The Beginner’s Guide to Hiking

Hiking for beginners can be intimidating but there’s really not much to it. You don’t need any special skills to hike; you just have to be able to walk and know where you are. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in nature, get a good workout in, and recharge your batteries. This guide will give you some essential hiking for beginners’ tips to make your hike safe and fun.

Hiking is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the outdoors. Transported by your own two feet and carrying only what you need for the day on your back you can discover the beauty of nature at whatever pace you’re comfortable with. And, with a little planning and preparation, it’s an activity that almost anyone can do.

Hiking, a timeless and invigorating outdoor activity has been a favorite pastime for individuals seeking a harmonious blend of exercise, nature, and adventure. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or a novice to the world of outdoor activities, hiking provides an excellent opportunity to reconnect with nature, improve physical well-being, and embark on a journey of self-discovery.

In this article, I’ll delve into the essence of hiking, highlighting its benefits and why it is an ideal activity for beginners. Moreover, I’ll underscore the inclusivity of hiking, catering to individuals of various fitness levels.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is hiking and its benefits

Hiking is a form of outdoor recreation that involves walking or trekking through natural landscapes, often along trails or footpaths. Unlike more structured exercises, hiking allows participants to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature offering a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The benefits of hiking extend beyond the physical realm encompassing mental and emotional well-being.

Physical fitness

One of the primary advantages of hiking is the positive impact it has on physical health. As a weight-bearing exercise, hiking helps improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and enhance overall endurance. The varied terrain encountered during hikes engages different muscle groups providing a comprehensive workout for the body.

Mental well-being

The therapeutic effect of nature is well-documented and hiking serves as a conduit to experience it firsthand. The serene landscapes, fresh air, and the rhythmic act of walking contribute to reduced stress levels, improved mood, and enhanced mental clarity. Hiking provides a valuable opportunity to unplug from technology and connect with the present moment.

Hiking Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Social interaction

While hiking can be a solo endeavor, it also presents an excellent opportunity for social interaction. Group hikes allow individuals to share the experience with friends or meet like-minded individuals fostering a sense of community and camaraderie. Conversations flow more freely in the relaxed setting of nature strengthening social bonds.

Why hiking is ideal for beginners

Hiking’s appeal lies in its simplicity and adaptability making it an excellent choice for individuals new to outdoor activities. Here are several reasons why hiking is an ideal starting point.

Low entry barrier

Unlike some sports or fitness routines that require specialized equipment or skills, hiking has a remarkably low entry barrier. A comfortable pair of walking shoes, appropriate clothing, and a water bottle are sufficient for a beginner’s hike. This simplicity encourages more people to try hiking without the need for significant initial investment.

Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Flexible intensity

Hiking offers a wide range of intensity levels accommodating individuals with diverse fitness backgrounds. Beginners can choose trails with gentle inclines and shorter distances gradually progressing to more challenging routes as their fitness improves. The ability to tailor the intensity of a hike makes it accessible to individuals of all ages and fitness levels.

Connection with nature

For those unaccustomed to regular physical activity the prospect of heading to a gym can be intimidating. Hiking, on the other hand, provides a natural and scenic environment offering a more appealing setting for exercise. The desire to explore nature often serves as a strong motivator for beginners to lace up their hiking boots and hit the trails.

Varied terrain

Hiking trails come in various forms from easy, well-groomed paths to more rugged and challenging terrains. Beginners can choose trails that match their comfort level and gradually progress to more demanding routes. This adaptability ensures that hikers can tailor their experience to suit their fitness and skill levels.

Hiking Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accessibility for people of different fitness levels

One of the most remarkable aspects of hiking is its inclusivity. Regardless of age, fitness level, or prior experience, there is a hiking trail suitable for everyone. Here’s why hiking is accessible to people of different fitness levels:

Trail diversity

Hiking trails are available in a range of difficulty levels from beginner-friendly to advanced. Novices can start with flat, well-marked trails, gradually progressing to more challenging routes with steeper inclines and uneven terrain. National and state parks often classify trails by difficulty helping hikers make informed choices.

Customizable distances

Hiking allows individuals to customize the length of their journey based on their fitness level and preferences. Beginners can start with short, leisurely hikes and gradually increase the distance as they build stamina. The ability to set one’s pace makes hiking an accommodating activity for people at different fitness levels.

Hiking Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Supportive hiking communities

The hiking community is generally welcoming and supportive providing resources and encouragement for individuals at all levels. Local hiking clubs and online forums offer valuable advice, trail recommendations, and shared experiences fostering a sense of inclusivity and making the transition into hiking smoother for beginners.

Adaptability to health conditions

Hiking can be adapted to accommodate various health conditions and mobility levels. Many trails are wheelchair-accessible and nature reserves are increasingly mindful of creating inclusive outdoor spaces. Those with health concerns can consult with healthcare professionals to find suitable trials and modifications that cater to their specific needs.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Choose your hiking gear

One of the wonderful things about hiking is that you don’t need a bunch of high-tech gear to get out there. With a few essential items for the trail and a sense of adventure, you’re ready to head into the wilderness.

Hiking footwear

Footwear is one of the most important items you need to choose and it’s a very personal choice. Some hikers prefer supportive over-the-ankle boots while others enjoy lightweight trail-running shoes. The terrain you’ll be walking on can also affect your decision. 

Food and water

As a beginner hiker, it can be tough to know how much food and water you need. A good general recommendation for how much to eat is 200–300 calories per hour. About a quart for every two hours of moderate activity in moderate temperatures is a good starting place for water intake. These amounts depend heavily on several factors such as the intensity of your hike, the weather, your age, your sweat rate, and your body type. As you gain more experience, you’ll get a better sense of just how much you need.

Hiking Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appropriate clothing

Wide-brimmed hat or hat with a neck cape protects the head, face, and neck. Light-colored, light weight, long sleeve shirt protects shoulders, arms, and back. Light color reflects back more heat and light weight allows perspiration to evaporate.

In the realm of outdoor activities, hiking stands out as an accessible, adaptable, and immensely rewarding pursuit. Whether you’re seeking a stroll through scenic landscapes or a more challenging trek to test your limits, hiking offers something for everyone.

The physical, mental, and social benefits make it an ideal activity for beginners. So, lace up your hiking boots, explore the trails, and embark on a journey that not only enhances your well-being but also allows you to discover the wonders of nature.

Hiking Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are some helpful resources for hikers of all levels of experience:

Worth Pondering…

As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was about to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The FUNdamentals of Hiking for Seniors

Don’t just sit around the campsite! Hiking for seniors is more than doable for everyone. Just follow the 10 FUNdamentals.

Notice I’m posting this on the first day of the New Year for a reason.

Have you heard of First Day Hikes?

First Day Hikes is part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors. On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes are organized in all 50 states. Children and adults all across America participate in First Day Hikes getting their hearts pumping and enjoying the beauty of a state park. Last year nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country.

As we visit with those we meet across the country in campgrounds, rallies, and camping meetups, we are amazed at how many RVers—especially seniors—are not hikers. And we think the first day of the year is a good time to start.

Some think it’s too challenging, too strenuous, needs too much-specialized equipment, and not enjoyable.

But, they are wrong.

Unless you have a serious underlying health issue, hiking for seniors is for everyone—no matter your age, experience, fitness level, or gear.

Hiking will so enhance your enjoyment of the RV Lifestyle, nature, the geographic area you are visiting, and your relationship with your camping partner that you will be instantly hooked.

So let’s break it down a bit and talk about what you need gear-wise, how to get started, and what advice you should follow.

But, make no mistake hiking is indeed for everyone at every age.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. What is different about hiking for seniors?

Hiking is for everyone.

It’s just walking and exploring outdoors. That’s the simplest definition I can offer.

There’s no set speed you have to hike, no distance required to be counted as a hike, and you don’t have to dress a certain way.

2. How is the best way to start hiking for seniors?

Begin by taking walks around the campground or RV park. Then explore further afield.

Get proper hiking footwear. You don’t need huge, expensive, and heavy boots. Today’s hiking boots are as comfortable as shoes. Wear them on your neighborhood walks, or around the campground when you are camping.

Then start to venture out on trails.

Hiking to Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Best hiking for seniors gear

There is some basic gear that will make your hike more enjoyable like that good pair of hiking boots.

You’ll want a hat to keep the sun from frying your brains (just kidding), a day pack, a water bottle, comfortable clothes, and maybe some hiking poles for extra stability on uneven ground.

A compass is also a good thing to carry with you. Many cell phones have them built-in as apps and that is nice. But there may not be cell coverage in the area you are hiking or your battery may run out of juice. So get, learn how to use it, and bring a compass along on your hikes.

And if you are hiking in bear country, every person in your hiking party should carry bear spray.

Want an RV resource and information on hiking in bear country?

Hiking Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. How far should you hike?

