Get Over your Fears! Tips for Hiking Alone
Have you ever wanted to go hiking but felt you didn’t have anyone to go with? Have you let your fear of hiking alone keep you indoors?
I have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve abandoned hiking plans because I was too scared to go hiking alone. I’ll admit…I can be a bit clumsy, so I’ve always imagined myself doing something stupid and getting hurt. Or there was the nagging from my parents who told me “there are weirdos out there, Kristen.”
A couple of years ago, I was in a long-term relationship that ended, and I decided that I didn’t want to wait for someone to get out there and experience the outdoors. So I hopped in the car and drove to Zion National Park and embarked on my first-ever solo hike. It ended up being an incredible and empowering experience. Now with dozens of solo hikes under my belt, I believe that want to share the process I went through to build my solo hiking confidence, and some tips that can help you overcome the common fears females have about hiking alone.
My First Time Hiking Alone
So I was on the way to Zion, and I had been wanting to check out the hike to The Subway for years. I had never hiked alone before, so I figured a popular hike in a National Park would be a good way to break the ice. I was nervous on the drive to the Park, but I kept telling myself that there are tons of girls who hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail alone. I could certainly survive a silly 9 mile day hike.
By the time I got my permit from the Rangers Station and arrived at the trailhead, it was 11:30 and a scorching 100 degrees.
As soon as I set off, the trail took a sharp turn down into the canyon. The trail was slick and a few times I almost lost my footing. “Shit” I thought. Then, dozens of disaster scenarios started swirling through my head.
Should I have worn better shoes? Was I going to run out of water? What if there ARE weirdos out here?
I took a deep breath and continued making my way slowly down the trail, one step at a time.
As soon as I reached the river at the bottom, I was happy to find that the trail flattened out, and I began to walk upstream. The trail was not well defined and lots of scrambling was required to get around the river’s obstacles. But man, was it gorgeous.
The further along I got on my hike, the more my confidence grew. Before I knew it, I felt like a boulder-hoppin’ badass. It was almost like a force came over me that I had never experienced. My adrenaline was sky high and for that afternoon, I felt like there was nothing that could hold me back.
To top it off, I couldn’t have picked a better trail. It was full of waterfalls and caves with crystal clear swimming holes. When I got to my turn around point, I took some time to play with my new camera, take a dip, and to relish in the magical moment I was having.
What I learned on my first solo hike
Throughout my first solo hiking experience, I had several revelations. The first was that every person I passed on the trail was super friendly. In fact, fellow hikers offered to take my picture, asked if I needed snacks, and were generally interested to hear about where I came from. All those crazies that I had been afraid of….well I didn’t run into any this time.
Second, when you are alone, you have to depend on yourself. There’s no one there to help you hop across that stream or to encourage you when the going gets tough. For me, this created a new mental stamina and self-confidence that I haven’t always had in the past. I really learned to trust myself out there.
Finally, when you are hiking alone, you are in charge. You can hike at your own pace and stop for photos as often as you want. There is something freeing about not having to worry about anyone else.
Tips for your first-time Hiking Alone
If you are considering going on your first solo hike, here are some tips to stay smart and put your mind at ease.
Pick a well-traveled, well-marked trail
When choosing a trail for your first solo hike, pick one that is popular and easy to navigate. That way you don’t have to worry about getting lost or getting stranded in the rare case that something happens to you. You can even pick somewhere you’ve been before, and always stay on the trail. Watch for trail markers and take pictures of any trail junctions to help you remember which way you came from when you are retracing your steps.
Tell someone where you are going
Before you set out on your solo hike, text a reliable friend or family member a very explicit description of the trail you are hiking. Tell them how long you expect to be out and call them when you get back to civilization. If you want to be extra safe, consider getting a SPOT Transponder. This handy little communication device allows you to send pre-determined messages to your family and friends, and if something goes wrong you can send a help signal with your location to emergency responders.
Know your limits
Go ahead and challenge yourself. But don’t attempt a marathon of a hike for your first solo hike. Mistakes are made when you get overly fatigued. There is no need to push yourself beyond your comfort level.
Make sure you have enough food and water to stay energized and hydrated. Also it’s always smart to bring along some basic first aid supplies, a headlamp, and an extra layer of clothing so you are prepared in case the weather turns.
Trust your instincts
If something doesn’t feel right, then it’s probably not. Think it’s getting too late to keep going? Then turn around. Feeling nervous about some creep who gave you a weird look? Be on the defensive. Solo hiking is not the time to take risks. Trust your judgement.
Finally, one last thought…I recently came across the image below, and I found it to be a source of inspiration for us solo hikers. Hopefully it is for you too!