Safety Tips for the Solo Hiker

This post is intended to provide safety tips for the novice solo hiker.  

Hiking solo can certainly be an intimidating thought. I get that!  I have travelled solo for the past century and have only begun to take solo hikes within the last couple of years.

I love to hike but unfortunately my friends don’t, so that left me in a bit of a dilemma.  Safety concerns while hiking solo was the only thing that held me back from hitting the trails.  After much procrastinating, I finally drummed up the courage to take my first solo hike and I have been going it alone (mostly) ever since.

Hiking solo is not much different than travelling solo … start small…..take baby steps  and take the same safety precautions on your hike as you would take when travelling on your own.

For your first solo hike I would recommend choosing a trail that you are slightly familiar with.  This will make the thought of hiking alone much less intimidating and you will feel much safer being on the trails by yourself.  I personally find that loop trails are easier to navigate than the in-out trails.  By hiking a loop trail you are almost guaranteed to finish where you started which limits the chances of getting lost.  It will also allow you to see different things along the way and and won’t pass the same way twice.

know-your-trail-for-safety
Know your trail!

In order to keep you as safe as possible while taking that first solo hike, I have outlined what I consider to be the most important safety tips that you will need whenever hiking alone.

“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” – John Muir

Determine the Tail and Route

When planning which trail you will be hiking, several factors should be taken into consideration. How experienced of a hiker are you? What are your physical capabilities? How much time do you have available to complete the hike? Why are you taking the hike? Do you want a relaxing hike? Or do you want a hike with more of a challenge? Once you have answered all of these questions, you will be in a better position to choose the right trail for your hike.

Pro Tip:  I have downloaded the AllTrails app which lets me know the difficulty level and what the terrain is like.  It also provides reviews by previous hikers, as well as a map of the trail.

Familiarize Yourself With the Trail

If you have chosen a trail unfamiliar to you, it is now the time to get familiar with it. Google is a wondrous thing! Scroll through pictures that have been posted by other hikers. Read the reviews to get tips from previous hikers. And most importantly, print the trail map.  There will be times throughout your hike that your internet connection may be a little sketchy.  Learn as much as you possibly can about the trail, especially if it will be your first time hiking it.

safety-tips-for-the-solo-hiker
Stay on the trail, especially when hiking alone

Keep a Friend Informed

I feel that this is the most important tip that I can give when hiking solo. Once you have determined where you will be hiking, advise a trusted friend or family member and let them know your expected time of completing the trail.

Pro Tip:  If possible, I will send texts periodically throughout my hike just to let her know that I am safe and sound.

Stay Within Your Comfort Zone

I am usually a very strong proponent of stepping outside of your comfort zone. Hiking is one area that I strongly advise against it! Pick a trail that you think that you will feel comfortable  and safe hiking alone and that is compatible with your fitness level.

stay-within-your-physical-capabilities-when-hiking-alone-to-stay-safe
Stay within your physical capabilities

Yes, you want it to be challenging but I would recommend achieving this by choosing a trail that is a longer distance, not a trail that exceeds your physical capabilities.

Don’t Be Quiet, Make Some Noise

Prior to the hike familiarize yourself with the animals that inhibit the trail/forest that you will be hiking. This will determine if you need to take additional precautions. If you are hiking in the mountains, especially during the summer months, you might want to take bear spray with you. At the very least, when hiking this kind of trail alone, make sure that you make plenty of noise. It is okay to sing or talk to yourself along the way.

Pay Attention to the Trail Markers

Many trails are very clearly marked, but not all of them are. Always pay attention to the trail markers along your route, especially if it is an in-out trail.

Take Note of How Busy the Trail Is

If the trail is highly travelled, you will likely feel a lot more safe and comfortable hiking solo. If you run encounter any problems along the trail there will always be somebody there to help you out.

Pro Tip: If you are new to solo hiking, I highly recommend choosing a trail that you know will be busy with other hikers.

Stay on the Trail

Trails are usually marked for a reason.  It is important to stay on the trail for your own safety.  Whenever venturing off of the trail, you risk getting lost or encountering danger.

Stay on Dry Land

There will be times that you may come across a river that will make the hike quicker if you cross it.  It is not advisable to hike through any rivers or streams when you are hiking alone.  It is always safest to stay on dry land if at all possible and to find an alternate way to cross.  If other hikers are in the area and it is absolutely necessary to cross through the river or stream, ask if you can join them until you are safely across the river.

safety-tips-for-the-solo-hiker
Remain on dry land

Don’t Hike After Dark

It is always important to determine the expected time of sunset and the length of time that it will take you to complete the trail. It is never safe to hike alone after dark and you want to make sure that your hike will be completed prior to sunset.

Stay Put

Whenever hiking, whether solo or with others, there is always the possibility of getting lost or encountering other problems.  If you do happen to get lost or encounter difficulties during your hike, it is important to remember the following:

  • don’t panic
  • stay where you are, it will be easier to locate you if you stay in one spot
  • sound an alarm (blow a whistle, scream, play music from your phone, etc.). Do whatever it takes to lead someone to your location.
enjoy-your-solo-day-hike-and-stay-safe
Enjoy the view, breath in the air, and stay safe!

I hope that I haven’t scared you off from hiking alone, as it really is one of the most peaceful experiences that you will have.  Take your time, breathe in the air, and enjoy the forest!   If you follow these safety tips while hiking alone, I know that you will have a safe and enjoyable hike.

I would love to hear any additional safety hiking tips that you might have to add to the list?

HAPPY HIKING 🙂

Kelly xoxo

LOVE IT? PIN TO STAY SAFE!

