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Six tips for staying safe on the trails from the TPWD

Enchanted Rock makes for a strenuous but rewarding hike with quintessentially Texas views from its summit. Staff photo

In 2021, 43 Texas State Parks reported 102 heat-related illnesses in humans and pets. More than 50 incidents have been reported so far in 2022, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. With high temperatures in the triple digits throughout much of the summer, the department shared its suggestions for staying safe in the heat while outdoors, especially on hiking trails.


HYDRATE — Drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour in the heat to prevent dehydration. And don't forget your four-legged family members!

BLOCK THE RAYS — Slather on the sunblock before going outside and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating it off. The American Cancer Society recommends sunscreens with broad spectrum protection to block both UVA and UVB rays as well as a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

DRESS SMART — Wear light, loose-fitting clothing, a hat that covers your head, the correct shoes for your activity, and sunscreen. A wet bandana can help keep you cool. Protect your pet's paws against blisters by hiking during the cooler parts of the day when the ground isn't as hot or by fitting them with booties. If you can't hold the back of your hand to the ground surface for five seconds, it's too hot for your dog's paws.

STAY SALTY — Snacks such as jerky, granola, trail mix, tuna, and dried fruit can help you keep up your energy and replace salt lost from sweating.

BUDDY SYSTEM — Someone suffering from heat-related illnesses won't be able to think clearly, so bring a friend on your adventure and you can watch out for each other. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lays out the warning signs and symptoms for heat exhaustion and the deadlier heat stroke.

PLAN AHEAD — When hiking, paper maps are better than phone directions due to poor or no cell reception in the backcountry. Study the map before your hike and keep it with you. The average hiker moves at 2 mph, so allow plenty of time to make it back before it gets too hot. Plan for water and shade breaks along the way. Also, let someone know where you're going and when to expect you back before you hit the trails, so if you get lost, people know the location to look. And always bring plenty of water and snacks for those on your hike, including dogs.

Finally, Texas State Park visitors should heed notices posted at trailheads about conditions or talk to park staff before heading out.

For more information about outdoor safety, state parks, and reservations, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.

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