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All physical pursuits carry some degree of risk. Mountain hiking certainly has its fair share of potential hazards. Every trail offers a unique experience and challenge, but some safety precautions are universal to hikes of any nature. Here are some ways to ensure you stay safe on the mountain trails.

Avid hikers agree that mountain hiking is an ideal pastime for people who enjoy exercise and an active lifestyle. Hiking rugged mountain trails requires strength, stamina, flexibility, and balance. It also offers opportunities to experience the great diversity of plant and animal life found in remote hard-to-reach places.

Hiking is a challenging and usually safe activity.

However, there are risks associated with trekking trails in the mountain wilderness. Safety is should be primary concern for all hikers. A hiker venturing out on a backcountry trail must be aware that he is responsible for his safety.

There are many factors a hiker must consider to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in the mountains. Weather conditions can change quickly and without warning, resulting in sudden thunderstorms, snowstorms, and lightning. Potentially dangerous wildlife, loose rocks, and narrow trails traversing exposed cliffs are just a few of the hazards a hiker may encounter on the trail. A safety-conscious hiker will maintain good physical fitness, use proper gear, exercise good judgment, and be acutely aware of his surroundings at all times.

Here are a few ideas to help make your hike in the mountains safe and enjoyable:

Don’t Overreach: A common mistake made by novice hikers is overestimating their stamina and ability. Remember, the trails can be rugged and steep. A five-mile roundtrip day-hike is a good challenge for a beginning hiker.

Tell Someone Where You Are: Give your hiking itinerary to a friend or family member. Let them know your expected time of return, and check in with them upon your return.

Stay on the Trail: Venturing off designated trails (bushwhacking) increases your chance of serious injury and getting lost.

Wear Boots with Good Ankle Support: Proper footwear is of paramount importance while hiking. A boot with good ankle support will prevent twists and sprains on rugged trails. Properly fitted boots will also reduce the possibility of developing blisters.

Carry Moleskin: If you get a blister or a hot spot, you can relieve the pain and stop further damage by using moleskin. Keeping your feet dry and changing your socks if they get wet will help prevent blisters.

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