Get over your Fears! Tips for Hiking Alone

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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.

Subway in Zion National Park

••• 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.

Have you let your fear of hiking alone keep you indoors? Well its time to tackle those fears. Here's 5 tips for staying safe on your first solo hike.

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.

Be prepared

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!

Have you let your fear of hiking alone keep you indoors? Well its time to tackle those fears. Here's 5 tips for staying safe on your first solo hike.
Source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/77053843600140140/

HAVE YOU BEEN SOLO HIKING? HAS THIS POST MOTIVATED YOU TO GO HIKING ALONE FOR THE FIRST TIME? INSPIRE US & LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, TWEET ME, OR WRITE ME A POST ON FACEBOOK

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There are 39 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

39 Comments on “Get over your Fears! Tips for Hiking Alone

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  1. Congratulations on conquering your first solo hike! All good tips and your pictures are beautiful. Well done you. 🙂

    Cool post! I’ve also done my fair share of solo hikes (mainly in Asia) and I can totally relate to your tips :)! Basically it’s all about common sense!

    You go girl!! What a beautiful place for your first solo hike. I agree it is a bit scary at first, but I always find that nature takes over and banishes the fears. I quite often go walking in the mountains here in the Lake District by myself, and whilst we don’t have bears (came across those in Yosemite!) or raging gorges to worry about, there’s always the British weather, and the fact I do have a habit of tripping over my own feet. Still, I’ve survived, and feel proud that I don’t need anyone else (man included!) to go around with. Look forward to hearing about your next solo adventure 🙂

      Thanks Heather! You are right…once you are out there and focusing on how beautiful it is, rather than possible mishaps, the fear diminishes. Glad you’ve had the same experience as me out there in the UK and appreciate the encouraging words!

    Congratulations! And is the trail beautiful! I often travel solo and have been on a few hikes during my trips and I’ve met some very friendly people on the way too.

    This is so funny that I’m reading this today because I literally JUST went solo hiking for the first time two days ago and absolutely loved it. There were plenty of moments when I was convinced I was lost or could swear I heard a bear in the woods, but eventually I got over it and I think I’m officially addicted. These are some great bits of advice for solo hiking. I would also add — talk to people on the trail, if there are any. I find that most people you run into while hiking are SO friendly and if there are any confusing or tricky spots up ahead, they’ll always give you a heads up!

      Britany – Congrats on your first solo hike! It’s great to hear of other females who are getting out there and having the confidence to go at it alone. And thanks for your additions to my solo hiking tips!

    I’m often on trails alone – best advice is to tell someone or check it at a post of some sort, and definitely don’t challenge your limits. Save that for when you’re not out there solo. 🙂

    Interesting timing, as I am about to go on a 7-hr solo MTB adventure tomorrow while my teammates race. I’ve definitely ridden by myself before, but not in bear country, so of course I am CONVINCED I am going to be munched on by a grizzly. Am I concerned about crashing and breaking my leg? Not so much. But BEARS. EEEK. Nothing like a bit of irrational fear as a motivator…haha.

      Syd – I hope your MTB ride went awesome. Looking forward to reading about it on your blog!

    Hi Kristen!! Congrats on your solo hike :)) Ive been enjoying reading your blog when I have time, after leaving Vegas..

      Thanks Debbie! Appreciate your support and if there is ever anything you’d like to see on the blog, please feel free to get in touch!

    I’ve been solo hiking for many years — but just recently (this year) picked up a satellite-based 2-way messaging system. I have the DeLorme InReach Explorer. It gives me and my partner at home peace of mind. I send a “starting” message at the start of the day and a “stopping here” message at the end of the day along with pinging my location every 10 minutes. It also has a “come rescue me” button which will (supposedly –I haven’t actually tried it) connect you to SAR. It is 2-way so I can get messages from home and also actively lets you know the message went thru. It is spendy (around $200 plus a data plan) but you can get a data plan that suspends service for the off season. It clips on my pack belt and the battery has gone without recharge for 3 days.

      Elaine – Thank you so much for sharing. This is such a wise piece of gear to invest in for both women and men who spend time on the trail alone. This may be going on my Christmas wishlist now. Thanks again! -Kristen

    This was such an encouraging post to read! I’ve been struggling with how to face my fears of hiking alone and this was the perfect thing for me to read. It now seems achievable and I look forward to my first solo hike. Thanks!

