Texas Living

How to Stay Safe on Your Next Hike

By Peter Simek 5.4.22

It’s the perfect time to get outdoors and explore the beautiful Texas countryside. But while Texas’ wild landscapes can be stunning, they are also strewn with hidden dangers. From making sure you stay cool to knowing how to avoid a serious injury, here are some hiking safety tips.

hiking safety
Photo by Pierce Ingram, courtesy of Travel Texas

Know Your Limits

The first thing you should be aware of before setting out on your hike is your own physical limits and experience level. If you aren’t used to climbing thousands of feet in a day, it’s OK to tell your friends that you can’t join them on their weekend trek up to the South Rim. Alternatively, don’t hesitate to say if you need to turn back before you’d planned to. Knowing your physical condition and capacities will keep you from getting stuck in a situation you can’t get out of.

Preparation and Planning

Never begin a hike by simply jumping in the car and heading to a trailhead. Know what you are getting into. Preparing for a hike means checking the weather conditions so you can plan accordingly; looking at maps and researching your destination to understand the terrain you may encounter; and gathering the right supplies to stay hydrated, energized, and comfortable through the hike. It’s also best practice to check the park site or consult a park ranger before you go so you can be aware of any hazards, closures, fees, or any other essential information.

hiking safety
Photo by Pierce Ingram, courtesy of Travel Texas

Let Others Know Your Plans

Part of hiking safety includes plotting out your planned itinerary and letting friends or family know where you are headed. It is important, particularly on a multiday backpacking trip, that they know when you are leaving and when you expect to be back. This way, if anything happens and you are lost, injured, or don’t meet your planned return time, they can help alert the proper authorities. You should also always have a hiking buddy, a trail map, and an agreed-upon emergency plan.

Stay Cool, Stay Hydrated

One of the biggest threats to hiking safety in Texas is the heat. Particularly early in the summer, there are popular hiking spots that are dry, sunny, and get hot quick. Weather can change quickly, and water is tough to find. Make sure you pack enough fluids to stay hydrated. Wear sunscreen and a hat, and take as many breaks as you need to.

hiking safety
Photo by Pierce Ingram, courtesy of Travel Texas

Bring the Right Gear

Packing proper hiking gear can mean making sure the shoes you are planning to wear are appropriate for the trail conditions you will encounter. It means having the right clothes and protective wear for the expected weather conditions. Bring a map, water, a first-aid kit, and a flashlight in case you are out in the dark. If you are biking or rock climbing, make sure you have a helmet. Just as important, don’t overpack. Carrying too much into the backcountry can slow you down and exhaust you, which could lead to other problems. Remember, each hiking condition calls for appropriate gear and provisions.

Stay Aware on the Trail

Texas is beautiful, but it is also home to many plants, animals, and insects that can be harmful. If you encounter any strange plants, don’t touch them. Keep your eyes and ears open for dangerous critters, especially the state’s plentiful rattlesnake population. And keep attuned to the landscape around you. This will not only help you stay aware of any potential dangers but also enhance your experience of Texas’ wild beauty.

Click here for a list of our favorite hiking trails in Texas.

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