Proper Planning Prevents....

Safety On Trail

The leaves are changing and sweater weather is upon us. What does this mean? HIKING SEASON IS HERE! Soon our boots will be crunching leaves while picking apples and enjoying the ever so random breeze that hits the trail. With the excitement in the air, we thought it best to provide some safety hiking tips while on trail. Preparation is key!

Ask your self these questions:

  1. Where are you going?  Study how to get to your trail/campsite. Whether getting there requires a bus, car, or a short foot-walk, knowing where you are going helps in time management as well as safety. If the trail is heavily populated, the parking may be full. Have a back-up plan.   If you are camping out, be sure you have ample space between you and your bear bag. Does your ridge-line trail have a weather-safe re-route? Heaven forbid you are caught on top of a peak when lightning is striking. Study the trail map, terrain, topography, campsites and water sources to help pre-guide your self-guided trip.
  2. What is the goal and is it realistic? Are you going simply for exercise or because you want to see a view? Maybe a friend invited you and you want to take a selfie on top of Old Rag. If the view is 4.5 miles away and you arrive at 6:30 pm, reality is you may not hit your viewpoint before the sun goes down. If you have heart issues an advanced hike may not suit your health. If you are scared of heights then maybe consider taking the “tunneled” – enclosed-with-trees route instead of the scenic-on-top-of-a-mountain route.
  3. Who knows where you are going? Always let someone know where you are going whether it be your significant other, parent, friend or neighbor. You can even post your plans on Facebook letting many others know about your upcoming adventure. The walls don’t talk but social media does! Don’t be scared in telling someone know where your going. Let your “emergency contact” know when you are leaving, where you are going and when you will return. This is key in long-term hiking as many things can go wrong during a thru-hike and plans change all the time. I personally carry a SPOT GPS system and track my hike daily, sending a ping to my emergency contact every night while on trail. When it comes to safety, too much information is never too much.
  4. Do you have the right gear (including the top ten essentials)?  Carrying all of the appropriate gear is important for survival. So is knowing each piece of gear you are carrying and how to use it. I suggest utilizing your stove before hitting the trail & opening your first-aid kit and repair kit and customizing them for you and your group. Keep your first-aid kit in an easy to reach spot on your pack. If you are in a group and allergic to anything or need medication daily, alert your group where your first-aid is in your pack, what its for and how to use it. Hunting season runs through hiking season. Wear blaze orange and try not to blend into the trail. This is also helpful when/if rescue is required.
    Most Common Top Ten Hiking Essentials:

    1. Illumination.
    2. Hydration/Filtration
    3. Insulation
    4. Shelter
    5. First-Aid
    6. Repair Kit
    7. Nutrition
    8. Sun Protection
    9. Fire-Starter
    10. Guide/Map/Compass/Signaling Device
  5. What is the weather? Is it going to be hot enough to cook eggs on asphalt or cold enough for frostbite? Planning for weather is important for safety and happiness on trail.Virginia summer humidity is always present along with my frizzy hair while a California summer provides dry terrain, requires more water, moisturizing and sometimes acclimation. Look up where you will be hiking and the weather forecast. No matter the season, be prepared for unexpected weather conditions including wind, rain, the heat and the cold.


Some must-hike trails this season are: Mott’s Reservoir in Fredericksburg, the Quarry Trail system in Fredericksburg, Government Island in Stafford and Stony Man in Shenandoah.

River Rock Outfitter carries many trail maps and books including “60 Hikes in 60 Miles” and ” Appalachian Trail Guide to Maryland and Northern Virginia With Side Trails”. Come on in today to Plan, Prepare and Get Out There! Happy Trails!


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