Desert Hiking Safety Tips
Most of us are “transplants” to the desert, having moved here from somewhere else. We can learn a lot from our native surroundings if we just tune in to what is going on around us. Desert mammals are active in the early morning hours and again at dusk. Adjust your outdoor recreation habits to reflect this pattern to enjoy a safe summer hiking season!
In addition, here are a couple of basic safety refreshers to keep in mind when recreating outdoors:
Take short, familiar trails.
Start early…the earlier the better.
Never hike alone
Keep skin covered as much as possible by wearing a long sleeved shirt and a hat. Light colored clothing will help reflect heat.
Stay hydrated all the time. The best place to store water is in your body! Make sure to drink extra (water) the day before a planned hike to pre-hydrate. On the hike, carry more water than you think you’ll need. Depending on the length of the hike, carry at least 70-100 ounces. Always keep extra water in your vehicle for after the hike.
Carry a bandana in your pack. They are light-weight and can be used for numerous situations. If you are beginning to suffer from excessive heat, wet the bandana and place on the nape of the neck and/or the forehead. This will help to cool you down quickly. Seek shade under a tree or bush.
- Leave word with someone trustworthy about where you intend to go. If you plan to camp overnight, fill out a slip at the Ranger Station so we don’t assume you are lost or injured, if your car is at the trailhead at closing time (sunset).
- Map miles are not the same as effort miles. On good trails, hikers can go up to 2.5 MPH. On most trails, count on no more than 1 or 1.5 MPH, especially if admiring the views, cooling off under Palo Verde trees, taking pictures, etc.
- Going uphill takes more time. A 1,000’ climb equals a mile of effort and adds 10 or 20 minutes. Downhill is no faster if the trail is bad.
- Heat can kill you! Avoid travel if it is above 100 degrees. Hike between sun up and 11 a.m. Your efficiency drops drastically with heat and dehydration.
- Carry enough water – two quarts at least. (It is impossible to carry enough on a 115-degree day.)
- Be wary of rattlesnakes, particularly at night and when it is relatively cool. We have a plentiful supply here.
- Carry something to signal with – a police whistle, signal mirror, and matches for a fire, a colored panel – to make you visible.
- It is good sense to carry a hiking staff to aid in rough spots, and some sprain tape.
- White Tank Mountain is tough country. Off-trail travel can get you in bad trouble quickly.
- Look behind you frequently. The trail back looks different from the trail out.
Be considerate – leave no trace.