How to Conquer a Solo Hike

If no one wants to hike with you, no problem--head to the summit yourself.

As you embark on your solo hike, it's important to keep a few tips in mind. From relishing in the quiet to making a trip plan, here are a few ways to make hiking alone a safe and fun experience.

Celebrate the Benefits

The list of benefits for hiking alone is lengthy. Focus on the many great reasons to hike alone so you can make the most of each peaceful and enlightening moment. Here's how:

Go your own pace: When hiking in a group, you're only as fast as your slowest hiker. When hiking solo, however, you can go at whatever pace you prefer. Take this opportunity to do a strenuous trail run, take a slow and relaxing trek, or do a little of both.

Find respite in the quiet: Silence from cars, phones and email notifications is hard to come by in your everyday life. Take a few stops along the trail to just sit and relish in the quiet of nature.

Change routes if necessary: If you don't like the trail you're on, choose another when you come a junction. One caveat: don't switch routes if you're not familiar with the area or the trail you're switching to, and never go off the designated trail. Getting lost in the woods is NOT a benefit of hiking alone.

Don't Get Caught Up in Being Alone

Without someone by your side, it's easier to let the quiet, loneliness and lack of motivation become a hindrance, rather than a benefit. When you're feeling alone, distract yourself with photography, challenge yourself to name birds and trees or stop and write a journal entry.

If you're really feeling lonely make trail friends. If you're on a popular stretch of trail you'll likely pass a few fellow hikers; spark conversation and hike with them for a portion of the trip.

Know Your Limits

Plan to hike an easy route for your first solo trek. This allows you to stay confident from start to finish. Even better, choose a trail you've already hiked before so you know what to expect.

Still, there's no one to tell you that scaling the huge rock in the middle of the trail is a bad idea. You have to rely on yourself to stay safe, so know your limits. If you're feeling fatigued, take a break. If there's a tough pass to cross, consider alternatives or wait for another hiker to come along and spot you.

Be Ready for Any Weather

Despite how many times you check the forecast a cold front or rainstorm can come sweeping in at any time, especially if you're trekking at higher elevations. If hiking for just one day, bring a rain jacket, gloves and hat. For multi-day hikes, always pack extra clothes, matches and other items that could become useless if they get wet.

Make a Trip Plan

Include when you plan to leave, where you'll be going--the address of the trailhead and the exact location of the trail--the camp you plan to stay at, and when you plan to return. Once complete, give the trip plan to one or two people who can keep track of your trip and check in with you when you're due back.

If you're trekking for a number of days, and plan to stay at a mountain camp or shelter with others, tell them your planned arrival time. If you don't get in when you say you will, or before nightfall, they can alert mountain rescue.

Be Aware

Without another pair of eyes and ears on the trail, being aware of your surroundings is critical. Stay safe by watching out for these common hazards:

Uneven terrain: Be aware of the terrain all around you--look up to protect your eyes from stray branches and look down to protect your ankles from uneven roots.

Wildlife: Research the region ahead of time, and know what animals to expect along the trail. If you're hiking in bear country, pack some bear spray. Wandering in an area that's seen an increase in mountain lion activity? Make some noise on the trail.

Hiking alone is a rewarding and exciting experience. Whether it's your first time or your fifth, conquer the hike with these tips in mind.

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