sun protection, a first aid kit and training, and medications if you have medical conditions. You should always have a Plan B in place, and check for any park alerts before you head out.
Pack the Right Stuff
The National Park Service has a “Ten Essentials” list for anyone planning a hike. They are:
- Navigation (GPS, maps, or compass)
- Sun Protection (hats, sunglasses, sunscreen)
- Insulation (jackets, rain shell, thermal underwear)
- Illumination (flashlights, headlamps, laterns)
- First aid supplies (a well-stocked kit)
- Fire (matches, lighters, fire starters)
- Repair kit (knife, scissors, duct tape)
- Nutrition (extra day’s supply)
- Hydration (water and water treatment supplies)
- Emergency Shelter (tarp, bivy sack)