Although hiking can be a fun and enjoyable, it can also be a dangerous recreational activity. It is always wise to respect the mountains and travel with caution to enjoy future days in the mountains. Although numerous dangers exist, there are some things you can do to help ensure your safety along the trail. Following are a few basic precautions, but trail users are encouraged to take advantage of abundant material available and become knowledgeable in backcountry safety and first aid.
For Your Health
Although hiking can provide numerous rewards, hiking can be a dangerous sport, especially for those who come unprepared into any wilderness situation. Mother Nature should always be given the respect she deserves and a little preparation can go a long way. Although featured hikes in the upcoming hiking series are considered to be appropriate hikes for families, some are more difficult than others and information provided will never replace sound judgement of the backcountry traveler.
In spite of efforts made to alert hikers of potential hazards, not all possible dangers can be covered and each visitor should assume the responsibility for their own actions and be cautious of any potentially hazardous situation. Hikers should always be aware of their surroundings, weather, and physical condition. If anything does not appear to be right, feel free to head back to the trailhead and return when conditions are better.
Know the basics of first aid, including how to treat bleeding, bites and stings, and fractures, strains or sprains. It is always wise to have a basic first aid kit on hand, including over the counter pain relievers, bandages, and ointments. No matter how short the journey is, a first aid kit should always be on hand in case of an emergency.
Bring extra clothing for adverse or cold weather conditions. Although it may feel warm at the trailhead, cold weather can set in, making hypothermia a serious reality. Mountain air temperatures can drop quickly in the evening hours, also creating a dangerous scenario. A jacket or sweater will help ward off the cold after the sun sets. The sun can really be a joy and illuminate spectacular vistas, but it can also be a problem to hikers traveling in the heat of the day. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion can both be minimalized by wearing a hat and traveling during the cooler, more enjoyable morning and evening hours. A long sleeved shirt and pants may avoid sunburn, insect bites, and stinging nettle, common along many of the trails.
Plan extra time to complete the journey, for resting, relaxing, or enjoying the scenery. For those who hike in the evenings, darkness can make an easy trail difficult to maneuver and it becomes even easier to wander off the correct path, returning home. Plan enough evening time to get back to the trailhead before darkness sets in. A small flashlight (check the batteries before leaving) is another good item to bring along.
Bring plenty of liquids. Even short journeys can result in heat exhaustion or dehydration. Although water may be one of the heaviest items to pack, it is one of the most important. Bacteria, including Giardia, is present in streams along the Wasatch, making stream water unsafe to drink without a water filter or water purification tablets, available at many sporting goods stores. It is always wise to bring a canteen of water, when your path takes you away from sources of water.
Bring high energy snacks for the trail and plenty of treats for the youngsters. Little food rewards, along the way, help make the journey seem shorter and will provide energy for the trek. Snacks are great along the trail, but visitors are reminded to avoid littering and keeping the trail as pristine as possible.
For Your Safety
Hiking along the Wasatch Front can provide numerous spectacular opportunities, but can also provide numerous challenges and dangers. Weather can change rapidly, making the trails very slick, reducing visibility, and exposing travelers to lightning and other dangerous elements. Keep an eye to the skies for dramatic changes in weather. Clear skies can change within minutes to severe thunderstorms or snowstorms. High altitudes can turn relatively short sun exposures to serious and painful sunburns. Bring plenty of sunscreen and reapply it often to ensure coverage from the sun's harmful rays.
Enjoy the animals but keep your distance. An abundance of wildlife is one of the many attractions along the way, but travelers should be reminded that these are wild animals and a generous distance should be maintained between yourself and the animals. Some animals (even the cute ones) may bite, spreading diseases to the painful recipient. Watchful and protective mothers are usually not far away from their youngsters, although they are not readily visible to the trail user. Avoid feeding the wildlife to help them survive in the wild and keep your distance to avoid dangerous encounters.
Larger and more dangerous animals may include mountain lions, bears, or an occasional aggressive moose. Although many of these animals try to stay away from humans, there is always a possibility that you may encounter one of these animals along the trail. Again try to maintain a distance from these animals, avoid cornering them, and visit with Forest Rangers to obtain additional appropriate precautions.