Safe Hiking TipsA hike in the woods can be invigorating and a great stress reducer, it is important to be prepared and not let an afternoon adventure turn into a nightmare. Don’t get stranded miles from a trail head where emergency access is difficult. Planning is an important step in being prepared for your adventure, keep these general safety tips in mind.

It is safer to hike with a companion, but if you prefer go solo, let someone know where you will park, what trail you will take, and when you will return. If something should happen the authorities will be notified sooner if someone is expecting your return.

Recognize your Group’s Abilities

High Roll Aways Buckley Michigan

High Roll Aways overlooking Manistee River in Buckley, Michigan

Don’t try to hike trails that you or someone in your group will find too challenging. Northern Michigan has trails that are enjoyable for all levels. A good rule of thumb is that if you can talk while you are walking, you are traveling at the perfect speed. Pick a trail that everyone can successfully complete and enjoy safely.


Remember to bring your cell phone fully charged on your hike. Remember, a lot of the trail in Northern Michigan are in remote areas. There is limited cell coverage and searching for a cell signal can quickly drain your batter. Bring a power bank along and turn off your phone or switch to airplane mode until you need it. Having a whistle or other signaling device for areas that do not have cell service.

Be weather-ready

Michigan weather can change on a dime. Check the weather forecast before you head out on your hike. Do not take the chance if conditions are not ideal! you may have to seek shelter if you encounter severe weather, know what to do in case of lightning or flash flooding.

If you are enjoying the Northern Michigan trail during the summer months, bring a lot of water. Some trails have reliable water sources whereas others do not. Hiking in heat and humidity can drain your energy quickly. Be sure to drink as you are thirsty. Dehydration and heat exhaustion may sneak up while on the trails. Snack on nutritional foods such as trail mix, nuts, and granola bars to keep your energy high and are light weight to pack.

State Hospital Trail - Hippie Tree - Traverse City Michigan

Hippie Tree on the State Hospital Trails, Traverse City Michigan

In the winter months many areas of Northern Michigan get a lot of snow. Dress appropriately with warm layers, hats, gloves/mittens and good winter boots.

Wear proper shoes for walking

Heels, open toed shoes, and flip flops are not ideal for hiking. Chose sturdy, rubber-soled hiking boots with ankle support for dirt and gravel trails, tennis shoes for paved, urban pathways. In the winter adding ice grips to your footwear will help you from slipping and sliding on icy trails

Let the slowest hiker set the pace

Put the slowest hiker near the front to keep your group together. While it may take a bit longer to reach your ultimate destination, staying together helps reduce the chance of someone getting lost and if someone gets injured you are there to help.

Track of Your Time and Distance. Remember that your total hike time includes the time it took you to hike to your destination and back to your starting point. If any of your hike, in either direction, is uphill, plan for it to take at least double the time it took you to go downhill. Be aware of the time you set out and turn around so you don’t get stuck outside in the dark. Set a turn around time if your trip is taking longer than planned and make sure you stick to it. There are many apps for your phone that will track your walks.

Adventures in Northern Michigan Elk River in Elk Rapids Michigan

Elk River leading into Lake Michigan in Elk Rapids Michigan

Be careful near water

Stay away from rapid waters and slippery slopes. Be careful and cautious when hiking near water including waterfalls and swift or cold water. Climbing on rocks near waterfalls is extremely dangerous and can lead to a fatal fall or drowning. Do not attempt to cross streams during icy conditions, flooding, moving or white water, or any time you cannot be certain of the water depth. If you plan to cross any rivers, plan and prepare to do so safely.

Bugs and wildlife

Spray for mosquitoes and check for ticks. Repellents, long pants, and sleeved clothing are the best ways to protect yourself from insect bites. Wear bug spray repellent to ward off mosquitoes and ticks. Check your clothing and your body for ticks during and after your hike.

Be aware of wildlife. You might see some wildlife while you are out exploring. Learn more about the animals you may encounter in your area and educate yourself on responsibly watching wildlife and staying safe.

Lastly, have fun!

Hiking is a great family friendly activity and has many health benefits.

Watch for more facts and adventures in Northern Michigan!