How to Hike in the Desert

grand canyon hiking

Photograph by Diego Lozano on Unsplash

The desert is a revered and intimidating panorama. Fantastically austere at finest and extremely merciless at worst, even skilled hikers will be thrown off guard by its volatility. Typically, temperatures attain effectively into the 100s. When the rain does fall, a gaunt layer of soil channels extra water into turbulent floods. However, catch the desert at golden hour and watch the wildlife emerge — it’s a magical expertise that anybody can get pleasure from with a bit of preparation. 

Every desert ecosystem — from the Colorado Plateau of Utah to the Sonoran Desert of Arizona — has distinctive traits. Nonetheless, the identical basic recreation tips apply. Learn our suggestions under for easy methods to hike within the desert so you possibly can have a protected and fulfilling journey to those stark, wild landscapes.

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1. Begin Early or Late

sunset at Joshua Tree, desert hiking destination

Photograph by Simon Hurry on Unsplash

Many native desert animals are nocturnal for good cause. In the summertime, noon temperatures attain effectively over 100 levels, and most deserts supply few shady respites. It’s finest to keep away from mountaineering between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, so begin your actions early or simply exit for a night stroll. The desert glows at these occasions of day, so that you received’t remorse setting off at odd hours — simply be sure you convey a headlamp.

2. Gas Correctly

We’ve heard it so many occasions: drink loads of water when recreating outside. However satisfactory H2O is particularly vital within the desert, the place violent sunshine and hovering temps can dehydrate you effectively earlier than you understand it. A gallon a day is the usual advice, however whenever you’re mountaineering within the desert, you’ll wish to bump it as much as a liter each hour and sip earlier than you get thirsty.

Don’t neglect to trace what comes out of your physique, both. Rare or darkish urine is a particular signal of dehydration and will be adopted by critical neurological situations equivalent to confusion and dizziness.

In desert environments, it’s tough to switch the additional fluids and minerals you sweat, so water alone received’t at all times lower it. Sports activities drinks or tablets will replenish your important electrolytes. Should you choose to maintain it easy, salty snacks excessive in sodium are one other good complement — however they’re far much less concentrated than packaged electrolyte mixes, so snack typically. Staying fueled will assist stop hyponatremia, a much less frequent however nonetheless harmful sickness that happens when a hiker drinks a lot water that it dilutes the sodium of their physique and overwhelms their kidneys.

Some additional recommendation: When you’re packing water, be sure you go away some within the automobile. For desert dwellers, in-car water storage is a vital precaution within the occasion of automobile points. Plus, it’s at all times a good suggestion to have some ready on the trailhead for those who underestimate your hike.

3. Costume Like a Native

Solar shirts and large hats are the secret within the desert. Sunscreen is a good begin nevertheless it’s straightforward to neglect to reapply, so it’s finest to have a assured layer of safety when mountaineering within the desert.

It appears counterintuitive to put on extra clothes in hotter climates, however light-weight solar shirts present additional SPF safety and truly maintain you cooler by hiding your pores and skin from the new solar. And whereas wide-brimmed hats could seem dorky,  they cowl ignored areas like your scalp, lips, and ears. 

Footwear is the one clothes exception the place much less is extra. Some individuals love boots and a few individuals hate them, however there’s no denying that they make your ft sweat. Go for extra breathable footwear (like path runners, light-weight boots, and even sandals) when mountaineering within the desert. You’ll sweat much less and your ft — and your folks at camp — will thanks. Should you’re prepared to modify to minimal footwear, Chacos and Bedrock Sandals are recognized for his or her consolation and traction. Should you’d relatively maintain the ankle help, Keen and Ahnu have some nice breathable boot choices. 

It’s essential to decorate for the climate at hand nevertheless it’s additionally vital to be ready for sudden adjustments. Regardless of what it could appear, it trulydoesrain within the desert, and when it comes, it typically comes with power. At all times pack a rain jacket or emergency poncho so that you’re not caught unprepared if the climate takes a flip.

4. Know Your Water Sources

water source in the desert

For a spot basically formed by water, the desert hides it effectively. Should you’re planning to hike within the desert, seek the advice of maps and native ranger stations to search out out about present water situations and potential sources. 

