So, your going hiking in Yellowstone? How awesome! I love hiking Yellowstone and the surrounding areas. Living in Cody, Yellowstone is only 50 miles away and equips me with the perfect outdoor get away adventure.
There are a few things to keep in mind while out hiking in Yellowstone. Caution is of extreme importance. The majority of Yellowstone’s 9 million visitors walk the trails with out any of the ordinary incidents. There are a few off trail routes that are generally visited by a few, and it is these I would like to address.
I would like to stress the importance of carrying bear mace!
With the many bear attacks over the last several years, bear mace is an absolute must have when camping and hiking Yellowstone! Several of the grizzly encounters have produced nothing more than soiled drawers, but you don’t want to end up cutting your vacation short due to a grizzly attack, or even worse, a mauling.
Prepare for Grizzly Encounters:
If your traveling in a RV, you shouldn’t have to worry about grizzlies ripping apart your tent. The grizzly attack on the sleeping campers in 2010 was a rare occurrence and may never be repeated. But camp with caution as the grizzly population has exploded and fear of humans is replaced with territorial rights and hunger.
Please read Bear attacks in Yellowstone are rare but they do happen to learn about hiking safety in Grizzly country.
Another thing I’d like to mention is the elevation. Yellowstone is 7500 feet and most people who are not used to this experience shortness of breath or dizziness when hiking. Take it slow and easy.
Prepare for colder nights
The temperatures in Yellowstone can drop significantly at nights, even in the summer months. An occasional change in the weather can produce heavy rain as well as snow. The season so far has been mild this year, but with the ever changing weather patterns, you never know and it is better to be prepared.
Having made my share of mistakes in the wilderness over the years, I have compiled a list of gotcha’s that can be applied to any outdoor adventure. I urge you to print this out and store with your outdoor gear. Hiking can be a most rewarding distraction from the daily grind, but safety should NEVER be taken for granted!
1) Plan your hike. You are more likely to have a safe and happy hike if you “plan your hike, and hike your plan”. To rush out on a big hike w/o proper planning is asking for trouble! ALWAYS notify someone close to you where you will be and how long you will be gone. Know where you are going and ending up. Tell someone where you are going and when. Let them know when they could expect you back. Many hikers have set out alone and have not made it back.
2) Know your terrain. Use every resource available to get to know your hiking trail before you set out. This will prepare you for the walking conditions. “Are there streams?, Elevation changes?, Is terrain rocky or smooth?” are some of the questions that can be answered BEFORE you set out. Maps.
3) Know the climate. Yellowstone is very unpredictable. Weather changes happen quickly and without much warning in the Rocky Mountains. Severe thunderstorms that produce dangerous lightning and hail can come on very quickly with devastating results. Check the local and national weather stations before you set out. Night temperatures drop quickly, hypothermia, a rapid cooling of the body, is real, dangerous, and misunderstood. Hypothermia can easily be prevented with proper preparation.
In The Pack Essentials
1) Potable water. Always have fresh water available. It is also a good idea to bring along purification tablets and/or a filtration device. In the outdoors water is contaminated by animal wastes. Having the ability to produce drinking water can be just as important as the water you pack in.
2) First Aid Kit. Although obvious, it is surprising how many folks go in the wilderness without one. Items as simple as pain relief tablets can be a welcome addition when you are far from civilization. Other items are bandages, tweezers, moleskin, antiseptic, needle and thread (for repairs).
3) Matches and a lighter. I usually pack along a small piece of commercial starter stick for quick fires just in case. You never know what may happen and you need to be prepared in case you get lost. Be prepared for any type of emergency such as a quick overnight camp in the wilderness. I also pack a small conventional flashlight, campstove and an LED light.
4) Clothing. It is always wise to pack some extra layers as temps can fluctuate greatly, especially in mountainous environments. A walking stick and extra pair of socks can be life savers. Hydration hiking packs can go a long way to keep you hydrated on longer day trips
Packing along a map and compass has gotten me out of a jam more than once. I also carry a cell phone, even though there is no reception in Yellowstone, I still may hit a lucky spot and be able to get a call out in case of emergency.
Remember your common sense. Making good decisions while on the trail will keep you out of bad situations. If signs say to stay on the trail, make sure that you do. There are good reason for this as grizzlies aren’t the only wild animal to beware of. Bull moose and buffalo can be very brutal as well. There are also hot springs that will burn you to a crisp. If you hike with your family members, especially children or seniors, remember that they may not have the stamina handle the same level hike as you, and you ultimately must make the right decision.
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