Desert Hiking Safety Tips!

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: April 16, 2015

Last weekend, we witnessed something interesting. A hiker was on his cell phone in the middle of one of the busiest and most dangerous (in our opinion) hikes, Echo Canyon in Phoenix, Arizona. The hiker wasn’t paying attention, hit his head on a rock, nearly fell down a steep cliff of rocks. If it wasn’t for an aware hiker who caught him, this man would be severely injured.

This prompted us to write a post on hiking safety.

Traveling in the desert can be an adventure. It can also be a disaster if a breakdown or a sudden change in weather catches you unprepared. Be aware of the hazards of desert travel both in winter and summer and always travel in pairs for safety in backcountry areas.

Bring a Fully Charged Cell Phone, however, DO NOT USE IT WHILE HIKING

It’s important to bring a fully charged cell phone in case of an emergency, however, do not use it during your hike! As mentioned in the above story, it’s dangerous and takes your attention off of the hike.

Carry Plenty of Water — 1 gallon per day, per person

There are no dependable sources of water in the desert regions. One gallon of water per person, per day is the absolute minimum that should be carried. When planning a hike, remember that water weighs approximately 8 pounds per gallon. When the water is half gone, it is time to turn back.

Plan Your Trip Carefully

Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Stick with your itinerary.. Do not travel in the desert backcountry without taking along appropriate maps such as USGS topographic maps, which show land contours and specific features.

Learn how to use a topographic map and a compass before you hike cross-country or on trails that are not well defined. It is easy to become disoriented in the desert where many landmarks and rock formations look similar.

Dress Properly

In spring/summer, layered clothing slows dehydration and minimizes exposure. Good hiking shoes, loose fitting natural-fiber clothing, a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are a must. Desert temperatures can reach over 90° F. and drop below 50°F. in one day. Summer temperatures can reach 125° F. in some locations. In winter, temperatures can often drop below freezing. Bring extra warm clothing.

Know Your Limits

Hiking in the desert often means traveling over rough, steep terrain with frequent elevation changes. Never hike alone and be sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return. If you are a beginner, heed the warnings of advanced hiking trails!

Essential Hiking & Walking Equipment

Sturdy walking/hiking shoes and proper clothing. Wear long pants to protect yourself from rocks and cactus. Carry a small waist or backpack to carry water, food, first aid kit, sunscreen, jacket, and a flashlight.

Make sure you carry a map of the trail and surrounding areas. It is also a good idea to carry waterproof matches, a pocket knife, and a fine-tooth plastic comb for removing cactus needles.

We would LOVE to see photos of your hikes as this beautiful weather progresses! Be sure to post pictures in the comments below.


*For more information on trails across the nation, visit:

Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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