Is Hiking Dangerous? (Hazards & Risks)

is hiking dangerous

Hiking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, exercise, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. But is hiking dangerous? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the dangers of hiking and how to stay safe while out on the trail. We’ll also discuss what to do if you are in a dangerous situation while hiking. So read on to learn more about the dangers of hiking and how to protect yourself while out on the trail.

Is Hiking Dangerous?

Hiking can be dangerous if you’re not prepared or don’t take the proper safety precautions. The most common dangers of hiking include:

Slips and falls: Wet, icy, or uneven terrain can cause hikers to slip and fall, leading to serious injuries like broken bones or concussions. Even if it’s not a fatal fall, if you aren’t careful of your surroundings or hiking alone, a fall could leave you stranded and injured. Falls & slips account for 50% of hiking injuries.

Exposure to the elements: Hikers can be exposed to extreme weather conditions, including heat, cold, rain, snow, and ice. This exposure can lead to hypothermia, frostbite, or heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Animal attacks: Wildlife encounters can be dangerous and even fatal. Hikers should be aware of the animals in the area they’re hiking and take precautions to avoid an attack. Most of the animals you encounter while hiking will leave you alone – they don’t want to be bothered. However, if an animal feels threatened, it may attack. And sometimes, the animals you don’t see while hiking may pose the biggest threat.

Getting lost: It’s easy to get turned around on a hike, especially if the trail is not well marked. Once you realize you’re lost, finding your way back to the trail can be difficult. If you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area, be sure to bring a map and compass, and know how to use them. If you get lost, stay calm and don’t wander off the trail – this will make it easier for rescuers to find you. If you plan to go off the beaten path, consider bringing a personal locator beacon.

How Common Are Hiking Deaths?

Hiking is relatively safe – according to the National Park Service. There are about 0.1 deaths per 100,000 visits, which is very low compared to the mortality rate of the overall US population of 844 deaths per 100,000 people.

About 50% of those deaths are due to unintentional causes, such as slips and falls, exposure to the elements like heat or cold, and animal attacks.

If this makes you feel any better – you have a higher chance of dying from everyday activity, such as a car ride, than hiking in one of the national parks. As of 2020, there were 11.7 deaths per 100,000 people from car crashes, compared to the deaths in National Parks of 0.1 per 100,000 people.

What Are Some Uncommon Hiking Hazards?

We know the big ones: falls, wildlife, and exposure to the elements. But there are some other, less common dangers that hikers should be aware of:

Lightning: If you hear thunder, head for lower ground immediately and stay there until the storm has passed. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from where it is raining, so don’t wait until the rain reaches you to take cover.

Flash floods: If you’re hiking near a river or stream, be alert for signs of a flash flood, such as rising water levels, thunder, or an intense rainstorm upstream. If you see these signs, move to higher ground immediately. Some people enjoy hiking in the rain, but you need to be aware of the potential dangers that come with it.

Rockslides: A rockslide can happen without warning and can be deadly. If you’re hiking in an area prone to rockslides, be alert for signs of one, such as cracking or rumbling sounds, movement of the ground, or hanging boulders. If you see these signs, get out of the area immediately.

Poisonous plants: Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are all common plants that can cause a painful rash. If you come into contact with any of these plants, wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible.

Cramps: Muscle cramps can happen to anyone anytime, but they’re especially common in hikers. To avoid cramps, stay hydrated, and don’t push yourself too hard. If you start to feel a cramp, stop and stretch the muscle. It’s extremely important to stay hydrated while hiking – and most people always underestimate how much water to bring on a hike. In general, you should bring at least 1 liter of water for every hour you’ll be hiking.

What Should You NOT Do While Hiking?

Hiking is generally a safe activity, but there are some things you should avoid doing while hiking to reduce your risk of injury or death. Here are some things to avoid:

Try not to hike alone: It’s always best to hike with at least one other person. If something happens, there will be someone there to help. This is especially important if you are a beginner hiker

Don’t hike off the trail: Trail markers exist for a reason! They help hikers stay safe and avoid getting lost. If you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area, stick to the marked trails.

Don’t forget your map and compass: A map and compass are essential if you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area. If you get lost, these tools will help rescuers find you. I know what you’re thinking – why do I need a map or compass when I have a smartphone? It is 2022, right? The problem is – once you start losing cell service, which WILL happen in many rural areas, you’re out of luck.

Don’t hike in bad weather: If the weather is bad, it’s best to stay indoors. Hiking in extreme heat or cold can be dangerous, and hiking during a thunderstorm is just asking for trouble.

Don’t drink untreated water: Untreated water can contain harmful bacteria that can make you sick and even kill you. If you’re hiking in an area with no safe water, bring your own or purify any water you find before drinking it.

Don’t hike after dark: It’s best to finish your hike before the sun goes down. If you have to hike in the dark, make sure you have a flashlight and a way to signal for help if you get lost.

In general, use common sense while hiking, and pay attention to your surroundings. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and turn back. If you want to learn more about what mistakes to avoid – check out our guide on the common mistakes beginner hikers make and how to avoid them.

Is It Safe to Hike by Yourself?

I wanted to cover this with its own section because I think it’s an important topic. Hiking by yourself can be safe if you take some precautions, and certain people love hiking solo (I’m one of them!)

First, make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. If you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area, hike on a well-marked trail and bring a map and compass. You must be hyper-vigilant when hiking by yourself and always pay attention to your surroundings.

In general, I would only recommend hiking by yourself if you are an experienced hiker and are comfortable with being in the wilderness alone. If you’re a beginner, I would recommend hiking with at least one other person.

Hiking can be dangerous if you’re not prepared, and even experienced hikers can make mistakes that lead to serious injury or death. If you choose to hike by yourself, ensure you are always aware of your surroundings and take the necessary precautions beforehand, during, and even after your hike.

How Long Should Your First Hike Be?

If you haven’t gone hiking before because you’ve heard stories of people falling thousands of feet to their deaths or because you just don’t think it’s safe – I’m here to tell you that those stories are rare, and hiking is safe if you take some (very) basic precautions.

For your first hike, I would recommend choosing an easy trail that is well-marked and not too long.

If you’re in decent shape and can walk 2 miles without getting too tired, a 2-mile hike would be a good choice for your first time out.

But be aware of one thing – if you are going on a hike with plenty of elevation gain (I’m talking 1-2k feet of elevation gain), your hike will be incredibly challenging, no matter how long it is. And if you have a fear of downhill, climbing back down will be even tougher. Conversely, if you suffer from height vertigo, gaining in elevation can cause problems as well.

So, in addition to choosing a shorter distance, make sure to find a trail with very mild elevation gain (50 to 100 feet).

Conclusion

So, is hiking dangerous? In short, no. It’s relatively safe if you take precautions and learn to be aware of your surroundings. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, dress appropriately for the weather conditions, tell someone where you’re going, and carry a first-aid kit. With those essentials in hand, hit the trails and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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