We’re dreaming of the beautiful outdoors! An approaching spring and summer means that soon, we’ll be lacing up our hiking boots for scenic hiking and exploration. Western Pennsylvania’s woodlands and hills provide the best backdrop we could ask for. Still, hiking shouldn’t be considered a walk in the park. A misstep here or a mistake there can lead to injury, and poor preparation can contribute to an emergency situation.
Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to make your next day of hiking as safe as possible. So before you Google for “nice places to hike near me”, take the time to make sure you adhere to all of these guidelines:
- Plan for your trip. Even if you only plan on hiking for an hour, it’s worth preparing for it. Make a gear list in advance and check it off to ensure that you don’t leave anything behind. Gear includes layers, water, snacks, a compass, and so forth. A map should also be packed, as digital batteries and GPS signals can both fail!
- Research the area. In the age of the Internet, it’s easier than ever to get familiar with new hiking territory. A little online research can help you learn more about the wildlife you may come across, as well as the types of poisonous plants you need to watch out for. The more you know about the trail and region it’s based in, the more prepared you can be for it.
- Travel by daylight. Never hike at night. Hiking in the dark increases your chances of getting lost, of tripping on uneven trail ground, and of running into an unfriendly nocturnal animal. If you’ll be hiking late in the day, always turn around and return to the starting point of your trip with plenty of time to beat the sunset.
- Monitor the weather. Always keep an eye on the forecast before hitting a trail. Weather patterns will at a minimum determine the clothes you need, and could be worth rescheduling your hike if it’s looking particularly dark and stormy.
- Respect your limits. Hiking in nature is not the gym – and is not the place to test your skills. Stick to terrain you can handle and hike at a pace that won’t tire you out before your trailblazing is over. Otherwise, you increase your risk of injury.
- Don’t go alone. Ideally, you’ll go hiking with friends or with a group of fellow hikers. Traveling with people is best as you can work together to navigate the trail, and take care of each other should something go wrong. At the very least, you should tell a friend or family member where you will be, and when they can expect you to finish your hike. If they don’t hear from you by a predetermined time, they can contact the appropriate parties and initiate action to make sure you are OK.
By following these safety tips, you will make your next day on the trails that much more safe and enjoyable. The next step is deciding where to hike! But before you begin sorting through those search results for “nice places to hike near me”, why not explore hiking options in our Mon Valley River towns? Many are a short drive away from the Pittsburgh area, and all will provide a beautiful day in nature during the spring and summer! All that we ask is that you remember to take any trash of yours home with you at the end of the day. Grab your gear, head on out, and have fun!