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Hiking can be one of the most enjoyable ways of experiencing the outdoors. If you take friends or family along, it can also be a memorable social experience as you share the adventure of discovering new places. But whether you’re heading out on your first hike or your hundredth, it’s a good idea to use your head first. Here are some simple tips to make sure your hike is fun, exciting… but also safe.

Know where you’re going.

Oregon has thousands of marked, well-maintained hiking trails, so there’s no reason to create your own. Take a second to pick up a hiking map and make sure you follow those trail signs.

Never explore alone or without permission.

Seriously, heading off into the wilderness by yourself or not letting someone know where you’re going is just not smart. A simple email or text message to a friend or family member is all it takes to make sure help can find you if you get in trouble. Plus, parents get really irritated when they don’t know where their kids are and who needs the hassle, right?

Carry appropriate supplies.

Not having appropriate supplies is probably the biggest mistake you can make on a hike. Here are some tips on what you should pack, even for short day hikes.

Food and water. Young people often think that an energy drink or a large coffee is enough to get them through, but the temporary stimulation provided by caffeine doesn’t really replace appropriate food and lots of water. Remember, you’re gonna be burning energy like crazy, especially if you’re climbing up muddy embankments or over fallen trees. So eat a good, high-protein meal before you start out and carry high energy protein snacks or foods that won’t spoil quickly, like crackers, nuts, and dried fruits or cured meats.

A cell phone. Like you go anywhere without it, right? But it’s important to have a way to call for help if you need it. Keep in mind that cell phones don’t get reception everywhere, so you still need to let someone know exactly where you’re going and what time you plan to be back.

A compass or GPS unit. A lot of cellphones or smart devices come equipped with compasses and GPS, or they can be added free with a simple app download. Get them and play with them before you set out on your hike. But remember, they only work as long as the smart device has juice, so it may be a good idea to take a regular compass as well. (And know how to use it!)

Fire-starting kit. Waterproof matches, a cheap lighter or a chemical fire starter are all small, lightweight items you can stuff in your backpack or pocket. Chances are you won’t need them for just a day hike, but if something unexpected happens, they can become your most cherished items.

A flashlight. You know those reasons we gave you for carrying a fire-starting kit? They apply to a flashlight as well. Now that flashlights use LED technology, they can be inexpensive, exceptionally powerful and long-lasting. Carry some extra batteries, too.

A knife. Humankind’s oldest tool is still our most valuable one. A versatile utility knife – one with different blades, scissors, compass, etc. – is the best choice.

A first aid kit. You can find small, compact and light-weight first aid kits in any drug store or supermarket. Although these won’t help you much with major injuries (that’s where the cell phone is more helpful), it will provide relief for skinned knees, scratches and insect bites.

Wear appropriate clothing.

Just because you’re on a hike doesn’t mean you can’t be comfortable and look good! But make sure the clothes you take are appropriate for both the conditions of the trail (waterproof hiking boots instead of canvas skate shoes, for example) and for changing weather. The best tip is to dress in layers so you can add or remove clothing as the situation demands.

Don’t trespass.

Trespassing is an easy problem to avoid. If you stay on marked trails on public lands (state parks, national parks, recreational areas), then you won’t have a problem with trespassing. If you encounter KEEP OUT or NO TRESPASSING signs, take them seriously. Often they are warning you of dangerous conditions ahead. Staying on trails provides another benefit – it keeps us from trampling across the native countryside, possibly destroying delicate plants or disturbing wildlife.

Some Suggested Hikes

Click on the links below to see some cool hikes you can take along the Oregon Coast and in the adjacent inland areas. Check back periodically as additional hikes will be added.

Ashland and Vicinity – Hiking Lithia Park | Ecola State Park – Hiking The Clatsop Loop Trail | Eugene and Vicinity – Hiking The Mount Pisgah Arboretum | Neahkahnie Mountain – Hiking To The Home of the Gods | Oregon Dunes – Hiking The John Dellenback Dunes Trail

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What To Take Before You Go?

Any outdoor excursion requires a little forethought and some preparation. To help you have a safe and successful hike, we've prepared this short list on things you might want to take with you.

Observe The Outdoors While You Hike?

Want to turn your nature hike into a wildlife spotting activity? Download our Outdoor Observation Worksheet to enhance your experience.