Want to start solo hiking, but don’t know where to begin? I’ve got you covered! Hiking alone as a woman can be an incredibly empowering experience. It can help you develop confidence, foster a sense of independence, and connect more deeply with nature. But going for a solo hike comes with some special considerations.
I am a huge proponent of hiking alone, but I am also a big advocate for personal safety and preparedness. That is why I’m sharing 13 important safety tips that every woman needs to know before heading out on a solo hike.
These hiking tips are geared specifically towards women because that is my lived experience (and let’s be honest, women have unique safety considerations to be aware of). However, most of these tips are applicable to anyone going on a solo hike.
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Table of Contents
- My Solo Hiking Experience
- 1. Choose a Trail Within Your Hiking Abilities
- 2. Choose a Popular Hiking Trail
- 3. Tell Someone Where You’re Hiking
- 4. Carry a Map & Compass (And Know How to Use Them!)
- 5. Check the Weather Before You Go
- 6. Pack the 10 Essentials
- 7. Have a Way to Communicate With Emergency Officials
- 8. Acknowledge Other Hikers
- 9. Listen to Your Intuition
- 10. Stay Alert on the Trail
- 11. Carry the Protection YOU Need to Feel Safe
- 12. Leave (Hidden) Information For Emergency Officials
- 13. Get a Dog
- FAQ’s About Hiking Alone as a Woman
My Solo Hiking Experience
My hiking journey began in my early 20s during law school. Hiking was a way for me to escape from academic stress and connect with nature, and it was always an activity I did alone. Truthfully, I never thought twice about hiking alone as a woman until people started asking me how I did it.
The truth is I’m an only child, so doing things alone has always come naturally to me. I also started going to an all-girl’s sleepaway camp when I was 8 where I had a lot of female role models and independence to explore outdoors. I’ve always viewed doing things alone as normal, especially in nature.
After law school I moved to Colorado and immediately began going on solo hikes in the mountains. I actually climbed my first 14’er a week after moving (and was woefully underprepared)!
During my first few years in Colorado most of my camping adventures and hikes were solo. I loved having the freedom and flexibility to spend my free time doing whatever I wanted, and I took advantage by exploring Colorado and hiking by myself. I’ve easily done hundreds of solo hikes and relish the opportunity I’ve had to connect with nature.
Since meeting my husband my solo hikes and adventures have become more infrequent, but I still try to get outdoors on my own from time to time. Today most of my solo hikes are local to Grand Junction, but I also took a solo road trip to Glacier National Park last year. I find solo traveling and hiking as a woman to be incredibly empowering, so it’s something I want to continue prioritizing.
13 Safety Tips For Hiking Alone as a Woman
These hiking tips are the ultimate guide to staying safe while hiking alone as a woman. You don’t necessarily need to implement all 13 solo hiking safety tips on every hike (although some are essential, as noted). Rather, they’re intended to provide inspiration for you to create the solo hiking strategy that helps you feel safest.
1. Choose a Trail Within Your Hiking Abilities
The first safety tip for hiking alone as a woman is choosing a trail that is within your hiking abilities. This means considering your hiking experience, skills, fitness levels, and comfortability in different types of terrain when you’re looking for a trail.
As I mentioned in my solo hiking story, I’ve always been very comfortable with the idea of hiking alone. When I look for a trail, I’m not really concerned with the distance, elevation gain, or how crowded it is, I’m more concerned about the terrain and whether or not it’s technical or dangerous.
If you’re nervous about hiking alone, going for a short hike on a well-developed trail where there is low risk of injury can be a good way to ease into solo hiking. It can also be helpful to choose a trail that you’ve already hiked before so you know what to expect.
2. Choose a Popular Hiking Trail
Another way to stay safe while hiking alone is choosing a popular trail. Hiking a popular trail increases the likelihood of other hikers being around. Not only can this help ease some of the worries that may pop up when solo hiking, it also means that other people may be around to call for help or assist you in the event of an emergency.
Popular national parks are great places to begin your solo hiking journey because trails tend to be heavily trafficked and there are usually rangers around. Popular national park hiking trails also tend to provide a great view as an added bonus!
Choosing popular trails may not be necessary for every female solo hiker. I know a lot of women seek solitude when they go out for a solo hike. Following this tip isn’t absolutely essential, but it can help you stay safe and feel more confident when hiking alone as a woman.
3. Tell Someone Where You’re Hiking
Arguably one of the most important solo hiking tips is ALWAYS telling someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. God forbid something happens to you during your hike, you want to have someone who knows your plans so they can contact emergency officials. This should be someone that you trust like a partner, parent, or your usual hiking buddy.
In addition to making sure that someone knows where you’re planning on hiking, make sure you let them know when you expect to return. Also give them important information like your license plate number and the phone number of the local sheriff’s office or land management agency.