      Rachel – I felt the same way. I’ve recently discovered the SPOT GPS transponder. I haven’t gotten one yet, but they seem like a really good safety net to have with you if you are hiking alone. If I end up getting one, I’ll let you know what I think. Thanks for swinging by my blog! -Kristen

    Great article! Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I can totally relate 🙂 I decided it was time to get over my fear of hiking alone just this year. I did it in a bit of a backwards way: I booked a solo backpacking trip to New Zealand for the end of this year. I figure there’s no better way for me to prepare for such a big adventure than to start backpacking and camping alone, here, in my own neck of the woods! I had my first two solo backcountry camping experiences over the last two weekends and it was great. It was so great that I have two more planned and a few more in mind. Your tips make sense and you’re right that it’s very empowering to face our fears and take control of them. Yay for us!!! 🙂

      Gabrielle – That’s so awesome and inspiring. I’m so excited for you as you embark on this new adventure. I still haven’t mustered up the courage to go on an overnight trip alone…but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, and I think your enthusiasm has re-sparked my interest. Have fun out there and come back and share some photos! -Kristen

    I always take bear spray with me. Mostly just to ease my mind. It will protect you from bears of course, but also life threatening situations with other large animals and potential creepy people (not likely, but like I said, ease of mind).

      Hi Monica – Thanks for chiming in! Bear spray is definitely a good idea in places like Glacier and Yellowstone where bears are common.

    I went on my first solo hike (ever), overnight last July 3rd to July 4th (Independence Day!!) and I definitely did things very wrong!! I also had to drive three hours to my destination- the Mt. Rainier/Goat Rocks Wilderness in Packwood, WA- but I did this after working all day, and after a couple of wrong turns I finally made it to the trail head at 10 pm!… A man had just entered the parking lot from the woods and let me know he’d been stalked for the past hour walking back.. but was I turning around.. no! I intended to sleep at the shore of Packwood Lake, honestly I couldn’t imagine an alternative. Thankfully I had my cattle dog with me- I’m not sure how I’d feel solo hiking without this companion- but in the daytime I’m sure I’d be confident enough. The four miles took much longer than my inexperience had projected. Just over two hours. I had an old pack built for a large man that I’d bought at a garage sale, and I imagine it was new in the 80’s… I honestly believe it was at least 60 pounds. At one point I twisted an ankle, fell, brought blood to my knee, and spent what felt like forever trying to stand up with my pack again. A little after midnight on Independence Day, I made it to the lake. The beauty of it, and the sense of accomplishment, were absolutely worth the pained steps it took to get me there. With the pack finally off I felt like I was walking on the moon! Speaking of the moon, it was full and bright, providing enough light to solely make camp by. In the morning I floated around in the hot sun on my blow-up mattress with a breathtaking view of Rainier on the opposite side of the lake. The trek back was the hardest thing I have ever done, to this day. The pack was waaay too large for me and my hips and shoulders were bruising from the night before. A kind man helped me get it on, and everyone I passed asked me if I was okay. I kind of wasn’t but I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have to say that despite how ill-planned and ill-executed my solo hike was, I learned an incredible amount and am eager to go out and apply what I’ve learned. And I got a *perfect* hiking pack for Christmas that I cannot wait to use!! <3 Thank you for hearing my story 🙂

      Hey Ash – What an inspiring story. Thanks so much for sharing! I actually just got back yesterday from my first solo backpacking trip. I can’t say that I loved it, but I was proud of myself and I definitely learned something if I end up doing another solo trip. I also ended up meeting some super friendly people on the trail. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it on my site along with some tips for first timers, so I’d love your input on things you’d do differently next time. Cheers! Kristen

    This year I started doing “solo” hikes. I say “solo” because I take my 8 month old lab puppy with me. She has to get out and exercise or she is crazy (to the point she’ll keep my husband and I up all night chewing on our box spring under the bed). The longest I’ve done by myself is a 5 mile loop, the Boone Fork Trail. I enjoy getting out by myself. I’m a social introvert so getting out and hiking by myself allows me to clear my head.

    Thank for encouraging women to get out there!