If you are a total newbie and in reasonably good shape and can easily handle those neighborhood walkabouts I talked about earlier, a good wilderness hike to begin with is two two-mile round trip if the terrain is rough and hilly, maybe even less.

Eventually, a moderate distance for most beginners is three to four miles out and back.

Hiking is not speed walking. I consider it a nature stroll. You want to take your time. Look around. Take a lot of photos. Observe God’s creation in all its glory. Learn things. Breathe deeply. Listen.

Hiking Appalachian Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Use a map

If you are in a wilderness area, you really want to have a map that clearly shows your route.

At most state parks and national parks, hiking trails are marked in brochures and printed maps available from the ranger station.

There are lots of books available for popular areas listing the different trails. The alltrails.com app is a must-have for finding great hikes in the various locations you visit.

You can even Google something like “best hikes near me” and get lots of suggestions.

But the whole point of a map is to know where you are going and how to get back plus a general understanding of landmarks, the terrain, and what you will be seeing.

Hiking Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Tell someone where you are going

In case of an emergency, you want someone to know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Consider sending a text or an email to a friend or relative.

You can say something like: “Greetings from Arches. Wish you were with us! We are going to Double O Arch in the Devils Garden section. It’s only a little over four miles round trip and has some beautiful scenery. I just wanted to let you know! We should be back by 4 pm. I’ll send you a photo when we return.”

By the way, if you do visit Arches, Double O Arch is a great hike. It’s 4.1 miles roundtrip but because you spend the first part climbing it’s officially classified as moderate in difficulty.

Double O Arch is the second largest arch within the Devils Garden area—after Landscape Arch of course. As the name implies, there are two arches here, one large, with a span of 71 feet, stacked atop a much smaller arch with a 21-foot span. Both are part of the same sandstone fin. Double O Arch is located at the far end of the Devils Garden Primitive Loop, 1.93 miles past the Devils Garden trailhead and parking lot at the north end of the Arches Entrance Road. Past Landscape, the trail becomes much more rugged and challenging.

Something else to do: Leave a note in the vehicle you used to drive to the trailhead or back in the RV if you set off from camp. Jot down the date and time, where you are going, the route or trail, and when you expect to be back.

7. Carry a day pack

For short hikes, a day pack is all you need.

You should bring a cell phone with you. Naturally, it should be fully charged. There are inexpensive cases and solar chargers that easily fit in a small pack. And even if cell coverage in the wilderness you are hiking is spotty, the phone is still useful. You can download and store maps on it, use the flashlight, and take photos.

Also, carry a small, dedicated flashlight in your day pack.

Other items we bring include rain ponchos, basic first aid kit, whistle for signaling, water bottle, insect repellant, and sunscreen.

For short hikes, you very well may not need all that. But being prepared just in case always makes good sense.

Be ware of the cholla! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Know the weather

Before setting out on any hike, be aware of the predicted weather conditions you are likely to encounter.

Excess heat and humidity, predicted storms, flash flood conditions, wind, and wildfire potentials are all factors you need to be aware of and take into consideration as you plan your hike.

If it’s expected to be hot, get an early start. Know what time sunset is and give yourself plenty of time to get back before dark.

9. Stick to the trail

The leading reason why hikers get lost is that they decide to go off-trail. So don’t. Besides easily getting disoriented, hiking off-trail damages the landscape.

Hidden obstacles off-trail can trip you up and falls are the leading cause of injuries to hikers. Besides, the trails are there for a reason. They are the best route through the area and almost always offer the best views. So stay on them.

10. Leave no trace

As the signs say, leave nothing but footprints.

But don’t take anything out with you, either—except your trash and photos.

Most public lands prohibit picking wildflowers or removing trees and shrubs.

Lately, we’ve seen notices on some of our hikes asking people not to make rock piles.

The idea is to keep public lands as wild and undisturbed as possible.

There’s a Leave No Trace movement that lists a code of conduct that responsible campers and hikers should follow.

Where will your next hike be?

Worth Pondering…

To me, old age is always ten years older than I am.

—John Burroughs

Hiking and Camping in Bear Country: What You Need to Know

Camping in bear country comes with gorgeous scenic views but it also comes with… bears! Here’s what you need to know to stay safe and protect yourself and your gear.

All of the authoritative books on bears seem to agree on one thing: if you’re close enough to a bear to cause it to change its activity pattern, you’re too close, and in possible danger.

―Dennis R. Blanchard

First, I want to state that bear attacks are rare; you’re much more likely to be attacked and/or killed by another human than a bear. However, your odds of not being attacked by a bear are even better if you practice bear safety.

Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be prepared, not scared

Please don’t take the information in this article as fear-mongering. Wild animals are part of every nature experience.

Just remember, it always pays to be prepared.

It’s a sad fact of life that there are camping fatalities and injuries every year because of bear attacks. During peak season, at least one bear every week is put down by game officials somewhere in North America because it strayed into a campground. Unfortunately, most incidents arise because of irresponsible humans who left food out.

This article is to help protect you and the bears whose home we are visiting!

Despite the headlines and all the warning signs, bear incidents are really rare. Hundreds of thousands of hikers and campers enjoy the wilderness in bear country without even seeing a bear.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions.

When camping in bear country, you will almost always see signs advising you that bears are in the area. Heed their warnings!

Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping in bear country with dogs

If you travel with dogs, there can be other problems. Dogs antagonize bears especially mother bears with cubs.

You need to have your dog on a leash whenever camping in bear country.

Even on a leash, dogs are prohibited on many trails in national parks that have bears. In fact, Bear Country or not! You can read about the national parks that do allow dogs and under which conditions at 12 Dog-Friendly National Parks.

Dogs are usually allowed in campgrounds and on most paved areas near stores but always check first before planning your visit and day’s activities.

Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to store food when camping in bear country

Almost all campgrounds in bear country provide bear-proof food storage canisters at each site.

We don’t want to see bears get put down. And we don’t want bears to put people in danger. So, be sure to use these bear-proof food storage containers!

National Parks Service and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department list the following rules and suggestions for RVing in bear country.

Food rules:

  • Never store food outside or near your RV. After cooking and eating, bring all food inside.
  • Keep your area clean. Be sure to wash dishes, dispose of garbage, and wipe down tables.
  • Keep all items with strong odors (i.e., toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) inside the RV and out of reach of bears or the bear-proof containers available at most campsites in bear country.
  • Hanging food in trees is the traditional method of storing food while camping in the backcountry. The better alternative is a bear canister—a portable, hard-sided food locker.
Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping in bear country safety tips

Here are some additional tips that I strongly suggest you follow if bears live in the region.

  • Keep your dog on a leash or rope at all times. Never leave your dog outside at night while you sleep in the RV.
  • Close windows and lock your vehicle and RV when you leave your campsite and at night before you go to sleep.
  • If a bear does come near your campsite and no rangers are around, get in your RV or vehicle. Yell at the bear. Honk the horn. Play loud music, bang pots, and pans. Do not try to approach it.
  • If you will be spending time in bear country, get a can of bear spray. Bear spray is a super-concentrated, highly irritating pepper spray proven to be more effective than firearms at deterring bears.

General hiking precautions in bear country

  • Most bear encounters do not happen in campgrounds. They occur in the backcountry while people are hiking.
  • Never hike alone. Two or three people are best. Bears will usually move out of the way if they hear people approaching, so make plenty of noise to make them aware of your presence.
  • Most bells are not enough to warn a bear away. Calling out and clapping hands loudly at regular intervals are better ways to make your presence known. Hiking quietly endangers you, the bear, and other hikers.
  • A bear consistently surprised by quiet hikers may become habituated to close human contact and less likely to avoid people. This sets up a dangerous situation for both visitors and bears.
Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional tips when hiking

  • Bear tracks, bear scat, and shredded logs are all signs you’re in bear country.
  • Be alert at all times and leave your headphones at home. Be extra cautious at dawn and dusk when the wind is in your face, visibility is limited, or you’re walking by a noisy stream. A firm clap or quick shout warns bears that humans are in the area.
  • In late summer and fall, bears need to forage up to 20 hours a day, so avoid trails that go through berry patches, oak brush, and other natural food sources.
  • Keep dogs leashed, exploring canines can surprise a bear. Your dog could be injured or come running back to you with an irritated bear on its heels.
  • Keep children between adults and teach them what to do if they see a bear. Don’t let them run ahead or lag behind.
  • Double bag food and never leave any trash or leftovers behind. Finding treats teaches bears to associate trails with food.
  • Never approach bears or offer food. If you see a bear, watch from a safe distance and enjoy this very special experience. If your presence causes the bear to look up or change its behavior in any way, you’re too close.
Wild animals are part of every nature experience. Use caution. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to do if you encounter a bear

  • Stand still, stay calm, and quietly back away and leave. Do not make aggressive eye contact. Talk in a normal tone of voice. Be sure the bear has an escape route.
  • Never run or climb a tree.
  • If you see cubs, their mother is usually close by. Leave the area immediately.
  • If a bear stands up, it is just trying to identify what you are by getting a better look and smell.
  • Wave your arms slowly overhead and talk calmly. If the bear huffs, pops its jaws or stomps a paw, it wants you to give it space.
  • Step off the trail to the downhill side, keep looking at the bear, and slowly back away until the bear is out of sight.

