Hiking Alone as a Female
Hiking Alone as a Female
“I feel safer hiking in the woods, than I do walking in the streets of St. Louis.”
Ooooh I could rant all day about this!
“Where can I hike alone that’s safe?”
”You don’t go out there alone do you?”
”Don’t you worry about being by yourself in the woods?”
AHHHH MAKE IT STOP.
I don’t know what it is, why there is this weird misconception about the dangers of the woods, but I want it to go away. Any time I get one of the questions above, my response is always the same: “I feel safer hiking in the woods, than I do walking in the streets of St. Louis.”
Now, maybe it’s just my naivety, but I’ve never felt an ounce of danger out in the woods. Okay, maybe once when Michael and I were hiking in the pitch black and I was certain there was a serial killer on the loose or a bobcat ready to pounce. BUT OTHER THAN THAT. No, I have never felt unsafe. I will admit, I have the mindset of “if something is going to happen, it will happen.” and I don’t really let worry ruin my life. So again, a little naive? Maybe. But I’ve made it this far…
I have hiked alone alllll throughout Missouri and Colorado, and I’ve encountered nothing but nice people. Have I probably passed some weirdos on the trail? Yes. Do I pass more weirdos in the city on a day to day basis? ABSOLUTELY.
Now I get it, people are worried about the isolation of the woods. If you’re alone, there’s nobody there to witness if something happens to you. That can be a scary thing, but let’s talk through those worst case scenarios right now, and I’ll show you why they aren’t actually that bad.
Okay, so what could happen in the woods?
“What if I fall and hurt myself? I saw a story of a guy who fell in the woods and his apple watch detected it and notified his emergency contact! That’s so scary!”
Well, Karen, I think you just answered your own question. There are a few solutions to this. First of all, BE CAREFUL. Don’t go on a difficult hike unless you feel 100% comfortable. If you need to take a friend the first few times to be sure, then do that! Second, how cool is technology? If you’re really worried about something like this, do what the man in the news did! Wear your little apple watch and set up whatever settings he did to be able to send alerts if something goes south.
“What if I get lost? I’m so bad with directions and what if there’s no service out there?”
I’m going to suggest one of the same things I did above, don’t go somewhere you’re not comfortable with! Do some research before you go: lok at the difficulty of a hike, read reviews, find out how well marked the trail is, how long it is… Most hikes are marked in colored squares on the trees so that you can keep track of where you’re going. My boyfriend and I have back tracked many of times to find a little square when we suddenly quit seeing them LOL. Also, the All Trails app is a lifesaver. You can download maps of specific trails before you go so that they’re saved in the app, and you can see where you’re at on the trail! I’ve even used this without service many times and was still able to pull up my location on the map and see where I was.
“What about murderers?”
HAHA okay, maybe that’s not EXACTLY what people say, but a lot of women are worried about being attacked in the woods. I already talked about it a lot above, but the woods is where I feel safest. Have bad things happened out there? Do people dump dead bodies in isolated areas? Do you hear stories on the news about attacks in the woods? Yeah, sure. But compare those stories to how often you hear about a car accident, a robbery, a shooting, or any other terrible thing you hear of happening in your local city. It is SO. MUCH. SAFER. out in the middle of a forest somewhere.
“What about animal attacks?”
Armadillos. Snakes. Squirrels. Hawks. Dogs. Deer. Lizards.
Those are all the animals I’ve seen out on a trail. In the Midwest anyway…. Now I know plenty of other people that have seen coyotes and bobcats, but that’s a lot more uncommon and they’re in more desolate areas. I’m not an expert on this, I will admit that, but I have never had a dangerous animal encounter.
Snakes are honestly probably my biggest worry. I’ve seen a water moccasin at Taum Sauk, a snake tried to jump out at my dog at Hawn, and we’ve stepped over plentyyyyy of black snakes on the trail. I think education is the biggest thing here. Again, I’m not an expert, so do some research on how to identify the different types of snakes and where they tend to hang out. We’ve noticed that they love to sunbathe on rocks when the temperatures start to drop and it’s sunny outside. Snakes normally don’t attack you unless you invade their space. So just keep your eyes open and don’t let your dogs wander into areas without you!
Do you feel less scared now?
I hope so.
You’ll notice, all of these things I’ve mentioned above, could happen to a woman or a man. Do women tend to be targeted more? Sure. But a lot of the real dangers in the woods aren’t exclusive to gender.
A few last tips…
Always bring your phone! But Hayley, I go in the woods to get AWAY from everything else…” I know, me too, but put silence that thing and stick it in your backpack just in case you need it. Whether that’s to call for help or pull up a map if you get lost.
Tell someone where you’re going! In case you lose service, which is common on a lot of hikes, always let a friend know where you are. I typically text Michael or Annie and say “Heading to -insert destination here- and doing a -however many mile- hike, might not have service!” Just so someone knows.
Bring plenty of water and a snack. You don’t want to get dehydrated, and if you do get a little lost, it’s good to have!
Bring mace. If you’re REALLY that worried! I never have, but it probably wouldn’t hurt. I’m sure most of us own it already anyway, so just clip it off of your keychain and onto your backpack before you go!
That’s it, folks!
I hope this article showed you how NOT scary hiking alone can be! I’ve been doing it for years and have never had a negative experience! I’ve always thought people’s worries were really funny because I go into the woods for peace and that’s all I ever feel when I’m out there, not fear. So I hope you feel empowered now to get the hell out there and do it alone if you haven’t before!