Tips For a Safe and Fun Hike

Outdoor sports have seen a resurgence since the beginning of the pandemic and hiking often tops the list. But,  it can also be dangerous if you don’t plan ahead. Here are some helpful tips to keep your hiking trip safe and family-friendly.

With more than 250 miles of trails, Montgomery Parks features several recreation and exploration trails that are perfect for hikers, bikers and horseback riders. The trails, made of dirt or asphalt, can become hazardous if they get too muddy or slippery.

Before you head out,  Montgomery Parks recommends going online to the RainoutLine  or accessing the mobile app to check which trails in the county are safe to explore.

The National Park Service also lists safety tips on the NPS website to review while planning:

  • Pick a trail that the whole group will be able to complete
  • Leave an outline of who’s going, where and when with a friend or family member in case of an emergency
  • Create a plan for what to do if someone gets hurt
  • Consider learning CPR or first aid
  • Have another way to communicate besides cellphones in case of loss of service
  • Keep track of everyone’s location
  • Have weather equipment packed in case of rain
  • Research hazards in the area
  • Go slower when reaching higher altitudes
  • Bring plenty of water and ready-to-eat food and snacks
  • Consider bringing any of the 10 essential items
  • Let the slowest hiker set the pace
  • Keep track of time and distance
  • Yield to uphill hikers
  • Take breaks
  • Watch your step
  • Stay hydrated
  • Be cautious when near bodies of water
  • Pay attention to tidal behavior
  • Check for ticks and carry bug spray
  • Be aware of wildlife in the area

Recently, there have been incidents of heat exhaustion around the Billy Goat Trail. During hyperthermia and heat emergency alerts, the county urges residents to take precautions and follow hot weather safety tips.

Courtesy of MCFRS Chief Spokesperson Pete Piringer

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services also warn of tides in the Potomac River that can lead to drowning. Captain Bell with the MCFRS water rescue team said uprooted trees, debris, hidden boulders and other hazards can lie beneath the river’s surface. These can complicate rescue and cause someone to drown before the team can reach them.

“The Potomac is very deceptive, it has some spots that look very calm, very tranquil, look very easy to swim in. But, because the river is a very high-volume flowing river there is a very strong undercurrent with lots of rocks, lots of unseen obstacles and the water is never clear, so you can never see what you’re getting into,” Bell said. “These dynamics are especially pronounced in the area of the river called the Potomac Gorge. It is a turbulent zone where water comes into conflict with geology. This stutter-step in the earth’s crust makes Great Falls a beautiful spot, it also makes it dangerous.”

For those planning to take their children along for the hike, Montgomery Parks listed their top picks for ways to keep them engaged:

  • Plan for a short hike in case the kids tire out early
  • Use games or activities to keep them active
  • Teach older children how to navigate the park maps
  • Use cellphone apps to identify wildlife in the area

To find more information on parks in the county, visit the Montgomery Parks website.

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Sarah Dilworth

About Sarah Dilworth

Sarah Dilworth was an intern with Montgomery Community Media during the fall of 2021. At the time, she was also a senior at the University of Maryland where she studied journalism and creative writing.


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