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Once a common sight in Missouri forests, the black bear is slowly becoming a sight to see again.  Naturally sheepish of people, the black bear is an exciting site for kids to see, but as always, make sure you keep your distance while taking pictures.
When hiking with the family, always make sure you are prepared with comfortable shoes, and a map of the area you are hiking just in case your smart phone doesn't get a signal.
Always bring plenty of water when you are hiking, especially if you are embarking on a new path in one of Missouri's many state parks.  Some have customer centers, but for most, make sure you have enough provisions.

Take a Wilderness Vacation In Missouri

Hiking in Missouri can be an extremely rewarding experience both mentally and physically. Clean, fresh air is excellent for your lungs and can help you to clear your mind. The physical act of hiking is excellent exercise for your body. In addition when you are hiking in the Missouri Ozarks, for example, you are surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery that Mother Nature has to offer. Yet when you go hiking it is always a good idea to be prepared. For example you need to dress appropriately for the existing weather conditions and you must always carry water with you. This guide will provide you with vital information you need to know regarding hiking in Missouri in order to make your adventure both safe and enjoyable.

What Should I Bring on a Hike?

Water bottles are essential items to bring when you go hiking. Supply enough water for your entire journey in order to avoid dehydration. Do not drink from streams, rivers or any other bodies of water you may encounter because they could be contaminated. If you are on a day hike you should bring a day pack to carry all your belongings. A day pack is a backpack minus a frame and is small in size. A compass and a map and/or guidebook are also vital items to bring to safely guide you to and from your destination. You do not want to get lost while on your adventure. Other items to make your hike safer and more comfortable include: insect repellant, a first aid kit, sunscreen, a hat, rain gear, a whistle, toilet paper, matches, a knife, food and a flashlight with an extra set of batteries.

What Should I Wear?

One of the most important items to wear when hiking is a sturdy pair of hiking boots. You need comfortable support for both your ankles and your feet because they are your mode of transportation. Good boots will also help to prevent injuries such as twisting an ankle. If you are day-hiking a boot that is light to medium in weight should provide you with both the necessary flexibility and support. Look for a boot that is five to seven inches in height with a rugged sole for good traction. There are different types of clothing for hiking that are recommended for various layers. Begin with a base layer of clothing such as thermal long underwear for hiking in cold weather or a synthetic pair of shorts and T-shirt for warm weather. An insulating layer such as a fleece jacket is necessary to have in case the weather turns cold at any time. Bringing along a rain or wind jacket and rain or hiking pants is also a good idea so you will have a water or windproof layer to keep you warm or dry when needed. Finally socks that are specifically made for hiking are best to prevent blisters on your feet. They tend to be of a more breathable material and have more cushioning.

Hiking Safety

Proper planning and preparation are necessary in order to make your hike a safe one. Dressing correctly for existing weather conditions, bringing essential items and equipment (such as a first aid kit) with you and following safety rules and regulations are all part of being properly prepared. Always check the weather and trail conditions before you begin. If a big storm is supposed to occur where and when you plan to go, don't go. If the trail you were planning to hike on is not in good condition then search for another trail that is in good shape. Find out if hunting is allowed where you will be hiking and whether it is happening at the time. Determine your hiking route before you go and leave the trail information with someone who will not be with you in case of an emergency. If something should happen to you while hiking and you are unable to make it out of the woods on your own then someone will have the necessary information regarding where to search for you. Hiking with another person is generally a wise idea as well in case you lose your way or become injured. Once you are hiking be sure to stay on the trail so you do not become lost and confused. Take time to rest when you need to and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Finally bring a cellphone in case you need help.

  • Hiking Safety Tips: The Hiking Beginner offers several excellent safety tips for hiking such as not traveling alone.
  • Wilderness Hiking Safety Tips (PDF): The National Park System provides you with an excellent PDF on wilderness hiking safety tips such as be prepared.
  • Safety Tips: Offers many safety tips including information on hypothermia.
  • Hiking Safety: The California Department of Parks and Recreation offers you some hiking safety tips such as bring lots of water.
  • Tips for Beginning Hikers: The Kaboose offers several tips for beginning hikers such as know your environment and start small.
  • Safe Hiking: The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation gives you tips on how to hike safely both before and during your hike. It also explains what to do if someone is injured or you get lost.
  • Hiking Safety Rules: The article discusses safety rules for hiking such as wearing hiking gear and maintaining proper nutrition.

First Aid

You need to know basic first aid before you go hiking. For example it is important to know how to stop bleeding and how to stabilize a fractured limb as well as many other medical techniques. It is a good idea to take a Hiking First Aid course or a Wilderness First Aid course before you step foot on a trail. You need to also do some research and learn about the specific area where want to hike. Are there any dangers in that area such as spiders, snakes, poisonous plants or insects? If the answer is yes to any of these hazards you will need to know what they look like and how to treat someone who has been affected by them. Always carry a well-stocked first aid kit and make sure everyone in your group knows where it is. It must be easy to find because you may need it when you're in a hurry.

  • Hiking First Aid Kit: First Aid Anywhere tells you what items are important to have in your first aid kit.
  • First Aid for Hiking and Outdoor Activities: The article provides you with vital information regarding first aid and divides it into categories such as Hypothermia and Bleeding and Tourniquets.
  • Basic Wilderness First Aid: Wilderness Survival Skills discusses first aid priorities and procedures.
  • Common First Aid Topics:  offers information on many different common first aid topics such as spider bites.
  • First Aid: The Mayo Clinic provides you with essential information on first aid topics such as fractures.
  • First Aid Kit: The American Hiking Society offers you a list of items to include in your basic first aid kit.

Wild Animals

Encountering wild animals can be a thrilling part of any hiking adventure. It is exciting when you see an animal such as a deer walking through the woods. Yet certain hiking areas have specific animals in them that you may need to beware of. Portions of Missouri are considered black bear country such as southern Missouri's Ozark Region. It is important for you to know what to do and what not to do should you encounter a bear. Never approach a bear and do not make direct eye contact with it. Make loud sounds such as clapping to let it know you are there. If you see one back slowly away from it and speak in an assertive yet calm voice. It is also possible (but extremely unlikely) to encounter a mountain lion while hiking in Missouri. Should you see one back away slowly from the animal and maintain eye contact with it. Try to appear larger by raising your arms. If the animal appears aggressive throw stones or branches at it. If it attacks you need to fight back.

Other Informative Hiking Sites

The following links will provide you with more valuable hiking information. Some of the links are specific to Missouri while others concern hiking in general.

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