There are still ways you can explore the earth and relish in its vast and fecund landscapes. But how, you may wonder? Well, by exploring your own backyard, of course!
Utah is home to numerous trails of all levels which, for the majority, are easily accessible. If you are new to hiking and want to get outdoors, we recommend downloading the free mobile app or visiting the website AllTrails, Gaia GPS Hiking, Hiking Project, and the NPS app.
Research shows that hiking is great for your body, not only does it improves blood pressure, but it also lowers the risk of heart disease, decreases cholesterol, and helps control your weight.
Not only is it great for your physical health but it is also great for your mental health!
Data shows that when you go hiking, a brain-derived neurotrophic factor is released (BDNF) into your body. When this is released, the part of your brain that grows new neurons is stimulated. So, whenever you are hitting the trails you are also nourishing your cerebral sponge.
If you are planning on heading out to trails, here are some tips to keep in your back pocket.
Always be ready
When you begin your journey, it is vital to keep these ten things with you. Packing all these may seem excessive, and on a routine trip, you may use only a few of them or none at all. But if an incident is to happen, you will truly appreciate the value of carrying these items that could be essential to your survival according to REI:
- Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB), or satellite messenger
- Extra clothes Beyond the minimum expectation
- Headlamp: plus extra batteries
- Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes, and sunscreen
- First aid: including foot care and insect repellent (as needed)
- Knife: plus a gear repair kit
- Fire: matches, lighter, tinder, and/or stove
- Shelter: carried at all times (can be a light emergency bivy)
- Extra food: Beyond the minimum expectation
- Extra water Beyond the minimum expectation
Live n’ breathe the basics
When you go out hiking, there are some basic rules, you should definitely follow, according to the Sandy Police Department:
- Weather: Check the weather forecast before you go
- Partner up: Hike with a buddy and tell someone where you are going and when you will return
- Trails: Stay on marked trails and do not climb on waterfalls
- Safety: Don’t take unnecessary risks and know your physical limitations
- Take a phone: but don’t count on cell phones to work in the wilderness (don’t rely on a GPS to prevent you from getting lost)
- Take plenty of water and snacks: never assume stream water is safe to drink
- Protection: Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage
- Dress for the season in bright colors: always carry quality rain gear and turn back in bad weather
- Teamwork: Help others on the trail
- Just in case: All hikers especially children and older adults should carry a whistle (three short blasts is a sign of distress)
- Reminder: Always keep a close eye on children near swift water
What to do in an emergency
When you embark on a hike, one mantra to live by is to expect the unexpected. You could be up on a peak and the weather could change. Wildlife may be hiding around the corner, or the batteries might die on your phone. It’s good to be prepared.
But in some cases, the unexpected can be far more serious. You could roll your ankle on a steep descent or you could fall and hit your head. You could even get completely lost and not have any way to communicate with the outside world.
If you are hiking and things suddenly go awry, here are five tips to remember according to Eastern Medicine Sports.
- Do not panic: Whether you are dealing with an injury, hypothermia, or a missing person, it is in your best interest to take a moment to breathe. Take your pack off, drink some water, sit down, and let your heart rate slow to prevent adrenaline from playing into your decision-making process.
- Take note of your surroundings: Once you become level-headed and that initial adrenaline rush is over, take a look around and ask yourself a few basic questions. Do you know where you are? How close are you to a trailhead or campsite with a caretaker? Are you safe where you are—specifically, are you below treeline and sheltered from any inclement weather?
- Stay put or get out: When things unexpectedly turn for the worse, you may need to call for help, but how do you know when it is the right time to do so? There are a few instances, the decision is made for you:
- When someone is unconscious
- When you or someone cannot walk on their own
- Delegate: This comes in handy when you are hiking with a group. It is vital to have roles assigned out to group members during an emergency, especially if you out on a longer hike. Potential roles would be calling for help, going to find help (two people, if possible), boiling water for warm drinks or food, making sure everyone is properly dressed, hydrated, and fed, or setting up a tent. Creating roles serves as a great method to not only distract others from panic but also for handling the situation.
- Have and use the essentials: As expressed earlier, it is very important to pack the right equipment, regardless of whether it’s a day hike or a week-long backpacking trip. If you are ever caught in an emergency, it is essential to know how to quickly deploy and use each piece of equipment. Again, you should always have a first aid kit, headlamp, extra clothes and snacks, and even a bandana to apply pressure to a possible wound or to cut off blood flow.
Tips from the locals
The Beehive State is known to have four of the 15 classifications used in the modified Koppen system to describe climates worldwide, whereas other states typically only have two. You could literally find yourself hiking in either the desert, the highlands, and even the tundra!
So if you ever decide to give hiking a try, here are tips from local officials to always keep in mind.
- Never feed wildlife.
- Use apps such as iNaturalist to report reptile and amphibian sightings.
- Stay away from animal carcasses
- Store food, trash and scented items (such as sunscreen) in airtight plastic bags
- Pitch tents away from trails in the backcountry
- Always check the weather, especially if you are ever hiking in an area with slot canyons. Flash floods are common in Utah and definitely do not want to be caught in one.
- Plan ahead.
- Know how and where to go. According to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, when it comes to Utah’s leave-no-trace policy, it is important to remember that leaving no trace means more than just packing out the garbage.
“Proper disposal of human waste safeguards against the pollution of water sources and protects public health,” they share.
To learn more about how to properly dispose of human waste when recreating on Utah’s public lands, visit GottaGoUtah.org.
At the end of the day, another rule to keep in mind is to just have fun and to enjoy the great outdoors.