Hiking Safety

Hiking can be dangerous, and nobody should venture off into the desert unprepared.  All hikers should follow the guidelines below.

1. When to Hike:  Avoid hiking in the heat of the day during the Summer.  This generally means between 10am and 4pm.  If it’s going to be 100 degrees or more, you should not be hiking.  If you are hiking in 90 degree plus weather, you should be in excellent physical condition, wear sun protection and have an appropriate amount of water.

2. Water:  Water is not available on any of the trails in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.  If the temperature is over 80 degrees, the general rule of thumb is that you should drink 1 liter of water for every hour that you will be hiking.  When hiking in hot weather, you should always bring an extra amount of water with you.  Mixing in a sports beverage will also give you essential electrolytes that you will lose on long hikes.

3. Maps and a Compass:  There are a number of great hiking and mapping apps that you can get on your phone.  Some popular apps include Gaia GPS and Topo Maps +.  You need to be aware that there is not cell service throughout the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.  This means that you need to ensure that the electronic map that you are relying on your phone will work offline.  It is always smart to print a map of where you will be going.  Most of these hiking apps will allow you to print a map at home.  If you are not taking a reliable GPS unit, a good map and an old fashioned compass will never fail you.

4. Sun Protection:  You will burn faster than you think.  You should never go hiking without wearing sunblock, and sunglasses will protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

5. Foot Protection: You do not need expensive backpacking boots in order to hike in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, but you will benefit from a comfortable pair of hiking boots with appropriate hiking socks.  Hiking boots will protect your feet and give you better traction while on the trail.

6. Safety Gear for the Unexpected:  All hikers should carry a small pack with safety essentials that include a small headlamp or flashlight, first aid kit, snacks, a lighter, a small mirror and a jacket (if hiking in Winter or Spring).

7.  Know the Danger Signs of Heat Related Illnesses:

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms: pale face, nausea, vomiting, cool and moist skin, headache, cramps. (Don’t ignore a headache when hiking in hot weather!  This is serious stuff. Stop. Drink. Rest.)

Treatment: drink water with electrolytes, eat high-energy foods (with fats and sugars), rest in the shade for 30-45 minutes, and cool the body by wetting it with cool water.  If nausea or vomiting prevent drinking fluids, get the victim to a hospital as fluids may need to be administered intravenously.

Heat stroke – This is a life-threatening emergency

Symptoms: flushed face, dry skin, weak and rapid pulse, high core body temperature, confusion, poor judgment or inability to cope, unconsciousness, hallucinations, seizures.  Sometimes symptoms of heat stroke can mimic those of a heart attack or other conditions.

Treatment: the heatstroke victim must be cooled immediately!  Continuously pour water on the victim’s head and torso, fan to create an evaporative cooling effect. Immerse the victim in cold water if possible.  Move the victim to shade and remove excess clothing.  The victim needs to be evacuated to a hospital.  Someone should go for help while attempts to cool the victim continue.

8.  Let Somebody Know Where You Will Be Hiking:

You should always let somebody know where you will be hiking and when you plan to return.  Most hiking apps can send out an email alert with your GPS location at a set distance.  Letting people know where you will be can give emergency personnel a jump start on finding you if something unexpected happens.

9. Rattlesnake Safety:

The Sloan Canyon National Conservation is home to several species of rattlesnakes including the Southwestern Speckled, Side-Winder, Panamint, Western Diamond-Back,Great Basin Rattlesnake, and the Mojave Green Rattlesnake. Rattlesnake encounters are rare, and they should not prevent you from enjoying the trails. Nevertheless, you should be prepared and cautious and follow the recommendations below to prevent any negative interactions with a rattlesnake.

If you encounter a rattlesnake on the trail, back away calmly. Try and stay at least 10 feet away from the rattlesnake. Fast or aggressive movements can provoke a snake. Most snakes won’t pursue you, but they will hold their ground if they feel threatended.

In order to protect yourself from any unexpected interactions with a rattlesnake, hikers should take the following precautions:

  • It is more likely that you will hear a rattlesnake before you see one, so keep your eyes and ears open.
  • Wear hiking boots and long pants, as feet and ankles are the most common places to get bitten.
  • Stay on the hiking trail. Bushes and tall grass can be hiding places for snakes.
  • Use trekking poles or a walking stick while hiking because snakes may strike those before striking you.
  • Do not stick your hands in between boulders and other places where a rattlesnake could be hiding.
  • Look around before sitting down.

Rattlesnake bites are rare, but if you or someone you are with is bitten, here are some tips on what to do:

  • If possible, take a photo of the snake from a safe distance (10 feet or more) in order to identify the snake as different snakes require different types of anti-venom treatment. If a photo is not possible, try and remember the size, shape and color of the snake. DO NOT TRY TO CAPTURE OR KILL THE SNAKE.
  • Clean and dress the wound, as snake bites can become infected, but do not try and gut the wound or remove the venom.
  • Remove any jewelry or clothing that might constrict during swelling.
  • While the victim can walk at a slow pace, try and keep the bitten limb as still as possible and make sure the victim doesn’t exert themselves more than necessary.
  • Immediately transport the victim to a hospital for anti-venom and treatment.
Disclaimer: All distances, maps, elevations, waypoints, narrative descriptions and other facts are approximate.