Updated: Aug 5, 2020
All my hiking buddies are booked up this weekend. Bummer... because the weather is supposed to be beautiful! I really don’t want to miss an opportunity to spend time outdoors, so I’m planning to hit the trail alone.
ALL ALONE?! It sounds intimidating, right? A few years ago, I never would have considered hiking without a partner...
When I really should have been trying to reason with my own excuses and somewhat fantastical fears.
Following these 4 guidelines helped me build the confidence I needed to get out by myself and put my controlling fears to rest.
Always Tell Someone Where You’re Going
Knowing that a friend or family member is looking out for your safe return will provide a strong sense of comfort and security while you hike. Always tell someone you trust where you're going and when you plan to return.
I send a private text to my mother or let my partner know the details of my hike before entering into spotty cell service. Don’t post on social media that you out for a solo mission - this, on rare occasions, could leak the wrong information to the wrong person. Yikes!
Choose a Popular Trail
Sharing a trail with other hikers is comforting when you’re out alone. It presents great opportunities to meet people and ask about the conditions ahead. This was my most productive breakthrough in hiking alone.
My biggest fear of hiking alone was… and still is… spooking a grizzly bear. I know it could still happen on a high-use trail, so I always carry bear spray and shamelessly yell-sing The Bare Necessities from the Jungle Book.
Triple Check You Have The Essentials
There’s no divvying up the gear or relying on a hiking partner to bring an item you forgot. You need to be absolutely positive everything is accounted for. I check through my gear multiple times before leaving my house and then again at the trailhead.
Once I drove nearly an hour to a remote trailhead to find that I forgot my bear spray. Not a tough decision… I didn’t hike that day. *shrug*
Trust Your Instincts
You know what a bad feeling is. Trust your instincts and don’t go if things feel spooky. If there’s someone in their car watching you, if there’s fresh bear scat, if you’re gut is telling you NO, then don’t go. There's nothing wrong with taking a rain check.
A friend once told me about a time that she had planned to hike a peak with her dog. However, when she got to the trailhead, her dog started acting kinda funny and she noticed some fairly fresh bear tracks. She turned around and went right back to her car. Later in the week when she went back to the trail with friends, and they found a note from a group of hikers stating that there were a sow and cubs on the trail the same day she had planned to hike alone with her dog.
Tell us about your first solo hike in the comments! How did hiking alone compare to hiking with partners?
Emily is a freelance travel and outdoor recreation writer for hire. Samples of her published work can be found at emilylorenwriting.com.