The Case For Hiking Alone
Is it safe for a woman to hike solo? Why would you choose to hike solo? This seems to be a topic that gets brought up a lot on the different social media sites I am on which discuss the outdoors and hiking. So, I felt inspired after a really restorative solo hike yesterday out in the woods at peak fall color season(o.k., my dog was there too), and I thought I would write a short blog post about it.
I have hiked in groups, both small and large, by myself, or just me and my dog. I wouldn’t say that I always prefer one over the other, I think they all have their merits. I love catching up with a friend over a long hike in the woods. I also love the group dynamics of a team atmosphere on summits. It’s also worth noting that sometimes when you hike with a group, you might still be somewhat alone, if others are ahead or behind and you are hiking quietly with just nature and the thoughts running through you head. This was the case for a few of the days on my last group backpacking trip, and those were some of my favorite times.
For me, I do like to hike alone sometimes. Here are the reasons why:
- People are busy. I’m busy. If I decide on a Saturday morning that I want to do a short local hike or that I want to take Sunday to drive out somewhere to hike, I don’t have to rely on others to be able to join. I don’t have to plan or send texts or cancel plans if others cancel. Also, I can change my mind. If the weather is bad or something else comes up, I don’t have to feel guilty about changing plans. I get to decide where to go and how long of a hike I want to do.
- Hiking my own hike. Yes, you can try to hike your own hike with groups or friends. But, I also feel pressured when hiking with a group to keep the pace, to stop when others stop, and limit my picture taking. But, alone, I set the pace. I can take as many photo breaks as I want. I can push through and hike up steep stuff fast on training hikes. I can run a bit or sit and sip water with a snack and take my time.
- You can be alone in your thoughts. If I’m stressed about work or life, hiking helps me to clear my head. It gives me time to get perspective. Also, being on the move, especially in nature, helps me feel more creative and inspired. I do tend to sometimes be more in my head than present in the beauty of nature, which I am still working on, but it’s a process.
I will say, there are also situations where I wouldn’t feel comfortable hiking alone and everyone has to make those calls for themselves. I’ve rarely been on a hike alone (or with my dog) that I didn’t feel comfortable, but this happened one time when I was out in the woods on a Sunday morning where there wasn’t anyone else at the trailhead at all. Here are some tips on how to hike solo and feel confident if you’re just getting used to hiking alone:
- Try to go on a familiar trail and keep the hike fairly short.
- Bring a dog (yours or borrow one). This can help you feel safe.
- Pick a trail within your skill level. Heading out solo for the first time is probably not the best time to tackle that steep class 3 scramble.
- Find a trail that is popular (but not too popular). If you see people every 10-15 minutes, you don’t feel like you are alone. If something were to happen, there would likely be someone to help if needed.
As with any hike, but especially when you are going solo, it’s incredibly important to be prepared. Bring the 10 essentials, think about the things that could go wrong and how you would prepare for that, and bring along the things that you know will bring you joy on your hike. Pack a favorite snack, bring your camera (or an extra charge for your phone), or a journal to write or draw in during a break.
Are there risks with hiking alone? Of course, but there are also risks every time you get in your car, or on your bicycle, or walk on a city street. You do what you can to mitigate the risks while still living your best life.
My philosophy is that life is too short and the list of places I want to hike is too long to always wait for others to hike with. Some of my favorite hiking memories are times that I have set out to explore on my own. Not only can you discover more about the world you live in, but you can discover things about yourself that you might not have known.