What to do if the bear approaches

A bear knowingly approaching a person could be a food-conditioned bear looking for a handout or, very rarely, an aggressive bear. If you are approached, do the following:

  • Stand your ground. Yell or throw small rocks in the direction of the bear.
  • Get out your bear spray and use it when the bear is about 40 feet away.
  • If the bear attacks, don’t play dead! Fight back with anything available. People have successfully defended themselves with penknives, trekking poles, and even bare hands.

Best bear spray

Chuck Bartlebaugh is perhaps the top expert in bear safety and bear/human interactions in North America and founder and director of the Be Bear Aware Campaign. Chuck says bear spray is the best choice for stopping a charging, attacking, or threatening bear. The bear spray he recommends is called Counter Assault.

He said it works because it’s powerful and able to shoot 25-30 feet—something to keep in mind considering bears can move at a speed of up to 30 miles per hour.

If hiking in a group, every person should have their own can.

Worth Pondering…

Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs 400 pounds and is guarding her baby!

—James Rollins, Ice Hunt

Gone Without a Trace: Mysterious Disappearances in National Parks

National Parks provide immense natural beauty as well as vast expanses where it’s easy to get lost

A 57-year-old woman died after hiking in 100-degree temperatures in Grand Canyon National Park on July 2, 2023. Park officials received a call about a distressed hiker in the Tuweep area at 6:30 p.m. but she was later found dead when rangers arrived.  

A 33-year-old man fell 4,000 feet to his death from the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West on June 5, 2023. A horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that extends 70 feet out over the canyon’s rim, the Skywalk is managed by the Hualapai Tribe. The Skywalk has seen more than 10 million visitors since 2007, according to the Grand Canyon West website.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since the National Park Service (NPS) oversees more than 84 million acres of preserved woods, deserts, mountains, and other wilderness areas, it’s no surprise that in the past 100 years, there have been a number of cases of hikers going missing. Many of those who vanished were young children and inexperienced hikers but some were healthy and seasoned outdoorspeople. But is there more to these disappearances than kids wandering off or hikers becoming disoriented?

What could cause someone to seemingly vanish into thin air? There are two approaches people take to explaining these mysterious disappearances: earthly and supernatural. Most hiking experts would say that these missing hikers made common mistakes like taking on more than they could handle, inadequate planning, or failing to turnback to beat the sunset.

However, some disappearances have become a focus for urban legend, online message boards, and nonfiction books. In fact, David Paulides, author and former police officer at Yosemite National Park thinks something more intriguing is afoot. In Missing 411, he examines more than 1,100 cases of people who mysteriously vanished in United States national parks.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let’s be honest—although it might be fun to imagine monsters or aliens, no proof for any supernatural disappearance has ever been provided. But there have been some mysterious disappearances at NPS sites as well as in related spaces like national forests, recreation areas, state parks, and wilderness areas. Here are some of the most fascinating cases to date, starting in the early 20th century.

People have been disappearing inside US national parks at an alarming rate with at least 10 vanishing, never to be seen again, since 2016, reported The New York Post.

One was a hiker whose last message was to his son telling him he was on his way to Yosemite National Park.

Another got separated from his group during a nine-day excursion through the stifling Grand Canyon heat.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A young river tour guide with his whole life ahead of him also vanished during a group trip.

“No trace of man missing on Colorado River in Grand Canyon,” read a Williams-Grand Canyon News from the time.

At least 1,180 people were reported missing from NPS parks between 2018 and the first two months of 2023. Most were located safe and well, often with the help of search-and-rescue teams. Others were found injured or dead either from suicide or accidents but a small number of disappearances can’t be explained at all.

An examination of the data shows Grand Canyon National Park had more deaths, missing persons’ reports, and suicides compared to any other park. Most deaths result from falls over the canyon, helicopter crashes, or dehydration.

One disappearance with no easy explanation is Charles Lyon who has not been seen in just over two years. The 49-year-old from Tyler, Texas, was last seen at a Best Western motel in Tusayan, Arizona, on June 10, 2021. His car was found around the Grand Canyon’s South Rim the next day and police believed he was alone.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jonghyon Won saw a similar fate in September 2017 when his car was found parked at the South Rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park. The 45-year-old did not tell anyone about his plans to be in the area and was never seen again, the NPS reported.

Florida teacher Floyd E. Roberts III disappeared from Grand Canyon National Park on June 17, 2016 while hiking with a group on a nine-day excursion. The area had been rocked by extreme heat when the 52-year-old was separated from his group. Roberts, a business technology and web design teacher for a Florida middle school, was last seen in a remote portion of the western Grand Canyon near Kelly Tank heading toward the Shanley Spring area.

With no body recovered, explaining their sudden disappearances isn’t easy. Some who fall into the canyon are not found for years as in the case of Scott Walsh who disappeared in 2015 but whose body wasn’t found until 2021.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Harder to explain is the disappearance of 22-year-old Morgan Heimer. In June 2015, he was guiding a tour group through an area of the Colorado River near Pumpkin Springs when he vanished. NPS records show Heimer was helping “clients to jump off a low cliff into the water” in the minutes before he was last seen around 4 p.m. June 2.

“The last client had completed the activity and Heimer and the Lead Guide had switched positions,” states a search and record report.

“The Lead Guide had just talked to Heimer about taking a bit of time off that afternoon. The Lead Guide walked away from the cliff to talk to a client. When the Lead Guide turned around Heimer was gone.”

The guide told searchers he thought Heimer had left to take a break but realized something was amiss when Heimer failed to turn up for dinner. Heimer, from Cody, Wyoming, was described as having advanced/superior skills. He was on day six of the eight-day excursion. Heimer’s family joined searchers in Arizona. Crews spent six days scouring the area before scaling back their efforts.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The immediate response to disappearances in some of the most treacherous landscapes in the country falls into the hands of search-and-rescue workers who are battling the clock due to the extreme elements in an environment like the Grand Canyon. Rangers usually have only the smallest clues—a shoe impression on the ground, a credit card receipt—to find whom they’re looking for.

Bodies are not only difficult to find within an already treacherous landscape but also often exposed to the extreme weather conditions including drying heat known to expedite deterioration. In colder climates, bodies and any evidence left behind often grow harder to find as snow accumulates. Remains are also subject to scavenging by wildlife.

Such examples in expansive Grand Canyon National Park are only a handful of cases nationwide that have gone cold.

National parks elsewhere in the country have seen their own spates of mysterious disappearances.

Barry J. Tragen, 68, visited Glacier National Park at the end of July 2020. His whereabouts raised alarm bells five days later when rangers noticed his car was still parked near Kintla Lake, the NPS said. Rangers searched for any signs of the Columbia Falls, Montana, man for weeks and came across a pair of sunglasses they believed were his.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

K9s were brought in and showed interest in an area of the lake’s outlet. They also used boats, ground search teams, and underwater equipment but no signs of Tragen were found, the agency said. The NPS scaled back its search efforts beginning August 10, 2020 and Tragen remains missing.

Beverly, Massachusetts man Matthew Silveira’s July 2020 disappearance also reached the NPS which was called in to assist the Wellfleet Police Department after local officers discovered his car abandoned just miles from the Cape Cod National Seashore, according to reports from the NPS and the Boston Globe. Camping gear and his cellphone were found inside according to the NPS report which also described the 32-year-old as having a history of making suicidal statements. Silveira’s car was found over 120 miles from his hometown but he was never located.

James Pruitt drove 1,400 miles to Rocky Mountain National Park from his hometown of Etowah, Tennessee on February 28, 2019. The 70-year-old parked his car in the lot of the Glacier Gorge trailhead, according to the NPS. Park rangers discovered his car March 3 and grew suspicious when the vehicle did not have an overnight parking permit.

Pruitt’s family told rangers they did not know where within the national park he had planned to hike and said they have not heard from him since 10 a.m. February 28. They also said Pruitt had not planned on staying in the park overnight.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But Glacier Gorge had received two feet of snow by the time rangers caught wind of Pruitt’s disappearance which added to the already challenging search, police said. Rangers scoured 15 square miles until March 11 when their search “entered limited continuous operations” on March 11, 2019, the NPS said.

A team of 40 searchers briefly resumed their efforts in October after months of small, sporadic searches during the summer but by that time it’s possible his remains could have been almost entirely consumed by wild animals, leaving no trace.

