How to Solo Hike Safely in Sedona

May 22, 2020

By Janet Oliver

Solo hiker on the Hangover trail

Hiking provides a great way to enjoy the beautiful Sedona scenery while exercising and socializing with great friends. There are times though when enjoying solitude for self-contemplating, traveling at one’s own pace and having the joy of going out for a spontaneous trip is a wonderful way to travel the great Sedona scenery.

Here are few points to consider for the novice solo hiker before embarking on a solo hiking trip.  

1)  Identify what type of hiker you are:  what type of trail do you prefer, what is your hiking skill level?  Can you follow trail signs?  Do you know how to use a map?  What type of terrain are you comfortable hiking? 2)  Pick a trail within your abilities. When you are first acquiring your solo hiking skills, it is not the time to challenge yourself on a trail that you are not experienced enough to complete. 3)  Select a trail that will have traffic by other people.  The trail does not need to be a crowded trail but enough traffic that you would feel assured that someone would come by if you do need assistance.   

Before hiking: 

1) Research your trail route.  You can research trail destinations at the visitor centers, the Forest Service websites, outdoor stores, online websites such as Alltrails, maps, and hiking acquaintances.  You can pick up trail descriptions at the Red Rock Ranger station or online at sites such as Coconino Forest Service, Sedona Chamber of Commerce or search in your online browser for other sites by entering Sedona Hiking Trails.  There are multiple paper trail maps that can be purchased at the visitor centers and local outdoor shops.  These sources list location, length, difficulty, and descriptions of terrain.  It is always wise to carry a printed map and description of the trail. 2)  Check the conditions:  What will the weather be?  What is the condition of the trail?  What is the condition of the road to the trail head? 3)  Always tell someone you trust what your itinerary is:  where you are going and when you will return including what trail head you are parking at.  Make sure that you check in with that person on your return. 4)  Pack extra gear in your backpack to use in case you need to wait for assistance.  Bring extra food and water, jacket, hat, first aid kit, and flashlight in case you end up overnight on the trail.

While hiking: 

1) Always keep yourself “found”.   Look behind you while hiking so that you will recognize the terrain on your return if it is an out and back trail.  Make sure that you know where the trail is going, distance you will cover and how long.  If in doubt, retrace your steps.  Make sure that you do not wander off of the itinerary that you have left with your support person. 2) Bring a cell phone with a tracking app and maps loaded such as GAIA, Avenza, etc., and/or GPS device such as Garmin, Magellan, etc. to track your route.  Some of these devices can additionally via satellite send an emergency request.  Know how to use these devices to retrace your steps.  Make sure that you have fully charged the device before your hike.  If the hike is long, you may need to conserve battery by using low power, or periodically turning the device off and on, or bring an additional battery charge pack.  Warning: make sure that you have downloaded your route on your device before the hike.   You might not have cell service while hiking.   Also note that you can sometimes send a text message even if you cannot make a phone call if reception is spotty. 3)  If lost, do not wander farther.  Retrace your route or stay put so that you can be found. 4)  If you do have any problems, stay calm and problem solve your next steps.  Sit down and think through what you should do. 5)  If you do need assistance, remember that a rescue will take time.  Resources for the rescue need to be notified, prioritized based on other emergencies, and organized to respond.  Often the rescue personnel are volunteers that are willing to give of their time to assist others in need.  You need to ensure that you are not using rescue/medical resources irresponsibly by making sure that you have taken every step to be responsible, knowledgeable hiker.

Have a wonderful solo trip!  With your new skill of solo hiking, you will add another avenue to enjoy the great outdoors.

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