Hiking in San Diego: Safety Tips + How to Prepare

Need more proof that San Diego is America’s Finest City? How about its beautiful year-round hiking season?

San Diego’s diverse geography offers incredible hikes along the ocean, through a national forest, into the desert and virtually everywhere in between. Read on for the best tips on how to prepare for a safe, enjoyable hike in San Diego with the whole family!

Hiking Safety Tips in San Diego

  • Get up and go: As summer approaches, the days will naturally be hotter. Keep in mind that the peak time for heat is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Getting started on your hike early in the morning significantly lowers your chance of heat exhaustion, sunburn and dehydration.
  • Drink water regularly: It’s recommended that adults drink two cups of water for every hour of hiking and children drink 1-2 cups. But on hot or humid days, this increases to one liter (four cups) per hour. That means on a summer day, a two-hour hike can equal up to two liters – 66  ounces – of water per person!
  • Tell someone where you’re going: If you’re going on a trail outside a populated area, let a friend or family member know when and where you’ll be hiking before you go.
  • Be aware of wildlife and plants: Many hiking trails in San Diego are home to both rattlesnakes and poison oak. Always stay alert when you’re hiking to steer clear of these potential dangers.
  • Know where to find care: Before you go on your hike, find the closest urgent care center so that you’re prepared if you need medical assistance.
  • Take your time: Give yourself plenty of time to complete your hike at a leisurely pace. Plan for about one mile per hour. Doing so will let you take in the beauty of your surroundings and rest when necessary.
  • Observe the dress code: Always wear a hat or visor, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen on exposed skin. Opt for light-colored, breathable shirts, shorts or pants. On more rugged trails, wear hiking boots instead of sneakers. They offer better support, traction and protection against the elements.

How to Prepare For a Great Hike

  • Eat a healthy meal with complex carbs: Eat a nutritious meal with plenty of complex carbohydrates 30 to 60 minutes before you begin your hike. Oatmeal, fruit or whole grain bread, cereals and granola are great slow-digesting fuel sources for your outing. Be sure to also bring plenty of healthy snacks with you.
  • Strap on your water: Instead of carrying your water bottle, go hands-free with a sturdy shoulder strap for your thermos. For longer hikes, buy a water bladder that you can wear like a backpack, and carry up to three liters of water with you!
  • Check the weather: In San Diego, we’re spoiled by a great climate. But winter can bring heavy rains, and summer days can spike up into the 90s and even triple digits inland. Always check the weather before hiking to make sure you still want to go.
  • Bring an extra pair of socks (or two): Your feet can sweat up a storm while hiking, leading to chafing and blisters. Sweat can also make your feet slide around inside your shoes as you walk and throw you off balance. Bring an extra pair or two of socks so that you can change if and when needed.
  • Pack a first aid kit: When preparing for a hike, always double-check that you have a basic first aid kit and a full bottle of sunscreen to take with you.
  • Map your hike and bring a printout: Don’t just rely on technology to navigate your hike. No cellphone service or a dead battery can render your GPS map useless. Research your hike beforehand, and bring a printed map with you. This will also help you know in advance if there are any treacherous parts you need to be ready for.

Looking for more fun outdoor activities here in San Diego? Check out Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups’ great family-friendly tips and events all year long.

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