In California, Peter Jackson texted his son on September 17, 2016 to say he was on his way to the high-traffic Yosemite National Park. He had been staying at the White Wolf Campground and had paid to park through September 21, 2016. The avid hiker’s backpack was discovered in the area of Ackerson Meadow and Aspen Valley on August 19 but neither he nor his remains have ever been found, officials said.

On the other side of the country, John Squires was rafting with friends on June 20, 2018, when their vessel overturned in the American Creek within Alaska’s Katmai National Park. He and the others were thrown into the fast-moving water when their raft collided with a submerged object, the NPS said. Squires was last seen swimming downriver and trying to get to the shore. His friends were ultimately able to swim to safety but were unable to get to Squires.

He remains missing five years later.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The disappearance of Gabby Petito made international headlines when her boyfriend Brian Laundrie returned from their road trip all by himself. They had posted heavily about their travels on social media, had an ambitious schedule of coast-to-coast national park visits although several fights between the pair were noticed by others (including the police) along the way.

Petito’s family says that their last contact with the 22-year-old was at the end of August 2021. Laundrie arrived back at home September 1 without Petito and refused to speak with police or her family. Her family reported her missing September 11 after a lengthy lack of contact. In fact, they don’t believe the last text they received from Petito was actually from her.

Sadly, on September 19, Petito’s remains were found in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation. Laundrie disappeared on September 17 and on October 20 his skeletal remains were found inside the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota, Florida.

Worth Pondering…

Stay safe wherever you are and find time to enjoy each day!

Hike Smart: How to Stay Hydrated on the Trail

Water, water, water! The magical liquid that keeps us alive!

Hiking a ridge, a meadow, or a river bottom, is as healthy a form of exercise as one can get. Hiking seems to put all the body cells back into rhythm.

—William O. Douglas, Justice, United States Supreme Court

As the weather warms up, hiking starts to be the go-to weekend activity. With amazing trails in parks across the country, it’s a perfect time to lace up your boots and explore the diversity of landscapes and views. RVingwithRex.com has you covered with tips to hike safe and have fun this summer.

Did someone say water? Bring more water than you think you’ll need, every time. Pre-hydrate before you head out starting the night before a hike. Drink throughout the day and always over-prepare. When you’ve finished half of your water supply, it’s time to turn around—no matter where you are on the trail.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan ahead! Before you hike, check and download any trail maps or guides you might need. Take a GPS with you and make sure your phone is fully charged. If you’re hiking alone, let someone know where you’re going and about how long you’ll be gone. Most parks have rangers available to help you pick the trail that’s right for you.

Maintaining body fluids is essential for sweating so you must hydrate before, during, and after your hikes. Limit the amount of caffeine drinks such as coffee and colas because caffeine increases fluid loss. Avoid alcoholic drinks—they also cause dehydration.

When engaged in strenuous trail activity or when hiking in hot environments, drink at least one quart of fluid per hour. Providing a portion of fluid replacement with a carbohydrate/electrolyte sport beverage will help retain fluids and maintain energy and electrolyte levels—however, uou need to alternate sports drinks with plain water.

Continue drinking after hiking to replace fluid losses—thirst always underestimates fluid needs, so drink more than you think is necessary.

Hiking Peralta Trail, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rehydration is enhanced when fluids contain sodium and potassium or when foods with these electrolytes are consumed along with the fluid. Make potassium rich foods a regular part of your diet including:

  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Dried apricots
  • Citrus fruits
  • Lemonade
  • Orange juice
  • Tomato juice
Hiking Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Assess your hydration by looking for these signs:

  • Low volumes of dark, concentrated urine, or painful urination
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Weakness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Dizziness

Continuing to hike in a dehydrated state can lead to serious consequences including heat stroke, muscle breakdown, and kidney failure.

Bring sun protection, like a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Consider wearing long, lightweight sleeves to protect you from the sun and help keep your body cool. This will help you enjoy your hike and enjoy the memories.

Did I mention water? Don’t get caught without enough to keep you hydrated throughout your hike—you need water for the return trip, too. Bring salty snacks or electrolyte tablets to help stay alert, too. Bananas, granola, dried apricots, and peanut butter are all great options.

Hiking along the Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why hydration is important

Around 70 percent of the body is made up of water and it is vital for essential bodily functions and biochemical processes. We lose water through urine, breathing out water vapor, and through sweat.

Why is this so important when we’re hiking? When we hike the body uses water as a coolant. The body’s temperature rises, triggering the body’s cooling mechanism and signalling to the brain to increase sweat production to help prevent overheating. As a consequence, blood volume drops, less blood returns back to the heart, the heart pumps out less blood, and less oxygen returns back to the working muscles. This results in an increased heart rate, onset of fatigue, loss of energy, and eventually exhaustion.

Hiking Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Research shows that a loss of fluid equating to 1-2 percent of bodyweight while exercising can impact significantly on ones ability to continue on the trail. And it doesn’t stop there. Progressive dehydration can eventually lead to cramps, headaches, and nausea, heat exhaustion, and eventually to potentially fatal heatstroke.

This makes it important to replace lost fluids as quickly as possible and ensure you’re properly hydrated before, during, and after your hike.

The best way to hike is to be smart, be prepared, and check in with yourself.

Every trail can be your favorite if you have a great time.

Hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The role of sports drinks

When we sweat, we don’t only lose water. We also lose electrolytes including chloride, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium and at the same time, glycogen stores become depleted. Sports drinks contain differing levels of fluid, electrolytes, and carbohydrates and are optimised to effectively replenish these supplies during and after exercise.

Hiking Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When and how often should I be drinking?

There’s no cut and dried or easy answer to this. How much you’ll need to hydrate on your hike depends on a number of factors including age, gender, amount you sweat, temperature, intensity, and distance. That said, there are some basic guidelines you can follow:

If you wait until during your hike to think about hydration, you’re on a straight path to becoming dehydrated. Nor is gulping down water an hour before your hike ideal—your gut can only absorb so much water and you’ll end up heading out bloated and uncomfortable—not to mention making needing a bathroom break more likely during your hike.

Instead, aim to stay continuously hydrated as part of your day to day lifestyle. For most people that means drinking around 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily (around 6 glasses of water).

Worth Pondering…

As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was about to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

How to Hike Safely During Arizona Summers

Water, water, water! The magical liquid that keeps us alive!

Arizona is known for many things like hiking, beautiful scenery, wildlife, and history. 

However, during the summer months it’s known for one thing: heat. 

“It’s very serious,” said Arizona Fire and Medical Authority Division Chief Ashley Losch. “It will kill you if you aren’t paying attention to the signs.”

Hiking Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Last year, Arizona saw the highest number of heat-related deaths in some time so as temperatures start to rise, so does concern for safety.

Heat-related emergencies can creep up quickly so it can be life-saving to know when there’s a problem.

We get used to being outside and enjoying the nice weather and it hits you out of nowhere. Complacency is a problem when it comes to heat.

Heat exhaustion can cause dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea/vomiting, and/or cool and clammy, pale skin.

And that’s time to get inside, sit down, and drink some water. Don’t chug the water though, take small sips.

Hiking Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat stroke is much more serious. Signs include severe headache, confusion, and a change in behavior. The body also stops sweating and will feel hot to the touch (heat stroke can present itself when the body reaches at least 103 degrees). If the person is in an altered state, don’t give them water; instead call 911 to get help on the way.

Get them inside, cooled down, and that means active cooling. So, ice packs in the groin, armpits and something behind the neck. Maybe even a cool compress on the head.

Every minute counts. Every minute your body is above that critical temperature it’s causing damage—damage to your kidneys, damage to your liver, your brain.

Hiking Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Staying hydrated is one of the most important things someone can do during the scorching temperatures. How much to drink depends on the person, so experts say a good rule of thumb is to drink when thirsty. 

Even better is to drink constantly throughout the day (as much as you can) and if you’re headed outside, be sure to hydrate before, during, and after. 

Phoenix has already experienced its first 100-degree day and temperatures are going to keep climbing. Here are some tips from Arizona State Parks on staying safe on the trail.

>> Related article: Excessive Heat Warnings: Safety Tips for RVers

Hiking is one of Arizona’s most popular weekend activities. But the days are getting longer—and hotter. Every year, over 200 hikers are rescued from Phoenix alone, according to Arizona State Parks and Trails (ASPT).

But there are numerous ways to get out on the trails and enjoy Arizona’s gorgeous summers without becoming one of those hikers in distress. 

Hiking North Mountain Park near Casa Grande © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hydration is a journey, not a destination

I can’t stress this one enough: Always bring more water than you think you’ll need! 

You should be drinking water before, during, and after a hike, according to ASPT. You may not feel like you’re sweating a lot because of the dry weather but you’ll be losing water even faster in the heat.

“When you’ve finished half of your water supply, it’s time to turn around—no matter where you are on a trail,” the department said. 

Hiking Fountain Hills © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How much to drink?

