Create a Hiking Trip Plan

 “Safety doesn’t happen by accident.”  ~Author Unknown

trip planning safety

Safety precautions taken when hiking can mean the difference between life and death. Hiking safely means you sign in at trailheads, correctly know and use navigational skills, carry essential gear, practice wildlife avoidance, stay on marked trails, and use common sense at the very least.

“Hiking begins before you reach the trailhead” – American Hiking Society 

You cannot plan for every emergency situation, but planning can help minimize the impact and reduce your chances of death. Planning and creating a hiking trip report BEFORE you hike is a safety precaution worth taking.

Potential causes (not a complete list) that can lead to an emergency situation:

  • Rockslides
  • Storms
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Unexpected wildlife encounters
  • Avalanches

Research, document, and distribute your plan before you leave. You cannot predict and prevent all situations, but you can give yourself the best chance of survival with a little work ahead of time.

Purpose of a Plan

As a responsible person  it is important to lessen the risks involved when venturing out anywhere AND increase the probability of being found when you don’t make it home as expected.

A plan helps you evaluate and prepare for the challenges of a hike.

The more information you leave behind the better prepared your loved ones will be when and if they need to notify an emergency response team. Additionally, a thorough plan will assist search and rescue teams finding you.

Create a Hiking Trip Plan

1. Research and Gather Data

  • Who and how many persons in your hiking party, provide their names and ages
  • Equipment/gear you have with you
  • Description of clothing you are wearing while hiking
  • Hike start date and time
  • Return Date and time (make sure to give yourself some cushion so emergency services are not called if you are a little bit late)
  • Name of hiking location (example: Joshua Tree National Park)
  • Trailhead names and Connectors (example: Cottonwood Trail and back to Mastodon Loop Trail) (Provide a highlighted map, sketch if you need to)
  • Turn around point
  • GPS coordinates
  • Take a photo of the bottom of your hiking boot. An experienced hiker was found by search and rescue following his plan. The team was able to track him down using a photo of the bottom of his boot!!! Read the story here.
  • Food and Water amounts brought with you
  • What else can you add that is unique to your situation? Medications you are on? You or your partners are deaf? Chronic disease in case you need treatment?
  • Hiking with animals? A dog? The name and description of dog.
hiking shoe sole

take a photo of the bottom of your hiking shoe to help search and rescue

2. Document

Using a hiking plan template to detail your trip will save you time and keep you organized. You can create your own or search the web for one of the many listed online. Many organizations provide a form. Check with your local police department.

Some search and rescue teams have created the template for you. You just need to fill it out (all of it). This is not the time you will want to skimp on the details.

3. Distribute and Teach

Don’t expect the hike plan to be executed without specifying expectations of use.

A hike trip plan will not be effective unless there is someone who understands how, why, and when to contact authorities.  Choose someone reliable, responsible and trustworthy to notify authorities when appropriate. Make sure you discuss the plan with them and give detailed call instructions if you are not back from your trip at the predetermined time.

And please, if your plan changes, call someone and let them know. Don’t have a search and rescue team sent for you if you really don’t need one.

Example Hiking Plans (use these as a starting point. The emergency numbers to call will probably be different):

When do you create a hiking plan? Do you always tell someone where you are going?

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Traci Lehman is a wife and mom who shares her walking and outdoor adventures on Walk Simply to inspire others to go outside, enjoy the little things, and view our world up-close.