Updated: Jul 8, 2020
There’s no jolt to life quite like the realization that you’ve nearly stepped on a rattlesnake. Been there… definitely don’t want to experience that again. One afternoon, I was somewhat mindlessly changing out the safe at a campground in Sequoia National Park, when my coworker directed me to “step backward” in a steady voice. A little too close for comfort; a coiled rattlesnake sat only arms distance from my unprotected ankle. Still thankful for the vigilance of my coworker, I reflect on that day knowing it could have ended much differently.
Planning a hike in a rattlesnake area? Here are 4 tips to help you avoid a scenario like mine!
1. Be Alert
Are you hiking in a known rattlesnake area? If the answer is yes, you should be prepared for a possible encounter. Remember… where you’re hiking is their home. To be respectful, we always want to give rattlesnakes and any wildlife space. Be on the lookout and pay attention to where you’re stepping.
2. Avoid Traveling Off-Trail
If you can’t see where you’re walking, you can’t see who you might bump into. Nobody likes to be stepped on! Stay on maintained trails whenever possible, so you can safely monitor the path in front of you.
3. Use Trekking Poles
Clear the way with your trekking poles or a suitable hiking stick! Snakes can sometimes be found along the edges of rocks and fallen trees. Use your pole to lead your steps and gently probe behind rocks and logs before stepping over them. If you do need to walk through long grass, you can also clear the area in front of your intended path using your trekking poles. Think of them as windshield wipers. Be gentle though… our goal here is to let local snakes know we’re coming not to harm them!
4. Wear Snake Boots or Snake Gaiters
Our first three tips are about avoiding negative interactions with rattlesnakes. However, accidents, no matter how careful we are, can happen. From my own account in Sequoia National Park, you all know I came very close to being a snakebite statistic myself. Yikes! Wearing snake gaiters or boots could have shielded my lower leg had the rattlesnake become more threatened by me.
Have another tip for hiking in rattlesnake country or want to share an experience you've had? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Emily is a freelance travel and outdoor recreation writer for hire. Samples of her published work can be found at emilylorenwriting.com.