How much you need to drink depends on a number of factors such as the activity you’re doing, intensity level, duration, weather, your age, your sweat rate, and your body type. A good general recommendation is about one pint (16 fl. oz.) of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. You may need to increase how much you drink as the temperature and intensity of the activity rise. For example, strenuous hiking in high heat may require that you drink one quart (32 fl.oz.) of water or more per hour. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to fine-tune how much you drink.

Hiking Old Baldy Trail at Madera Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Preventing Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids usually through sweating exceeds the amount taken in. If you don’t counteract this by drinking water, you risk becoming dehydrated.

>> Related article: Heat Alert: The Hidden Symptoms of Extreme Heat

The following early signs of dehydration are a tipoff that your fluid intake is insufficient:

  • Dry mouth
  • Decrease in energy
Hiking Montezuma Well © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More serious symptoms of dehydration:

  • Cramps
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • The umbles (stumbling, mumbling, grumbling, and fumbling)
  • Dark or brightly colored urine with less volume (Note that certain foods and drinks like those containing B12 vitamins can cause urine to be bright yellow so urine color isn’t as reliable as other symptoms)

The remedy for dehydration is simple: Drink water. Drink the moment you feel thirsty. Try to take frequent sips of water rather than chugging large amounts after your thirst grows intense.

So know what to look for and stay on top of your hydration game!

Hiking Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan ahead and gear up

Hydration tips

Drink often: Rather than chugging water infrequently take many smaller sips to continually hydrate.

Don’t forget to snack: When you sweat, you lose electrolytes which can sap your energy. If your activity lasts for only an hour or less, this usually isn’t an issue but when you’re out for longer it’s important to compensate for the loss. Snack foods with sodium and potassium can help as will foods with calcium and magnesium. For an extended, high-intensity activity, also consider bringing an electrolyte replacement sports drink.

Hiking Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drink more at altitude: Doing any activity at higher altitude can lead to dehydration. You’re less likely to crave water and feel thirsty at higher elevations so it’s important to drink frequently.

Rehydrate: Drinking after exercise gets your fluid levels back to normal and can help with recovery. This can be as simple as drinking a glass of water when you get home or if you want to get scientific about it, drink 16–24 fl. oz. of water for every pound you lost while exercising.

Plan your route: Water weighs a lot (16 fl. oz. is just over a pound), so if you want to avoid carrying extra weight on a run or bike ride, plan a route that will take you by a water fountain where you can drink or refill a bottle. Another option is to use your car like an aid station and plan an outing that does loops from your vehicle. You can stop at your car to refill a water bottle and grab a quick snack.

Wear sun protection: Getting a sunburn can expedite dehydration, so lather up with sunscreen and wear sun-protection clothing before heading out.

Set a timer: If you tend to lose track of the last time you drank set a timer on your watch to sound an alarm about every 20 minutes as a reminder to take a sip.

Hiking Thumb Butte Trail at Prescott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know where you’re going

Before you hike, make sure you have all of your trail maps and guides downloaded or printed.

>> Related article: Stay Safe this Summer by Using These Outdoor Heat Hacks

You can find plenty of trail information at AZStateParks.com/Arizona-Hiking or third-party organizations like AllTrails or Gaia GPS. When you’re heading out, it’s a good idea to take a GPS with you and make sure your phone is fully charged.

Keep an eye on emergency alerts. The National Weather Service will issue a heat warning if the temperature poses a threat.

Hiking Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And if you’re hiking alone, tell someone you know where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone. 

And make sure you have the right gear. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Wise-brimmed hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Long lightweight sleeves
  • Light-colored, moisture-wicking, breathable clothing
  • Sturdy, comfortable footwear
  • Insect repellent
  • Salty snacks
  • Plenty of water
Hiking Paralta Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know your limits

As so many people like to say: It’s a dry heat. And I would add, so is an oven! And that dry heat will sneak up on you. Make sure you know the warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion can cause dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea, and vomiting as well as cool and clammy, pale skin.

Heat stroke which is much more serious can cause severe headaches, confusion, and changes in behavior. A person suffering from heat stroke will stop sweating and feel hot to the touch.

At that point, it’s time to call 911. 

Hiking Ramsey Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it’s always best to avoid the problem entirely. There’s no shame in calling off a hike and turning around! 

>> Related article: Traveling To a National Park this Summer? Prepare For High Temperatures!

During a hike, check in with yourself and see how you’re doing. How are your energy levels? Do you still have enough water? What’s the temperature?

Questions like those are the key to having a fun-filled weekend on Arizona’s beautiful trails.

As ASPT puts it, “Every trail can be your favorite if you have a great time.”

Worth Pondering…

As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was about to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

—A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Mighty 5

All of these locations add up to unbelievable choices for hiking trails that would take more than a lifetime to complete. So, it’s time to get hiking.

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence”

—Henry David Thoreau

There are thousands of miles of great hiking trails throughout Utah. Some trails are most well-suited to rugged, multi-day backpacking, but there are innumerable “out and back” and “loop” hikes ranging from quick trots to stunning formations, and moderate paths than can be done in a few hours to full-day explorations.

Head to southern Utah where there are five national parks in a relatively small area. Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park are all located here.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Helpful Tips

Before setting out on any hike, check with local rangers or guidebooks about a hike’s difficulty ratings, descriptions, and cautionary advice.

Always carry plenty of water in both the deserts and mountains. Each person should carry one liter of water for every two hours of hiking time. For a full-day hike, that adds up to one full gallon per person. It’s important to keep hydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Bring plenty of high-energy snacks that will help keep your energy up back to your car.

Practice Leave No Trace principles along the trail and respect nature’s desired and needed permanence.

Courthouse Towers, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park Hiking Trails

A day of hiking in Arches National Park pairs world-famous landmark views with a humbling sense of respect for the desolate stretches of sandstone formations. The park is one of Southern Utah’s most famous hiking destinations with an easily accessible network of trails that often culminate right at the base of an impressive sandstone arch.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. The Primitive Loop

Found within the park’s Devil’s Garden, Primitive Loop is a fantastic longer hike. The eight-mile trail will help stretch your legs while showcasing a brilliant section of Arches National Park.

The entire garden is a labyrinth of trails that burst off in a variety of directions. But the main trail takes you along thin ledges and some tricky but thrilling rock scrambling with rock cairns guiding the way. Some of the many arches you’ll see along the hike include the gorgeous Double O Arch and Private Arch. Double O is the second biggest in Devil’s Garden with one being 71 feet wide and the other 21.

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Delicate Arch

Starting at Wolfe Ranch Parking Lot, this 3-mile moderate trail takes you to the most beloved parts of Arches National Park. In a park full of natural arches, this one stands alone, free-standing, and utterly breathtaking.

Owing to its length and popularity, the trail can get crowded. It’s one worth getting up at the crack of dawn for sunrise or waiting patiently for sunset. This will help you avoid the crowds while also seeing the arch at the best times of the day. As anyone who’s been around a desert sky would know, the clear horizon, open sky, and arid colors combine to create a kaleidoscopic world of lights and shadows that will fuel you for the rest of your trip.

Park Avenue, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Park Avenue Trail

The natural arches may bring in travelers from around the world but the park’s wide range of intricate rock formations will linger long in your memory. An easy way to see some of the strangest and sometimes confusing formations, hike the Park Avenue Trail.

The 4-mile out and back hike is easy and has minimal elevation gain. Start with the brief trek to Park Avenue with the beguiling rocks reminding hikers of a city’s downtown. Then walk down into the vast canyon, passing endless rows of mesmerizing conglomerates on your way to the memorable Courthouse Towers.

Along the way, enjoy long-range views of the La Sal Mountains as you walk by iconic formations such as the Organ, Sheep Rock, and Three Gossips.

The Three Gossips, Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Family-Friendly Hikes

Also consider the following family-friendly hikes:

  • Windows Primitive Loop (1 mile): A relatively short hike where you’ll find three separate arch formations
  • Double Arch (.8 mile): One of the most popular hikes in the park, this short trail ends beneath a spectacular arch
  • Broken Arch (2 miles): Another popular loop trail that leads hikers through a sandstone arch
  • Landscape Arch (1.6 miles): Consider this trail a must-do hike to see the largest arch in Arches National Park; plus, two more arches are easily reached with a short side trip
Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park Hiking Trails

Canyonlands National Park is an enormous region; in fact, it’s the largest national park in Utah. As a result, the park is divided into three regions: The Needles, Island in the Sky, and The Maze. The Needles District is the park’s hub for well-developed trails and the most popular place to hike. Island in the Sky offers similarly groomed trails, but now they’re nestled high atop a mesa that’s wedged between the Colorado and Green rivers. Last but not least, The Maze is a desolate and disconnected region (there are no services within 50 miles in any direction), and a classic destination for experienced backpackers.

