4 Dos and Don’ts for Safe Hiking in the Sequoia Back Country

Hiking is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the California wilderness, including the vast expanses of Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. And while hiking is typically considered a low-risk activity, it’s not without its dangers.

Nearly 1,000 people are injured while hiking in America’s national parks every year, and dozens die while traversing those parks on foot. In addition to the risk of injury and death due to accidents and falls, there’s also the risk of illness and death due to exposure if you get lost.

Because of these risks, it’s important to keep these dos and don’ts in mind while hiking.


Wear appropriate clothing and footwear.

You should wear weather-appropriate clothing and footwear that’s durable and comfortable. Make sure your shoes are the right size for your feet and that you’ve broken them in before setting out, especially on long hikes. If you’re hiking in an area that’s known for poison oak, wear long pants and tuck them into your shoes or boots.

Use sunscreen, even on cloudy days.

Sunburn can sneak up on you. Even cloudy days can put hikers at risk of sunburn if their skin is exposed and unprotected for long periods. Severe sunburn can be debilitating, as it can even result in sun poisoning. To avoid this risk, use sunscreen before you set out on your hike, and be sure to re-apply every couple of hours or as directed.

Tell others where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

Let others know about your hiking plans. Share which trail you plan on hiking and when you expect to finish and arrive back at your campsite or vehicle. Set a check-in time with friends or family members so that you can let them know your hike has concluded safely.

Stick to marked trails.

It can be tempting to explore “off the beaten path,” but wandering off of a marked trail is an easy way to get lost. If you do need to exit a trail, use a string or other signifier to help you easily get back to the trail. In addition, never stray far from the trail, and keep it within your sight if you must exit it for any reason.


Hike alone.

Although hiking isn’t considered an exceptionally risky activity, the risks skyrocket when it’s done alone. If anything goes wrong while you’re hiking alone—an animal attack, an injury, a sudden illness, or getting lost—you may have no way of getting help. There’s always strength in numbers when hiking.

Push your limits too far.

Hiking is great exercise, and strenuous hikes can burn many calories and leave you feeling invigorated. But some hikes are too difficult for some people, especially those who have underlying health problems or mobility issues. Research trails and their difficulty before you embark and avoid trails that are beyond your current capabilities.

Ignore the weather and local conditions.

California typically has great weather year-round, but thunderstorms can pop up quickly, even when skies look quiet and peaceful at the outset of your hike. In addition, the threat of wildfires is always a constant in California, making it even more essential to check local conditions before you get too deep into a trail.

Set foot on a trail without adequate supplies.

There are a few things that can be considered essential on hikes: water, snacks, and a cell phone. The first two are important even on short hikes, while the latter can save your life if you or someone in your party gets hurt, sick, or lost.