Desert streams are sometimes vibrant locations, however few are perennial and it’s frequent to come across dry water sources. Should you’re searching for out a water provide, search for cottonwood bushes. They’re monumental poplars that develop close to water and are indication of doable streams. Tinajas, or potholes, are deep depressions in arduous rock that maintain onto water for prolonged intervals of time, particularly in shady canyons or after latest rain. Don’t depend on them for water, however they could be a lifesaver in an emergency.

5. Familiarize Your self with Flash Floods and Storms

Many individuals go to the desert on the most brutal time of yr as a result of it aligns with college holidays. Summer time can be the monsoon season, and guests are most susceptible to getting caught in a storm throughout these months. Storms normally sweep in within the afternoon and create stunning waterfalls and rainbows, however additionally they convey large flash floods. Know the dangers earlier than setting out on wet days andcheck the forecast.

Flash floods are much more harmful than they sound as a result of they’re not simply water. These torrents of rainfall carry sediment, logs, rocks, and different heavy particles. Themost recent floods in Zion National Parkeven took out automobiles and RVs! Flash floods journey by way of a fancy community of drainages that stretch for a lot of miles, relying on the place the rain falls. Some drainages are safer than others. Locals can inform you which hikes are most secure if the climate appears questionable, so cease by a ranger station or gear store earlier than your hike! However, it’s at all times most secure to rearrange plans when clouds begin to construct, irrespective of how far-off they seem.

Along with rain, thunderstorms within the desert pose a critical danger to hikers. Keep away from open landscapes throughout thunderstorms, even when the storm isn’t instantly above you — lightning can journey for over 10 miles. Desert crops are normally small, so you could very effectively be the tallest factor within the panorama, making you probably the most susceptible to lightning strikes. 

6. Pack It In, Pack It Out

In most locations, an orange peel takes round six months to decompose. However in arid desert environments, it may possibly final indefinitely. Leaving any nonnative supplies is littering, even when they’re technically biodegradable in several climates. Many trailheads wouldn’t have trash cans, so convey a small bag for wrappers and different waste. By no means throw it within the privy on the trailhead!

In such slow-to-decompose environments, it’s finest follow to pack out all lavatory supplies as effectively. Some desert parks and counties, equivalent to Canyonlands Nationwide Park, require that every one backpackers carry wag luggage. There isn’t sufficient rainfall or natural matter in desert soil to decompose human waste, and the quantity of feces can grow to be an issue in areas that obtain excessive visitation. At a minimal, at all times pack out your rest room paper, even when steering away from widespread desert hikes. Nothing ruins a hike like outdated rest room paper billowing within the sagebrush.

7. Take into account a Medical Course

Wilderness First Assist (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR) programs are a superb approach to be taught the signs of heat-related sicknesses — and it doesn’t harm to be prepared for blisters and snake encounters both. Even probably the most diligent, cautious hikers can discover a disoriented traveller who didn’t drink sufficient water. Carrying additional snacks, a packet of powdered Pedialyte, and a satellite tv for pc telephone may save somebody’s life.

Medical programs will be cost-prohibitive, however fortunately, the web is stuffed with sources. The American Climbing Affiliation revealed useful guides to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. When you’re at it, learn up on desert wildlife like scorpions, spiders, and mountain lions. Warmth sicknesses and harmful wildlife encounters are avoidable, and Search and Rescue operations are costly, so don’t let your self grow to be a sufferer of the desert atmosphere.

Guided Desert Climbing Tour

up close desert hiking details

Should you’re not able to courageous the desert by yourself, a guided desert backpacking journey lets you be taught important expertise for desert mountaineering. While you hike with a information into the weaving canyons of Capitol Reef Nationwide Park or the striated desert of Demise Valley, you’ll learn to establish potential water sources and keep protected in scorching temps. Not solely will you achieve new expertise, however mountaineering with a information can train you concerning the refined wildlife, previous & current cultures, and engaging geologic formations. The extra you understand concerning the area you’re mountaineering, the extra you’ll respect these unusual, seemingly sparse landscapes.