No matter which region of the park you visit first, consider adding these great hiking trails to your next trip itinerary.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Druid Arch Trail

In the Needles District, the 10.8-mile moderate trail takes you off the beaten path. The entire district is great for overnight hiking and this is its crown jewel.

The primitive trail begins at the Elephant Hill Trailhead. Follow the cairns which guide you through a slot canyon before turning right towards Chesler Park. The remoteness of the trail means every blind turn offers a surprise and a magnificent view. You’ll feel like you’re exploring and not merely hiking.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. The Mesa Arch Trail

The iconic hike is only 0.5 miles long and will see some crowds compared to other longer treks. However, it’s worth braving and if you want, come at sunrise for an even more memorable hike.

Mesa Arch could be a rival to Delicate Arch for the most beautiful arch in Utah. At sunrise, the sun peeks through the gap shining sections of the desert in light, the rest becoming a gorgeous silhouette. For an even better vista, head to the left of the arch for a short rock scramble. This will provide a complete view without the frame of the arch.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Murphy Point Trail

Covering 3.6 miles with little elevation, the Murphy Point Trail follows the canyon’s rim with vibrant desert views. The trail begins in a desert field leading up to the canyon. The views continue to get better until you find yourself on the precipice. Then turn and follow the rim. Along the way, you’ll look over the rolling Green River, the White Rim Road, and the impeccable Candlestick Tower. Complete the trek at sunset with a headlamp handy for the best experience.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Family-Friendly Hikes

Also consider the following family-friendly hikes in the Island in the Sky region:

  • Aztec Butte (2 miles): A somewhat challenging climb to a scenic viewpoint in the Island in the Sky area where you’ll see ancestral Puebloan structures called granaries
  • Upheaval Dome Overlook (1.6 miles): A short, steep hike to get the best view of perhaps the most interesting geological feature in Utah
  • Grand View Point (2 miles): An easy day hike to a magnificent viewpoint overlooking canyon country
Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also consider the following family-friendly hikes in the Needles region:

  • Cave Spring (.6 mile): An opportunity to learn about the park’s cultural history and desert plant life on a short hike
  • Pothole Point (.6 mile): A short, educational hike about what life was like in desert potholes; great for families with small children
  • Slickrock Foot Trail (2.4 miles): A scenic trip through the geology of the park; this trail stays high and gives a great overall perspective of the entire southeastern corner of Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park Hiking Trails

The seemingly endless stretch of cliffs you’ll see at Capitol Reef are beholden to The Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long ripple on earth’s surface. Millions of years ago, a faultline shift caused a series of uplifts, ultimately creating the daunting stretch of cliffs and canyons you see today. Nowadays hikers from around the world visit the park to experience the geologically spectacular landscape from an easily accessed network of hiking trails.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Cohab Canyon Trail

The gilded Cohab Canyon features honeycomb walls mixed with reds, oranges, and oxidized iron. It’s arguably the most multi-faceted canyon in Capitol Reef National Park. Its captivating beauty was once home to the many wives of the polygamists in Fruita.

As you walk along the 3.4-mile return trail, the canyon makes way for mini archways and dramatic hoodoos that exist within the Kayenta Formation. To lengthen the hike, join a duo of trails that lead to views above the Fremont River and Fruita.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Cassidy Arch Trail

You don’t have to go to Arches to admire nature’s incredible engineering. The moderate trail is 3.4 miles long and takes you to the famous Cassidy Arch.

The hike is beautiful throughout, guiding you along the edge of a canyon with plenty of epic views. Just be warned, you’ll often walk alongside a large drop-off.

The arch isn’t just a beautiful sight; it’s one of the few you can walk across. The memorable experience is sure to get the heart racing but will make for some amazing photos.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Upper Muley Twist Canyon

Those seeking a true adventure should consider the Upper Muley Twist Canyon. The 14.8-mile, difficult trail takes you by arches, through narrow slot canyons, and along an elevated rim.

The trail follows the canyon as it carves its way through the Waterpocket Fold showcasing Wingate and Navajo sandstone along the winding canyon. The rock has eroded creating a swath of interesting formations from arches to honeycombs.

The trail meanders through narrow canyons and by slip rock to dramatic views. The trail is marked by cairns but a map is recommended.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Family-Friendly Hikes

Also consider the following family-friendly hikes:

  • Capitol Gorge (1 mile): A quick hike through a beautiful, deep canyon that leads hikers to historic inscriptions from pioneers and miners
  • Grand Wash (2.2 miles): A trailhead at the end of The Grand Wash Scenic Drive leads hikers into a deep canyon with spectacular narrows
  • Fremont River Trail (1 mile): While not too long, this hike starts easy but gets relatively steep; expect impressive views of the Fremont River with every step
  • Hickman Natural Bridge Trail (.9 mile): One of the park’s most popular trails, hikers will see artifacts of the Fremont people and an impressive 133-foot long natural arch
The Rim Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park Hiking Trails

Hiking through Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the best ways to see the park’s famous hoodoos, spires, and sandstone fins. An interconnected network of trails makes it easy to keep hiking all day where trails branch off toward new landmarks and discoveries all without ever straying too far from the park’s main road. Whether you’re a family of adventurers or venturing into a solo backpacking expedition, Bryce Canyon’s trails won’t disappoint.

The Rim Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. The Rim Trail

To see a lot of the park on a single trek, put on your hiking boots and explore the Rim Trail. 11 miles return, the moderate trail comes with a steep incline to begin. But once you’re at elevation, you’ll have splendid, heart-stopping views in every direction.

Start at Bryce Canyon Point which you can reach on the park’s shuttle. The highlight of the experience is capturing the Bryce Amphitheater in all its glory. Hike into the amphitheater on one of three hikes or continue to admire more of the trail’s prismatic topography.

Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Bryce Point to Sunrise Point

This 8-mile moderate hiking trail provides many of the park’s intriguing geological wonders in one place. The trail begins with a beautiful trek to Sunset Point. After your walk at elevation, descend into the famous amphitheater via the Navajo Loop Trail. Venture down into the aptly named Wall Street with sandstone spires soaring left and right.

The magical vistas continue to get better as you trek beside the hoodoos along the brilliant Queen’s Garden Trail. Here, the rock monuments soar through the pines before being replaced by the Two Bridges Hoodoo. Eventually, you’ll reach Sunrise Point for an awe-inspiring view.

Fairyland Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Fairyland Loop Trail

Beginning at Fairyland Point, a stop along the shuttle route, the Fairyland Loop Trail is one of the best day hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park. Covering 8 moderate miles, the trail will take you to Sunset Point for an enthralling golden hour.

The trail takes you by many spectacular hoodoos but the real highlight is Tower Bridge. Named after the famous bridge in London, the natural phenomenon stands imposingly above the rest of this unforgettable landscape. For many, this is a common turnaround point.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Family-Friendly Hikes

Also consider the following family-friendly hikes:

  • Navajo Loop Trail (1.4 miles): A popular trail that makes a short 1- to 2-hour loop from the rim at Sunset Point down to the floor of Bryce Canyon; the trail visits favorite hoodoo formations such as Wall Street, Twin Bridges, and Thor’s Hammer
  • Queens Garden Trail (1.8 miles): A short trail descending below the canyon rim that takes hikers to fascinating rock formations including Gulliver’s Castle, the Queen’s Castle, and Queen Elizabeth herself
  • Bristlecone Loop Trail (1 mile): A short loop that stays entirely above the canyon rim as it traverses a subalpine fir forest; the trail is named after the bristlecone pine trees, the oldest tree species in the world which is found more frequently along this trail than along other trails in Bryce Canyon
  • Connector Trails (2 to 4 miles): A series of short “connector” trails that take hikers from the canyon rim to various points along the Under the Rim Trail
Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park Hiking Trails

Zion carries a reputation as a bucket list destination for adventurous trail seekers around the world. Here you can gaze down the commanding Zion Canyon from atop Angels Landing, reconnect with nature on a multi-day backpacking expedition, or visit one-of-a-kind destinations like Emerald Pools via easily accessed day hikes. However you imagine a perfect day hiking, Zion National Park has the trails to fill your itinerary. To start planning your trip, browse the park’s trails below.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. The East Rim Trail

For an epic full-day trek, don’t look past Zion’s East Rim Trail. The lengthy 22 miles will have you working up a sweat as you venture deep into the park exploring every inch of the eastern canyon. The hike is rated as moderate to difficult.

You can start in two different spots with the East Entrance being the most common. From there, trek up and down into the spectacular Echo Canyon. In the other direction, you’ll hit the fascinating Weeping Rock first.

To get here, jump off at Shuttle Stop 7 readying your legs for 2,400 feet of ascent up the side of Echo Canyon.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. The Narrows

Zion National Park was carved by the Virgin River. The Narrows Trail takes you along the water, deep into the intricate slot canyon. As you wander beside and sometimes through the river, the walls of the canyon rise to either side, curling and rising above your head.

