Whether you’re hiking on an urban trail like the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and- Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake or a more rugged, secluded hiking trail like the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park or Pedernales State Park, precautionary measures should be taken to ensure that your hike is safe and enjoyable. Travis County has trails of varying lengths and levels of difficulty. Know the type of trail you will be hiking and prepare accordingly.
Urban Hike and Bike Trails
The location and popularity of hike and bike trails pose some hazards that are not as common on rugged, secluded trails. The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is a hot spot for Austinites and tourists alike making it a high traffic area filled with pedestrians, bicyclists, and lots of canine friends. Trail visitors should be respectful of others, aware of their surroundings and mindful of traffic. The proximity to busy roads and the higher volume of visitors require extra vigilance.
Traffic is a major concern and it is important to be attentive to oncoming vehicles when on a trail that runs directly next to a street.
Rugged Hiking Trails
On rugged, secluded hiking trails, traffic isn’t as much of a concern. There are other hazards to consider. Trails systems like the Greenbelt are intricate and have many side trails that are off the beaten path, making it very easy to get lost. The technical difficulty of these rugged and uneven trails is typically more advanced than a hike and bike trail, making injuries more prevalent. Animals are also a concern and hikers should make every attempt to refrain from approaching or disturbing wildlife.
Basic Trail Safety Tips
Familiarize yourself with the trail and plan your route.
If going solo, let at least one friend or family member know your route, expected return time, and description of your clothing.
Make sure your cell phone is fully charged
Pack extra water and drink regularly
Check the weather and dress accordingly
Never use trails after dark
Carry identification and include name, phone number, and medical information (allergies, medications, medical history) Consider listing an emergency contact number.
Carry a small amount of cash for emergency purchases.
Wear reflective material
Use discretion when acknowledging strangers
Keep the volume down on your headphones or use just one earphone in order hear and be alerted to approaching hazards .
Wear sunscreen of at least SPF15 and a hat
Wear appropriate footwear
Stay on marked trails
Remain aware of your surroundings
Do not approach homeless encampments or hostile people engaged in illegal activities.
Supervise children and never let them out of your sight
Keep dogs on a short leash. Loose dogs can be hazardous to other and themselves
Stay to the right of the trail to avoid blocking the trail and allow room for a safe right-of-way around you for others.
If you need to stop, move to the side of the trail
Additional tips to consider when hiking rugged, secluded trails:
Hike with a friend. In case of an emergency, you can help each other out
Carry at least one light source even if you begin your adventure during daylight hours. In the event you become lost or disoriented and nightfall results, you can use the light to illuminate your route or for emergency signaling.
Keep a whistle with your gear for emergency signaling or to scare off approaching wildlife.
Take a first aid kit
Pack extra water and snacks
“Drop a pin” or take a pictures with your cellphone of your entry point and trail markers as you pass them. Send them to a family member or friend as a “check-in”.
Do not approach wildlife. If you encounter wildlife, consider walking in the opposite direction, warning approaching hikers along the way.
Know how to identify poisonous plant varieties e.g. Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac, and avoid them.
Do not drink water from streams or springs unless thoroughly treated with a water treatment/filtration system
Avoid side trails and stick to established trails
If lost, use a compass or smartphone to pinpoint your location coordinates or be prepared to describe your location with basic orienteering techniques (last past roadway/intersection, maintaining knowledge of direction of travel, etc…).