Plan your trip ahead of time based on your hiking experience, as well as the expected weather and trail conditions. Check the park or trail website for any updates about the trails, print out a map, and then plan out your route. Share your route with someone who will not be going with you, as well as your expected return time. Start with shorter, easier trails if you are new to hiking, so you can find your limits. Bring more water the hotter it will be or the longer you plan to hike. Also bring any appropriate weather gear. And, though you may see solo hikers, it is always safer for you to travel in a group, so bring your friends or family along.
While researching your next hike, also be sure to pay attention to any rules posted by individual parks. Generally, for example, hikers are asked to follow the practice of “leave no trace,” which means you have to bring home anything you bring in. So used granola bar wrappers, tissues, etc. have to be stored in your pack because there may not be any trash cans. This protects both you and the wildlife.
Finally, familiarize yourself with trail blazes before setting out on your very first hike. Blazes are rectangular markings painted on trees that show you where the trail is and they are one of the most common ways used to mark trails. Each trail will be identified with its own color, which will be used on the blazes and on the trail map. Here is a quick guide to North American blaze meanings:
- Left Turn
- Right Turn
- Trail Start
- Trail End