Discover Arizona Hiking Tips from the National Park Service so that you can get out and explore on your own safely and responsibly.
Before you go, plan ahead. You are entirely on your own. Your descent marks your entry into a world in which preparation, self-reliance, and common sense are crucial. Be conservative in planning your hikes!
Don't Hike Alone
Know what your destination will be. Don't overestimate your capabilities. Hike intelligently. You are responsible for your own safety as well as that of everyone in your party.
Be a Lightweight
The less you carry, the more enjoyable your hike will be, so travel as lightly as possible. The heaviest items in your pack should be your food and water. Hiking sticks can take some of the stress off your legs.
Wear well-fitting and broken-in lightweight hiking boots. Bring a small lightweight flashlight and a change of batteries and bulb. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. Bring a map, compass, signal mirror, moleskin, and water purification tablets (as a backup).
Stay on the trail and never shortcut switchbacks. Human fecal waste should be buried under 6"-8" of mineral soil and the toilet paper carried out with you. Leave the area as you found it; all trash (including biodegradable) needs to be carried out.
Avoid Huffing and Puffing
If you can talk while you are walking, you are walking at the perfect speed. When you huff and puff, your legs, your digestive system, your whole body does not get enough oxygen to function efficiently. Your energy reserves get used up very quickly with this type of metabolism (anaerobic – without enough oxygen), and it creates a lot of waste products. These waste products make your legs feel heavy and make you feel sick.
Walking uphill at a pace that allows you to be able to walk and talk will help guarantee that your legs and your body are getting the oxygen that they need to function efficiently (aerobically – with enough oxygen). Because your body will generate fewer of these metabolic waste products, you will be better able to enjoy your hike, and you will feel much better when you reach its end. It may seem like you are walking too slow, but at an aerobic pace (sometimes baby-sized steps when the trail is steep) your energy reserves will last many times longer, and you will get there feeling well.
Be Kind to Yourself
Do not exceed your normal level of physical activity or training. If you have asthma, heart problems, diabetes, knee, back or any other health or medical problem, please limit your exertion and especially your exposure to the heat. The altitude, the strenuous climbing, dehydration, and the intense inner Canyon heat, all combine to make any medical problem worse. Please stay within your training, physical limitations, abilities.
Take a Break
A break of five to seven minutes every 30 to 60 minutes can remove approximately 20 to 30 percent of the waste products that have built up in your legs while hiking. Sit down and prop your legs up above the level of your heart and let gravity help drain these metabolic waste products out of your legs.
Eat some food, drink some fluids, and take this break time to really enjoy and appreciate the view. These efficient breaks can really recharge your batteries. In the long run, these breaks will not slow you down.
No Food, No Fuel, No Fun
Stay hydrated and eat often. Eat and drink more than you normally do. Eat before, during, and after you hike. Eat before you are hungry. Drink water before you are thirsty. No matter what the temperature, you need water and energy to keep going.
Keeping yourself cool and hiking in Arizona takes a very large amount of energy (food). Salty snacks and water or sports drinks should be part of any hike. Food is your body's primary source of fuel and salts (electrolytes) while hiking in a desert climate.
Your best defense against illness and exhaustion is to eat a healthy breakfast, a snack every time you take a drink, and a rewarding full dinner at the end of the day. This is not a time to diet.
Eating adequate amounts of food will also help guarantee that you are replacing the electrolytes (salts) that you are sweating out. If you replace the water, but not the electrolytes that you have sweated out of your body, you can develop a serious and dangerous medical condition known as hyponatremia (water intoxication), which, if left untreated, can lead to seizures and possibly death. You need to eat about twice as much as you normally would to meet your energy and electrolyte needs while hiking.
Watch your time
Plan on taking twice as long to hike uphill as it takes to hike downhill. As a courtesy, give uphill hikers the right of way.