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Hiking 101: Is it safe to hike alone?

Is it safe to hike alone?

Short answer: Yes.

Being a natural introvert, I enjoy and seek time alone. When I tell people that I often hike alone, they freak out and automatically ask “is that safe?” With gender stereotypes, I’m sure that a big part of their concern is that I’m a woman. However, I’m not afraid to venture out on my own and actually take pride in relying on myself. That being said, it’s important (regardless of gender) to take some precautions.

General Precautions

Tell someone where you’re going and the approximate duration of your trip. Where possible, text them when you arrive and leave.

Bring a fully charged phone and keep a charger in your car. I also recommend keeping a charged portable charger in your backpack. If you’re like me, by the time I take tons of photos and videos, my battery gets drained.

Don’t rely on your cellular phone data. Print off a hard copy of any maps that you may need, including directions to and from your destination and trail maps. There may not be access to a data network and sometimes it could just be your provider’s network that’s down.

Bring some cash in addition to your bank/credit card. Never know when you may run into trouble with cards.

Being prepared for an emergency. Make sure to pack some essentials in your backpack. Read Hiking 101: What should I pack for a day hike? for more information.

Always be aware of your surroundings. Listen for sounds (for danger) and try to remember landmarks along your trail. If you have a bad sense of direction like me, turn back occasionally to check the landmarks looking the other way as they don’t look the same. I can’t read a map, so it’s a bonus for me when I take photos. By observing the details of my environment, I recognize the trees, flowers, rocks, etc. that I have passed by already. It’s especially helpful to know when I’ve walked around in a circle. While these things may sound trivial, they give me confidence knowing that I’m going the right way.

Avoid wildlife. Wildlife are unpredictable, so it’s safer to stay away from them. I saw about fifteen deer at Lynde Shores Conservation Area in Whitby, and guess what? They saw me too. At some point a few of them started to run slowly in my direction while looking right at me. That was my cue to quickly duck back into the forest.

Trust your gut. If you ever get to a point on a trail where you no longer feel safe, turn back. Sometimes we can make poor decisions when we’re stressed.

Don’t panic. If you find that you’re lost, take a deep breath and stop where you are. Look around and try to retrace your steps to the point where you were last on the right track. This happened to me on my adventure at Sheffield Conservation Area. I suddenly found myself going in circles on the Canadian Shield rocks and everything looked the same. I calmed myself down and finally found the trail to get back.

Safe trails!

Monica's shadow on cedar
Monica Ng

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