If you’re not sure how long it may take you to complete your hike you can provide a range of time. You can also let your contact person know that you’ll reach back out in the evening (this is especially helpful if you’re hiking out of service).
4. Carry a Map & Compass (And Know How to Use Them!)
Having navigation is essential to staying safe on a solo hike (in fact, it’s one of the 10 essentials, which I’ll discuss more below). When you’re hiking alone you won’t have anyone else to rely on if you get lost, so it’s important to carry a map and compass (and know how to use them).
The best map that you can carry is a topographic map that is either waterproof or stored in a ziploc bag. It’s also important to carry a compass to put your map to use.
You can download a map of your hiking trail to your phone or GPS device from apps like AllTrails and Gaia GPS, but a topographic map and compass are the best navigational tools you can have. While having a map on your phone is convenient, phone batteries can die and electronic devices can get damaged in poor weather. Always carry a portable charger if you’re relying on your phone for navigation.
If you’re going to carry a topographic map and compass while solo hiking, it’s important to know how to use them. You can find classes at REI or see if your local community college has any available.
5. Check the Weather Before You Go
It’s always important to check the weather before heading out on a hike, but it’s extra important when you’re hiking by yourself. Hiking in bad weather can increase the risk of injuries, accidents, and getting lost. Rocks and roots become slick, trails get muddy, and if snow or ice are in the equation, trails can get slippery or disappear completely.
Make sure to check the weather forecast before heading out on your solo hike so you can make a judgment call about whether or not to go. Remember to carry and wear appropriate clothing for the forecast, and know your comfort levels when it comes to hiking in rain or snow. Never be afraid to turn back if the weather gets extreme or trail conditions get bad!
6. Pack the 10 Essentials
The best way to ensure that you’re fully prepared for anything the trail may throw at you while hiking alone is to carry the 10 essentials. These are a list of 10 items that you should always carry on a hike (whether you’re alone or not) because they can help keep you safe in a variety of situations.
The 10 essentials include:
- Navigation (map & compass)
- Illumination (headlamp)
- Sun Protection (sun shirt, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses)
- First Aid
- Fire (waterproof matches)
- Shelter (emergency bivvy)
- Extra Food
- Extra Water
- Extra Clothes
You may need to adjust what you pack for your solo hike depending on the environment and time of year that you’re hiking. For example, you may also need rain gear, winter gear, or both, depending on the environment and season.
7. Have a Way to Communicate With Emergency Officials
Having a reliable way to communicate with officials in the event of an emergency is essential when hiking alone. There may not be anyone else around to call or find help, so you need to have some way to get in touch with emergency personnel.
You may have cell reception on some hiking trails or in certain areas, like a mountain summit, but I would never rely on your cell phone alone for an emergency. I recommend carrying a Garmin inReach mini, or other reliable emergency GPS device, like a Spot.
While an emergency GPS is an expensive piece of outdoor gear, it can literally save your life. Depending on the model you choose there are other benefits like being able to text loved ones on long expeditions or getting weather forecasts in the backcountry (although Garmin’s forecasts have done me dirty on a couple of occasions…).
8. Acknowledge Other Hikers
Acknowledging other hikers on the trail may not seem like a safety tip, but it can actually help in a missing person situation. If you get lost in the backcountry, you want other hikers to be able to recognize you so they can tell emergency personnel when and where they last saw you. You also want to be able to do the same if a hiker you saw went missing.
Of course, this is an extreme scenario that you’ll hopefully never experience. I also understand that some women may not feel comfortable engaging with other people when hiking alone. I’m not saying you need to have a full conversation with every person you see, but making eye contact and smiling or saying a quick hi, can go a long way.
9. Listen to Your Intuition
One of the most important safety tips to remember when hiking alone is to listen to your intuition. Women in general tend to be more tapped into their intuition and you can use that to your advantage while solo hiking by allowing it to guide your decision making.
Your intuition can speak to you in a variety of different ways. You may have sudden thoughts. Or a gut feeling. Or just a sense that the energy is off. Take some time to discover how intuitive hits show up for you so that you can identify and listen to them on the trail. If at any time something feels off with no explanation, don’t be afraid to turn around and head back to your car!
10. Stay Alert on the Trail
Staying alert on the trail is incredibly important when hiking alone. Make sure that you pay attention to your surroundings so you can react appropriately if something unexpected happens. This includes being aware of obstacles on the trail (fallen logs, loose terrain, etc.), paying attention to the weather, keeping an eye out for potential dangers, and not wearing headphones.
As a woman, you’re probably used to feeling alert and hypervigilant while out in the world. Personally, I feel safer alone on a hike than I do walking through a major city. It’s important to pay attention to other people and listen to your intuition if someone feels off, but remember that most of the risks you’re likely going to encounter as a female solo hiker are going to come from mother nature (weather, wildlife, etc.).