      Hey Meredith! That’s awesome you are starting to solo hike. I’ve found that I benefit from it in different ways than when I’m out with friends. Glad you are experiencing that too! Happy hiking.

    I live in Provo and next week I am going by myself to Rock Canyon and hike the 5 bridges. There are lots of people on the trail. It is hard to find friends who would go when I can. On Saturdays hiking trails are super busy and the parking lots are full so I like to go on weekdays. Thanks for your useful tips and reminders!

    Thanks for that, very helpful! I am planning a 2017 nobo thru-hike on the A.T. I have done backpacking trips before, always with a group. I will be flying solo this time! :-/ More fearful of the solitude than the thought of running into a bear, which should be the other way around according to society.

    I love solo hiking and am working on getting the nerve to solo backpack as well! I go on short solo hikes all the time and never felt scared at all. I did do a 5 day solo backpacking trip but stayed in huts rather than tents so I didn’t have as much gear to deal with. Solo hiking gives you the most intense, clear-minded feeling

    I have hiked dozens of times solo throughout Northern California and Oregon. Your tips are right on and nothing beats using common sense and knowing your limitations.

    Hey Kristen!

    I actually am trying to plan a trip to Zion for my 28th birthday sometime in November. It will be my first solo hike. I’m from Colorado and in relatively good shape. I was trying to get people together to go but most aren’t adventurous or spontaneous, so I figured I’ll just go by myself!
    What trail did you hike if you don’t mind me asking? Yours sounds pretty ideal to what I would like my scenarik and I am trying to narrow down a trail.

      I hiked to the Subway from the bottom up. Beautiful trail!

      Hey there! I’m Letitia. I’m heading there for a solo hike on the 21st. I’m 27 and this will be my first time on my own. If you’re going to be there around the same time, maybe we’ll cross paths. You can email me at wilderllyr@gmail.com if you’d like to connect!

    Hiking alone is the best way to recharge…I do the West Coast Trail at lease every other year alone. I usually take 6 days to complete it. It changes you every time.

    I’m 73. I prefer solo hiking and have done it for years, both day hiking and backpacking. Two years ago I fell on a solo hike, broke my wrist, and couldn’t achieve the leverage I needed to stand back up. Fortunately I was just a quarter mile from being back at the trailhead when this happened, and I had a cell signal and I called 911.

    After that it took me a couple of months to get myself back to hiking alone, but I did it. I do two things for safety now: (1) I carry a Delorme InReach with me, since normally I would not have a cell signal, and (2) if it’s just a day hike, I use this website – kitestring.io – to record where I’m going and by what time I should check in. This site is either free or $3/month, depending on how many times you want to use it. It’s been a real help to me, because I live alone and don’t want to have to put a friend or my daughter on alert to wait for my check-in every time I go out. This way, they’ll only be notified if I’m in trouble.

    Hiking alone allows you to own your own hike. I recommend it :-).

    (Just one caveat, though – I no longer hike alone in grizzly country…:-)

    To start I love your tips, I had a few other tricks I used and still use when I solo hike 🙂
    I’ve been solo day hiking and traveling much more in the past year, but when I was first getting started I had to enact a lot of positive self talk. When the trail got hard, or I thought a mamma moose would charge me in the woods alone I would fall back to my mantra; I am strong, I am brave, I can do this. The mantra takes on various forms depending on the challenge I’m facing, but it always seems to do the trick. I still think empowering and kind things to myself when I hike alone, or in small groups; you are your own best cheerleader!

    Another thing I did to feel safer on the trail was to take a Wilderness First Aid class through NOLS. I now feel that I know more about the real dangers in the wilderness, and how to deal with many of them for my own sake, but also for others. The course helps you think about how to avoid danger, as well as action plans and skills for if you really need them.

    Thank your for your amazing website of resources, I have now spent hours reading through all of your carefully crafted literature. It is very much appreciated and enjoyed.

    Well my first alone hike it was a bit of a disaster i picked the wrong day it was a stormy weather the rain didn’t stop and it was windy fogy i even witnessed a tree faling while on the trail i was somehow scared, then i heard a noise ofcorse it was a boar so i panicked start runing i got off my cap so i can listen what’s going around me hopefully someone found me and led me out of the mountain

      So sorry to hear this Salim. Great to hear you are safe! Hope you are able to get back out there again soon.

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