Steps to Safe Hiking

Choose an Appropriate Hike

"Choose a hike based on your cardiovascular fitness," recommends Greg Auch, back country education coordinator for the Appalachian Mountain Club. "If you have hiked before, consider the nature of that hike and how you felt. Then consult a trail guide." With detailed descriptions of trails, including distance, altitude, difficulty, and estimated time to complete the hike, trail guides are the best resources for hiking information. "Over moderate terrain," explains Auch, "the average person can cover about two miles per hour. In addition, every 1,000 feet of elevation equals another hour of walking time. Keep this in mind as you decide how long, how far, and how high you wold like to hike."

If you plan to climb the higher elevations in the west, where trails often begin at 8,000 feet, factor in extra time to adjust to the altitude. "You can push yourself to reach higher altitudes, but it is important to give your body a chance to recover," advises Scott Reid, education coordinator for the outdoor ethics organization, Leave No Trace. "Sleeping at a lower elevation from which you hike is one good way."

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