11. Carry the Protection YOU Need to Feel Safe
There are a lot of different ways that you can protect yourself while hiking alone as a woman. Not only is a knife one of the 10 essentials, it’s also a reliable tool for self-defense. There are many places where you can carry your knife so that it’s easily accessible in the event of an emergency. A whistle is also helpful to have and some packs even come with one attached.
Bear spray is another great tool to carry on your solo hiking trip to protect yourself from wildlife. If you’re hiking in grizzly country you should always be carrying bear spray (and truthfully, you should seriously consider hiking with other people). Carrying pepper spray can help you protect yourself against two-legged predators.
I personally don’t think it’s responsible to encourage women to carry a firearm when hiking alone. If doing so helps you feel safe and you have the training to use it safely in an emergency situation, that’s your decision to make. I don’t think carrying a firearm is necessary when hiking alone, and doing so can cause more harm if you’re not trained to use it properly in an emergency.
12. Leave (Hidden) Information For Emergency Officials
Leaving information about your trip in your vehicle can provide emergency officials with helpful information in the event you go missing or have a serious accident while hiking by yourself. However, you want to be conspicuous about where you leave this information.
You don’t want to advertise your plans to strangers that may use it as an opportunity to break into your car or try to find you and cause you harm, but you want the information to be in a place where emergency officials will be able to find it if they enter your vehicle, like on the floor or in your cupholder.
Include information about your trip plans (including the route), how long you plan to be out, and any special information emergency officials may need to know, like whether you’re hiking with a dog or have medical considerations. Also consider including information about your gear and what you’re wearing (ex. “purple backpack with blue jacket”).
Now, if you’ve told someone where you’re going and have an emergency GPS to contact officials in the event you get lost or in an accident, this is just an extra layer of precaution. However, it can be helpful for a solo backpacking trip where you’ll be out for a few days.
13. Get a Dog
The last safety tip for hiking alone as a woman is the one that personally brings me the most assurance on solo hikes. Get a dog!
Bringing a dog on your solo hike can provide companionship and protect you from dangerous people. I can count on one hand the number of times that my dog, Becket, has growled at someone on a hike. Every time that has happened I’ve also gotten a bad vibe from the person and quickly distanced myself from them.
Of course, getting a dog is a huge responsibility. If you’re considering getting a dog to help you feel safer on solo hikes (or out in the world), then I would encourage you to do more research to find the right breed for your lifestyle and living situation. I also highly recommend using petfinder.com to find a dog to adopt (Becket was the first dog to pop up when I searched for Australian shepherds around Denver!).
FAQ’s About Hiking Alone as a Woman
Can I go hiking alone as a woman?
You can totally go hiking alone as a woman! There are many women out there who regularly hike alone and do so safely and responsibly. Hiking alone can have so many benefits, from building confidence to developing a deeper sense of self and connection with nature. As a female travel and outdoor blogger, I highly encourage women to get outdoors on their own.
The reality is hiking alone is always going to come with risks, regardless of your gender. Unfortunately, female hikers also face additional risks and challenges that men don’t. Women are more likely to experience harassment on the trail. Women may also have to deal with having their period on a hike, which adds an extra layer of consideration (although it’s totally manageable!).
I know most women’s biggest fear about hiking alone is encountering dangerous men. I know that’s my biggest concern! While it’s important to be vigilant, it’s also important to remember that the odds of encountering a person on the trail who has the intent to harm you is INCREDIBLY unlikely. Being on a hiking trail doesn’t place you at any greater risk than if you were in a city (in fact it may even be safer).
If you follow the safety and travel tips in this article you’ll be in the best position possible to help navigate all of the risks associated with hiking alone!
What are the dangers of hiking alone as a woman?
You may be wondering, is it even safe to hike alone as a woman? Most of the dangers of hiking alone as a woman are the same dangers any solo hiker may encounter. Hiking comes with inherent risks, including wildlife encounters, inclement weather, dangerous terrain, accidents, illness, etc.
Personal safety is always an important consideration as a woman, and I recognize that there are many places in the world that aren’t safe for women. In the United States and many other countries, it is very possible for women to safely hike alone. Thousands of women do it every day with no problems and you can too!
While accidents can always happen, being prepared goes a long way in staying safe when hiking alone!
How do I gain the confidence to go hiking alone as a woman?
It can take time to build up the confidence to go hiking alone as a woman, especially if you’re not accustomed to doing things by yourself. You can start by going for a walk by yourself in a local park, then move on to a heavily trafficked trail that you’re already familiar with. Work up to longer and more remote solo hikes over time as your comfort level and confidence expands.
The more that you put yourself out there and do things by yourself, the more confidence you’re going to have when it comes to doing things alone. Once you begin having successful solo hikes, you can look back on them when you’re feeling scared or nervous to remind yourself of what you’re capable of!