57 thoughts on “Safety Tips for the Solo Hiker

  1. emailgetlost

    These are great tips! I’ve actually always fancied solo hiking because it looks so peaceful and a great way to get some time to reflect. My OH really likes hiking too though so I’ve never had an opportunity to go alone! I’ll keep this guide handy though in case I get the chance. Thanks for the tips!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicole Anderson

    These are such great safety tips. In particular, letting someone trustworthy know where you are going, not leaving the trail and not staying out after dark are all important points. If we follow these core principles that you have highlighted here, solo hiking can be extremely fun and rewarding.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joefuf1

    Great post Kelly!
    This article is a great list of many different good tips, and I plan to put them to good use as I plan on doing some solo travel in the upcoming months. I will definitely be coming back to revisit this post both just before I leave and as I’m traveling!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. shanyyizhaki

    Amazing tips! I got to admit that hiking alone always scares me. I relay on my family and friends to join me but it can be limiting. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. josypheen

    Great tips! I was really worried about hiking solo until I gave it a go too. I don’t do it often (normally I drag my husband out with me) but when he is busy, I don’t want that to stop me from getting out on the trails.

    I was initially most worried about meeting bears when I was alone. To combat this I normally choose trails that are likely to have other hikers, and I make loads of noise. Once I am out on the trail, I always have a blast. I’m glad that you do too!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Agnieszka

    Such great tips! Very useful before traveling. Practical points, especially if you are going to travel solo! It’s essential to prepare for solo hiking or traveling. Timing is critical; I don’t like hike after dark, so I always start my hikes early in the morning or just after sunrise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just One Passport

      I hike and travel solo 99% of the time now and I completely agree! I have been caught out on the trail just as the sun was setting and it wasn’t fun! That is when I decided that a flashlight was essential!

      Like

  7. savannahrose1321

    Reading this made me realize that I’ve actually never been hiking alone! I’ll definitely keep these tips in mind if I ever give it a try!

    Like

  8. Raulersongirlstravel

    Great bunch of tips for a solo female hiker. Have you ever thought of making a checklist for female hikers? That would also be very useful. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kanupriyaa

    I identify and use so many of these tips already hiking solo in California. This is a great resource for all those men and women that prefer hiking alone to be safe and still have fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ramya

    I liked your suggestions, solo hiking is all about the presence of mind and maintaining cool in difficult situations, which most of us tend to lose. You have given amazing practical tips, which one can follow easily.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Stephanie

    I typically would be so scared to hike by myself. I’m not afraid of an accident or injury, but more afraid of weirdos. I’m a weirdo magnet whenever I go somewhere alone! Good call on carrying a whistle, I’m for sure going to buy one even if I don’t use it hiking. I like the idea of taking baby steps, and going on a trail that I already know. Reading that made me more inclined to go out and try a hike on my own! I’m a planner, so I also like the tip of familiarizing myself with the trail before hand.

    Like

  12. GGeorgina

    Great tips here Kelly and a reminder for me – I haven’t hiked in a long while but I have one coming up in a couple of weeks. My fitness is a worry. I always carry a mini torchlight with me and a roll of yellow ribbons. A small mirror as well. They all go into my mini survival kit along with my first aid.

    Like

  13. Melissa

    Great tips! I have hiked solo a couple times locally and enjoyed it, but was also nervous. The trails I choose are usually heavily trafficked so I know I won’t get stranded completely alone. It can be difficult to find someone who enjoys hiking and is up for the challenge, so often times if I don’t go alone I won’t go. I enjoyed reading your tips on how to safely hike solo and will incorporate some of them into my hikes.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Arnav Mathur

    These are quite a handful of practical safety tips for solo hikers. I love the outdoors and hiking,but i always prefer to have someone else with me. What i’ve realized is that the hike becomes more enjoyable if you have a partner who can match your pace. Solo after a point becomes boring, and then there are all the safety concerns that you’ve mentioned.
    Hiking in a group is a big no no for me, but with a partner, hell yeah. Also you tend to enjoy the experience more, when you have someone to share it with.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sandy N Vyjay

    Hiking is a very satisfying experience and really enjoyable. However, it has its risks, and one needs to take precautions. Safety is so important when you are hiking alone, and especially in uncharted territories. You have given some really sensible and practical tips to ensure a safe hike.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. kmfiswriting

    Great tips! I started hiking solo last year. Sometimes family or friends join me, but since I take a lot of photos from my blog, I think it does impact their enjoyment since I stop quite a bit. Are you familiar with AllTrails app? I discovered it earlier this year and love it as the real-time gps maps are fully functional without service if you download them ahead of time – perfect when you’re in a remote location. It also offers a feature where you can share the trail maps and your location with family so they are alerted if you do not finish the trail at the expected time.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Catherine

    These are all such great tips. I love the outdoors and often hike solo, but I always keep in contact with a friend. It’s also so important to plan out your hike before you start to ensure you’re done before dark.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Freya

    Great tips Kelly, I love a solo hike too! I have to admit I probably could be more cautious and let someone know where I’m going (I often don’t). We don’t have any large predator animals here in Australia but we do have plenty of small poisonous creatures. This post has reminded me to be a bit less complacent 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Jim Whittemore

    Hiking alone is always a very rewarding and challenging experience. But taking the simple precautions like you’ve mentioned above can be the most important thing you do. Always letting someone know you’re time frame is very important and carrying a whistle is always a good idea. Some form of spray like when we hiked in Alaska was necessary not just for the bears but in case you came across a sketchy individual as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Aradhana Bakshi

    Those are some great tips for starting hiking solo! I mean hats off, it sounds challenging and exciting at the same time. But one must be mentally prepared for this journey, before embarking upon the solo territory esp with solo hiking where the risk and challenges are definitely higher.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: Best day hikes around the world – JUST ONE PASSPORT

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