6 Safety Tips That All Levels of Hikers Should Adhere to for Fall Hiking in New England
For visiting leaf peepers and local hikers, Maine offers some of the most picturesque views during the autumn season. With its dense forests, pristine lakes, dramatic coastal trails, and vibrant fall colors, it's no wonder that Maine attracts outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world.
It’s also important to remember that with beautiful signs of nature, hiking in Maine comes with its share of risks.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, it's crucial to be well-prepared and aware of potential hazards.
As someone who enjoys hiking, I typically stick to smaller and shorter hikes if I’m by myself. Even though trails are marked, I have this paranoia of getting lost in the woods, not to mention injuring myself or, even though unlikely, having an altercation with an animal. This leads me to tip #1:
1. Hike With a Buddy if Possible
Having someone else with you will likely decrease the chances of any of these things happening ,or at least there will be an extra person there to seek help if needed. If you are hiking solo, Inform someone about your hiking plans, including the trail(s) that you'll be on and your estimated start and finish times.
Have an approximate set time that you plan on reaching out to them to let them know you made it back safely.
This way, if you don't return as planned, someone will know where to look for you.
2. Plan Ahead
Before embarking on your hiking adventure in Maine, it's essential to plan ahead.
Research your chosen trail, its features, and the difficulty level. Also, make sure it’s a marked trail and that you stay on it.
You will also want to research its length and terrain. Is this a flat three-mile loop, or a 10-mile hike with a mostly strenuous incline and rugged terrain? There’s a big difference between Bradbury Mountain and Mount Katahdin!
Apps like All Trails are helpful to have on your phone.
Check the weather forecast. If you’re a Mainer, you know our weather can be unpredictable, so stay updated on current conditions before and during your hike. Instead of checking the weather for the day, I recommend giving the local radar a peek for your hit the trails.
3. Dress Appropriately
Having the right gear can make all the difference in your hiking experience and safety. Dress accordingly in layers to adapt to changing temperatures and conditions.
Also invest in sturdy, comfortable hiking boots with good traction to handle Maine's uneven terrain.
Don’t have any? Well, remember, Maine is home to LL Bean.
4. Make Sure to Bring These Items
Navigation tools. Carry a map, compass, and GPS device, and know how to use them. As I mentioned earlier, mobile apps like All Trails with offline maps can also be helpful.
Backpack. Use a well-fitted backpack to carry essentials like food, water, a first-aid kit, extra clothing, and emergency supplies. Pack the essentials, but try not to overpack, as the weight could end up being a factor for you.
Lighting. Always bring a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries, even for day hikes. You may not still plan to be hiking after dusk, but it can happen, so it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially in heavily forested areas.
Also remember to have a fully-charged phone. It's important to always remember that hiking in the woods or mountains will often not provide a strong cell signal, if any at all, so never expect that you will always be able to use your phone to call for help.
However, it is still advisable to bring a fully-charged phone, especially when hiking solo. I would recommend a mobile charger as well.
Putting your phone in Airplane Mode will stop your device from constantly looking for a signal and draining the battery.
5. Stay Hydrated and Nourished
Maine's hikes can be physically demanding, so it's crucial to stay well-hydrated and nourished. Be sure to carry enough water, and ensure you have an adequate supply of clean drinking water, especially on longer hikes or in remote areas where water sources may be scarce or unreliable.
Pack energy-rich snacks: Bring high-energy foods like granola bars, nuts, and dried fruits to help maintain your energy levels throughout the hike.
6. Be Aware of Wildlife
We have quite the wilderness of wildlife here in Maine, including bears and moose that like to roam the forests. While physical encounters with these animals are rare, it's essential to be prepared:
Store food properly, and remember to hang food in a bear bag away from your campsite to avoid attracting bears.
Remember to make noise. While hiking, especially in dense forests, make noise to alert animals to your presence. This can prevent surprising wildlife and potential conflicts.
Lastly, it's important to respect wildlife by observing animals from a safe distance and never attempting to feed them.
By following all of these safety tips, you can help to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.
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