The vibrant colors of the rock cover all shades of browns, reds, oranges, and yellows with some black scars added for good measure. The trek is a sensory experience with each splash of water echoing along the trail.

You can hike the moderate to difficult trail in either direction with a popular choice being the 16 miles down to Chamberlain Ranch to camp overnight. Before arriving at Zion, you’ll need to grab a permit for this hike.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Emerald Pools Trail

The Angels Landing hike may be one of the most popular in the United States. But it’s been written and walked to oblivion. The Emerald Pools trail is an underrated, easy-to-moderate hike that’s as fun for adventurers as it is for families.

The trail’s name promises a certain type of natural grandeur and it certainly delivers. Along the short 3-mile trek, you’ll enjoy a trio of emerald pools sparking under the Utah sun. You’ll reach the first pool in a single mile, one that also features a breathtaking waterfall. A brief stroll will take you to the Middle Emerald Pools Falls, one that will have you sitting and admiring the views for a while yet.

Those feeling adventurous can add in some light scrambling to reach the Upper Emerald Pools. To reach the trailhead, make your way to Shuttle Stop 5.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Family-Friendly Hikes

Also consider the following family-friendly hikes:

  • Northgate Peaks Trail (4.2 miles roundtrip): This family-friendly hike offers expansive views of Zion and makes for an excellent summer route due to its high elevation
  • Pa’rus Trail (3.5 miles): This easy out-and-back is not only one of the park’s most pleasant strolls, but the paved trail is also open to dogs on-leash, cyclists, and is wheelchair accessible
  • Riverside Walk/Gateway to The Narrows (2.2 miles): A short, paved stroll along the Virgin River to the stunning mouth of Zion’s iconic slot canyon

Worth Pondering…

I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.

—Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

Take a First Day Hike on New Year’s Day

First Day Hikes are a healthy way to start 2022 and a chance to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature, and connect with friends

Usher in 2022 with other outdoor lovers at one of the many First Day Hikes offered on January 1 at state parks and forests across America.

On New Year’s Day, park rangers across the country are inviting Americans to start 2022 with inspiring First Day Hikes. First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors.

Babcock State Park, West Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes will be organized in all 50 states. Families across America will participate in First Day Hikes, getting their hearts pumping and enjoying the beauty of a state park. Last year nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year, collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country.

America’s State Parks will help capture the collective strength and importance of the great park systems developed in the 50 states. With 10,234 units and more than 759 million visits, America’s State Parks works to enhance the quality of life.

Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to foster healthy lifestyles and promote year-round recreation at state parks.

Related: Elevate Your Hiking with Mindfulness

First Day Hikes are led by knowledgeable state park staff and volunteers. The distance and rigor vary from park to park but all hikes aim to create a fun experience for the whole family. People are invited to savor the beauty of the state park’s natural resources with the comfort of an experienced guide so they may be inspired to take advantage of these local treasures throughout the year.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona State Parks

Spend the first day of the year in a state park and kick off the year on a healthy note. There are fun activities for all including hikes, tours, boat rides, and even s’mores! Remember to wear the appropriate shoes, bring plenty of water, a camera, and your sense of adventure.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dead Horse Ranch State Park: Meet at the West Lagoon parking lot. The guided 3-mile birding and nature hike will go along the riparian area of the Verde River and around the edges of the lagoons to look for evidence of beaver, otter, waterfowl, and other wildlife found in the park. Enjoy cookies prior to the hike.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park: Start the year off right with a moderate hike on Treasure Loop Trail. Be ready for rocky terrain with a 500-foot elevation gain over 2.4 miles. Bring your water bottle, sturdy shoes, and cameras. A guiding ranger will answer questions you’ve always wanted to ask about the landscape around you.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park: Hike the Calloway trail up to an overlook below the face of Picacho Peak. This trail is moderately difficult. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring water. Elevation gain will be 300 feet, 1.5 miles round-trip, and roughly 1.5 hours. Meet at Harrington Loop.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock State Park: Learn about Sedona’s diverse and beautiful bird species while taking a stroll through this gorgeous park with a veteran bird enthusiast. Bring binoculars to get the most out of the experience. The hike lasts approximately two hours. Meet at the Visitor Center rooftop.

Related: Hiking Arizona

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California State Parks

More than 40 state parks and over 50 guided hikes will take place across the state in this National-led effort by the First Day Hikes program which encourages individuals and families to experience the beautiful natural and cultural resources found in the outdoors so that they may be inspired to take advantage of these treasures throughout the year.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Starting at the Visitor Center, explore desert plants, crypto-biotic crust, and signs of animals as you walk cross-country to the ½-mile Panorama Overlook Trail. Ascend by switch-backs about 200 feet up the moderate-strenuous trail to a scenic overlook of the Borrego Valley and Fonts Point. At the viewpoint, reflect on your new year with a lighthearted introspection guided by a Park Interpretive Specialist. Walk down the mountain as the sun sets on your first day of 2022.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia State Parks

In Georgia’s state parks and historic sites, more than 40 guided treks will encourage friends and families to connect with nature and each other. Outings range from a kid-friendly stroll through Mistletoe State Park’s campground, a hike along the banks of the Suwanee River in Stephen C. Foster State Park, a 3-mile hike through Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, and even a night hike at Reed Bingham State Park.

Related: Best Hikes for National Hiking Month

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During winter, hikers will notice interesting tree shapes, small streams, and rock outcrops that are normally hidden by summer’s foliage. Many guided hikes are dog-friendly and visitors are welcome to bring picnics to enjoy before or after their adventure. First Day Hikes are listed on GaStateParks.org.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina State Parks

Kick-off the New Year with fresh air and family-friendly fun on a First Day Hike in South Carolina State Parks. More than 40 ranger-led hikes are scheduled across the state with most parks offering half-mile to 3-mile guided adventures for all ages and skill levels.

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All participating hikers will receive an official First Day Hike sticker.

First Day Hikes will also jumpstart a new initiative in South Carolina State Parks. Beginning January 1, use #StepsInSCStateParks to share your walking, hiking, or other active adventures any time you’re visiting a park. The year-long promotion aims to encourage more visitors to get moving in South Carolina State Parks.

Related: Best Places to Plan a Hiking Trip

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the park enthusiasts who want to visit as many parks as they can on January 1, you can squeeze in four hikes by following the First Day Dash schedule:  

  • Start the day at 9:00 a.m. with a hike on the 1.25-mile Interpretive Trail at Lake Warren State Park
  • Head north to the Battle of Rivers Bridge State Historic Site for an easy 1-mile hike on the Battlefield Trail at 11
  • Cruise over to Barnwell State Park for a 1.5-mile hike along the Dogwood Nature Trail at 1:00 pm
  • Finally, finish your day on the 1.5-mile Jungle Trail at Aiken State Park at 3:00 pm
Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other First Day Hikes include a wildflower walk at Oconee Station State Historic Site, stepping into Revolutionary War history on a walk at the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, and hunting for fossils and shells during low tide at Edisto Beach State Park.

Other events happening at parks around the state on January 1 include a ranger-guided walk on the beach at Edisto Beach State Park and an easy 1.5-mile ranger-guided hike before along the lagoon at Hunting Island State Park.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas State Parks

As New Year’s Eve merriment gives way to New Year’s Day, start 2022 in the great outdoors. Over the years, First Day Hikes have become a tradition at Texas State Parks and across the country.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Enchanted Rock hosts three guided summit hikes at 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:45 p.m. The park is located at 16710 RR 965 between Llano and Fredericksburg. The two-hour hikes will be led by a park ranger or knowledgeable volunteer. Meet at the gazebo at the start of the Summit Trail.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reservedts

Pedernales Falls State Park: Located east of Johnson City at 2585 Park Road 6026, Pedernales Falls offers two guided hike options. The first is the Pedernales Falls and Beyond hike which starts at 9 a.m. in the Falls Parking Lot. It’s a 2-mile, moderate hike. The half-mile, moderate Twin Falls Nature Trail hike starts at noon from the Twin Falls trailhead. The park is also hosting a First Day Campfire at 3 p.m. at Campsite 68.

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virginia State Parks

Set the tone for a fantastic 2022 with a New Year’s Day hike in one of Virginia’s State Parks. First Day Hikes are a great opportunity to improve one’s physical, mental, and social health, and what better way to start the New Year than by connecting with nature. State parks offer iconic and beautiful outdoor places that support healthy, affordable, physical, and social activities.

Related: How Much Time Should You Spend in Nature?

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah River State Park: Join the Friends of Shenandoah River for a hike celebrating the New Year. Bring your family and leashed pets to Shenandoah River State Park for a hike on the Cottonwood Trail. The Cottonwood trail is about 1.5 miles long with little change in elevation. The loop at the end of the trail is a raised boardwalk but the rest can be muddy in wet weather. The Friends Group will lead the hike and provide light refreshments in the Massanutten Building. The parking fee is waived on January 1.

