Top tips for enjoying a safe summer hike
Thursday 6 January, 2022
Lockdowns are over, the weather is warming up and nature is calling. It might have been a while since you’ve walked or hiked in a park — the muscles are a bit tight and you’re not really sure where to start.
Luckily for you, Parks Victoria ranger Yohanna has shared her best advice to make sure you have a great hike. Not only will it be fun, you’ll also be reaping the proven physical, social and mental health benefits that come from spending time in nature.
Tip 1. Choose the right hike
“Remember to match your walks and activities to your abilities, fitness and stamina” says Yohanna.
With walks from just a few minutes, all the way up to 13-days in length in Victoria’s parks, there is definitely something to suit everyone.
Choosing the right hike means thinking about your fitness, the time you have available, what kind of things you want to see, and then picking something that is a good match for you.
To make this easier, there is a grading system used to let you know how easy or difficult a track is – the Australian Walking Track Grading System (AWTGS). Tracks are classified into five grades, with Grade 1 being the easiest and Grade 5 being the hardest.
The grades take into account experience required, steps, gradient, path quality and signage. A walk’s final grade is based upon the most difficult of these five criteria, rather than an average.
Look out for the grade symbols online, on visitor guides and signs to let you know what to expect on the hike you are interested in and choose one that is a match for you.
Tip 2. Plan ahead
“It's so important to plan ahead, be well-prepared for your hike and make the right choices no matter the season” says Yohanna.
Summer is a fantastic time to get out for a hike – but it’s important to do it safely so it’s fun for everyone. Hiking in summer comes with added risks, so make sure you:
- Check the weather forecast. Remember to check the forecast again on the day you plan to hike in case your plans need to change
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Fill in a trip intention form and leave a copy with a reliable friend or family member
- Be bushfire aware — check Fire Danger Ratings, fire restrictions, and Total Fire Bans for your route and your destination. Make sure you have an emergency plan in place
- Download the VicEmergency app and set up watch zones for the areas you are planning to visit
- Check the latest conditions and park closures before you leave home.
Tip 3. Beat the heat
“The heat is one of the biggest factors to consider when planning a hike in summer” says Yohanna.
Consider the best time of day for the hike. Set off early or late in the day and avoid the hottest part of the day. Ensure your summer hike doesn’t end in disaster by:
- Having a plan in place if things change along the way, even if that means not reaching your destination
- Carrying enough water! For a full day hike this means 3 to 4 litres of water per person. Some hikes may have water sources, but it’s best to carry more than you need, just in case
- Keeping a look out for snakes in warm and sunny weather. Wear protective shoes, and even gaiters (material shin and ankle covers) if you can
- Taking plenty of breaks and take cover in the shade when you can
- Knowing the symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
Tip 4: Dress and pack appropriately
“The warmer months are the perfect time to experience Victoria but remember that weather conditions can change quickly. Make sure you are prepared for anything.” says Yohanna.
Wearing the right clothes, a hat and shoes to provide sun protection is so important when hiking, especially in summer. Make sure to also pack:
- Sunscreen (don’t forget to reapply it if you’re out for several hours!)
- Extra food like muesli bars, nuts, apples
- A first aid kit and medical supplies for allergies and bites
- Spare clothing for all weather conditions
- A fully charged smartphone. Use GPS location services and take a photo of a map before you set off or download an offline park map from Avenza.
Tip 5. Take care of our natural environment
“Fences and barriers are there for a reason!” says Yohanna, “they keep you safe and protect our environment.”
Always stay on the marked trails while hiking. Walking off track damages sensitive vegetation, can disturb Aboriginal culture heritage artefacts, compacts the ground and can spread plant diseases. More important things to do to leave no trace while hiking:
- Observe all safety signage
- Stay behind barriers – this is for your safety too!
- Take all rubbish home
- Clean clothes and shoes before entering the park
- If you’re considering an overnight hike, make sure you are familiar with our campfire safety tips.
Tip 6. Leave it to the experts
“If you like company, want a special experience, or need some support, a Licensed Tour Operator can be a great way to take a hike or walk in a park.” says Yohanna.
There are more than 400 Licensed Tour Operators across Victoria who are ready to help you discover our magnificent parks and waterways.
Using their expert knowledge and experience, Licensed Tour Operators do all the planning for you, supply equipment and ensure you’re in safe hands to ensure you get the most out of your hiking adventure.
“Get the most out of your hike by reading all our visitor safety tips before you go” says Yohanna.
Check out just some of the hikes you can do in parks this summer or search by individual park.
The Victorian Government is investing in new walking trail experiences, upgrading 4WD and biking tracks and improving accessibility in Victoria’s parks and reserves.