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8 Tips for Safe Fall Hiking

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The glorious colors of fall draw hikers to the mountains and hills — and what better way to get some outdoor exercise, which could help you stick with a fitness regimen and even feel less depressed. Just watch your step out there.

Start with the usual precautions:

  • Dress appropriately. It’s colder now, so dress in layers and wear hiking boots. You may want a winter hat, synthetic undershirt and underwear, synthetic t-shirt, light-weight fleece hoodie, windbreaker, insulated jacket, light-weight gloves, thermal tights, hiking pants and rain pants. Make sure you pack extra socks (preferably wool and waterproof).
  • Tote helpful hiking gear. Even if you’re just going on a day hike, the Washington Trails Association suggesting taking the 10 essentials, which can help save your life if you get lost or injured. These include a compass, tarp, extra food and clothing, waterproof matches, flashlight and whistle for summoning help.
  • Check the latest weather and trail conditions. It’s not winter, but some trails may already have new snow. Rangers at the local stations know the trails best, so give them a call before you head out. Fall weather can also turn treacherous or snowy on a dime, so check the National Weather Service's Mountain Forecast for snow and avalanche conditions.
  • Let someone know where you are going. The Washington Trails Association suggests using the Bugle app or this form to share your hike itinerary. Don’t forget to call and let your contact know when you get back.

Next, remember that autumn is hunting season, and hunters are in the woods looking for bears, deer, elk and other game. Don't be the accidental target of a bullet. According to the Washington Trails Association:

  • Know when hunting season begins. This varies from state to state, so check your state’s fish and game wildlife division site for details.
  • Hike in a no-hunting area. If you feel uncomfortable or nervous sharing trails with hunters, choose a trail where hunting is prohibited, such as a state park or a national park.
  • Wear bright clothing. Choose orange, red or bright green over brown or black. As a blogger on blueridgeoutdoors.com wrote, it’s not mandatory to wear colors like blaze orange, “but you’re crazy if you don’t. A simple orange vest or ball cap can be a lifesaver. I have run into hunters on hikes…and they have all thanked me for wearing blaze orange.”
  • Make your presence known. Sound carries well in the mountains and hunters have their ears tuned in, so whistle, sing or talk with your companions as you walk. If you hear gunshots, yell out to let hunters know you are nearby.

Related: What to Do If You Get Lost in the Mountains

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