Conquering a challenging trail on the first day of the year will keep you motivated towards tackling even the toughest goals throughout the year.

Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir, Steep Trails, 1918

How and How Often Do People Die in America’s National Parks?

Traveling to a national park this summer? What are the odds of dying during a visit?

For travelers heading to national parks this summer, fun and sun are on most visitors’ minds. While some danger lurks at these natural treasures, new data shows that park-goers, by and large, survive the great outdoors.

An October 2020 analysis from Panish Shea & Boyle LLP which reportedly used data provided by National Park Service (NPS) for the years 2007 through 2018 showed there had been a total of 2,727 deaths spread over hundreds of sites across that 12-year period while approximately 3.5 billion visited during that same period. This equates to less than eight deaths per 10 million visits to park sites during that time frame. It is important to say that based on this data visiting national parks is very safe overall.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additionally, the NPS Public Risk Management Program (PRMP) analyzes mortality data to identify trends, leading causes of death, and high-risk populations. While injury rates in national parks are very low compared to injury rates in the U.S., injuries can and do happen when visitors are unprepared, exceed their experience or fitness level, or do not understand or heed hazard warnings. Being aware of the common causes of injuries in parks can help visitors understand the hazards associated with their activities and be better prepared before they go.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

PRMP reported that between the calendar year 2014 and 2016, 143 of 419 park units reported one or more deaths for a total of 990 deaths or six deaths per week. The mortality rate was 0.1 deaths per 100,000 recreation visits with 53 percent of deaths in that time frame due to unintentional causes like drowning and vehicle crashes. Around half of the medical deaths occurred as an individual was engaged in physical activity—like hiking, biking, or swimming—and 79 percent of deaths occurred among males.

Banish Shea & Boyle LLP data showed that drowning, motor vehicle crashes, “undetermined” causes, and falls were the top four killers highlighting the rural and scenic nature of most sites.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Washington’s North Cascades National Park was the most dangerous, statistics-wise, with 652 deaths per 10 million visits. Lake Mead National Recreation Area saw the most deaths during the period of the study at over 200 though there were more than 85 million recreational visits to the site during the years measured.

Data on fatalities in the parks from 2010 to 2020 released by Outforia in May—obtained using a Freedom of Information Act request to the NPS—showed the most common causes of death were falls, medical or natural deaths, or “undetermined” or “unexplained” deaths.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unsurprisingly, the most visited parks tend to have the most visitor fatalities. Over the last ten years, Grand Canyon had the most visitor deaths, 134, followed closely by often densely-packed Yosemite, 126. Deaths and disappearances continue at Yosemite into 2021.

Great Smoky Mountains was the most visited park in 2019 with over 12 million visitors. It experienced 92 visitor deaths since 2010 while Yellowstone had 52. Interestingly, the park with the sixth-highest number of death, Alaska’s rugged Denali, had far fewer visitors than the other five. Yellowstone had 4,020,288 annual visitors and 52 deaths. Denali had 51 deaths and just 601,152 annual visitors.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, while every death is tragic, the National Parks had nearly 3 billion visitors from 2010 to 2020 including 327.52 million people in 2019 alone. Due to the pandemic 2020 visitation numbers fell to 318.21 million people. If you’re careful, the parks can be quite safe.

Falls are by far the biggest killer of park visitors responsible for 245 deaths over the ten-year period studied. Medical or natural death was responsible for 192 mortalities followed by “undetermined” (166), motor vehicle crashes (140), and drowning responsible for 139 deaths.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Suicides were uncommon; just two parks, Grand Canyon (15) and Rocky Mountain (11) had more than ten deaths in ten years. More people were killed by wild animal attacks (6) than homicide (5.) Deaths from environmental factors were most common at Denali (18) and Grand Canyon (14) with one known for extreme cold and the other for extreme heat.

It can reach 120 degrees in the shade in the lower portions of Grand Canyon and tragedies do occur. A 49-year-old woman, her husband, and a friend hiked about four miles down the South Kaibab Trail when the woman became dizzy, disoriented, and then stopped breathing. The cause of death was believed to be heat-related. The high at Phantom Ranch that day was approximately 114 degrees. But even first-time campers, like those flocking to the parks in 2021 as the pandemic wanes can survive by using common sense like drinking plenty of water, avoiding the hottest parts of the day, and wearing a wide-brimmed hat (I prefer a Tilley).

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But these statistics do not take into account the numerous near-death experiences in the national parks such as the 21-year-old woman who recently fell into the icy waters of Maligne River in Alberta’s Jasper National Park. She slipped from a rock near the bank of the river while taking a photo. Fortunately, a 48-year-old man and his wife were in the right place at the right time and were able to rescue her from the fast-moving water.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While 2021 mortality data is not currently available recently reported deaths offers further insight into the issue:

  • New Mexico State Police reported on July 6 that a 63-year-old man had been found dead in the shadeless White Sands National Park
  • In April, a grizzly bear attacked and killed a backcountry guide while fishing along the Yellowstone National Park border in southwestern Montana
  • In June, a 26-year-old woman fell to her death at Zion National Park while canyoneering
  • A 56-year-old man fell to his death from Sequoia National Park on Memorial Day
  • A 53-year-old woman on a backpacking trip at the Grand Canyon died of a heat-related illness in June
  • A 64-year-old professor of Biology died last month while solo hiking in Yosemite National Park

Worth Pondering…

It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.

—Claude Bernard

Stay Safe this Summer by Using These Outdoor Heat Hacks

Heat Safety

High temperatures can be dangerous for humans and their pets. Make your visit to a national park, state park, or other recreation areas memorable for the right reasons!

Last year, as temperatures soared into the triple digits in Texas, staff at 39 Texas State Parks handled 132 heat-related illnesses in humans and pets. Now that summer has begun and temperatures are steadily climbing, consider these six heat hacks for staying safe in the outdoors. Then read about heat illness and care of your four-legged friend while on the trail.

Golfing in Hurricane Valley near St. George, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat Hacks

Plan your trip with these heat hacks in mind.

Here are the top six heat hacks recommended for park visitors:

Hydrate

Drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour in the heat to replenish your body and prevent dehydration. Don’t forget to bring enough for your four-legged family members too.

Horse back riding in Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Block the Rays

Apply a generous amount of sunscreen before heading outdoors. Apply liberally and frequently and reapply every couple of hours and after swimming or sweating.

There goes my Tilley! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dress Smart

Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing; a wide-brimmed hat (I prefer a Tilley), good walking shoes, sunscreen, and wet bandanas to keep you cool while in the sun. For pets, protect paws against blistering by hitting the trails during cooler times of the day when the ground isn’t hot or by putting booties on pets to help shield paws from the hot ground. Touch the pavement or ground with the back of your hand. If you cannot hold it there for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.

Stay Salty

Food helps keep up energy and replace salt lost from sweating. Eating snacks such as jerky, granola, trail mix, pretzels, tuna, and dried fruit is a fantastic way to nourish your body while on the trails.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buddy System

Two brains are better than one. It’s beneficial to have someone with you in hot conditions so you can look after each other on the trail. With high temperatures hitting the US and Canada, heat-related illnesses are common, and having a friend around to help recognize the early symptoms can save you from getting sick.

Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan Ahead

Study a trail map and take it with you. Average hikers move at 2 miles per hour, so allow yourself sufficient time to avoid hiking in the heat of the day. Be sure to rest in a cool or shaded area to recover from the heat if necessary. It is also a good idea to let someone know your hiking route before you hit the trails and what time you should be back. That way, if you become lost, people know where to look.

Hiking Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat Illness

Look for these symptoms of heat illness.

Heat Strokes

  • Throbbing headache
  • No sweating
  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid, strong pulse
Hiking Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat Exhaustion

  • Faint or dizzy
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Muscle cramps

If someone shows signs of heat illness, take these steps:

  • Move person to a half-sitting position in the shade
  • Call 911 immediately
  • Treat based on humidity: If below 75 percent, spray the victim with water and vigorously fan; or above 75 percent, apply ice packs on neck, armpits, or groin
It’s a dog’s life! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat and Dogs

Every year, dogs die after hiking with their owners in parks. Your dog will follow wherever you lead. But remember, your pet is wearing a fur coat and isn’t wearing shoes. Remember the five-second rule. Place the back of your hand on the pavement or ground. If you cannot hold it there for five seconds, the surface is too hot for your dog’s paws.

Photography in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dog’s Hiking List

  • Leash (no more than 6 feet)
  • Collar with tags
  • Water
  • Food/treats
  • Dog booties
  • Plastic bags (for poop pickup)
  • Foot care
Staying cool in the shade along the Lower Colorado River, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For practical steps on staying cool in your RV this summer, click here.

Worth Pondering…

“‘Heat, ma’am!’ I said; ‘it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”

—Sydney Smith