Whether chasing sunsets or simply trying to escape the sun, night hiking is a great way to hit the Arizona trails year round. With that being said, there are some important safety precautions to take when exploring nature after dark, as the desert does change and come alive in different ways after dark. Here are eight safety tips for your next night hiking adventure.
Let Someone Know
Before heading out, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be done. Be specific about the trail and route you are taking, who you are with, and when you expect to be off the trail.
Go in a Group
Participating in organized hikes is a good way of getting familiar with the desert at night. Arizona State Parks offers several guided moonlight hikes throughout the year. You can find a list of these and other guided hikes at the Arizona State Parks website. Whether checking out a guided hike or going out with friends, the saying holds true — there is safety in numbers — and hiking in a group is highly recommended.
Hike a Familiar Trail
As mentioned earlier, the desert changes a lot at night, and navigating in the dark is much easier when you are familiar with your surroundings. Take a trail you know well and have traveled often.
Make Sure You Have Light
It is always a good idea to take headlamp and/or flashlights when night hiking. It is important to stay on the trails and having proper lighting will help assure this. Aa an extra step to ensure you are not caught out in pitch darkness, be sure to bring an extra set of batteries for your devices in case one or more go out.
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Be sure to eat before you hit the trail and pack a snack for your trip. When hiking at night, you may find your pace to be a bit slower, leaving you out on the trail a little longer than than you normally would be during the day. Stopping for a snack is a good chance to refuel and enjoy your moonlit surroundings.
Depending on where and what time of year you are hiking, temperatures can change dramatically once the sun goes down. Bringing a daypack with extra clothes is a good way of avoiding the elements and staying comfortable during your trek. Also, make sure you are wearing proper footwear for the terrain. Hiking boots and trail shoes will protect your feet and provide the most comfort. Avoid flip-flops and sandals as they provide the least amount of protection.
Plenty of water should always be a priority whenever you are out on the trails. Whether the sun is blazing or has set for the evening, proper hydration is key to a safe hike and also helps in keeping you cool when exerting energy. Hydrate before you leave and bring water for the hike. Do not wait until you are thirsty because, at that point, your body is already partially dehydrated.
Be Aware of Wildlife
It is always a good idea when hiking to be hyperaware of your surroundings as things may change dramatically due to weather or an accidental loss of trail. This is especially important at night, as wildlife is much more active during this time. Slow down, pay close attention to your surroundings, and always stay on the trail. Remember to be considerate of your environment and the animals that call it home.