Stay safe hiking the mountains

Things to Do, Travel Tips — By shelaghmcnally on August 27, 2011 at 2:55 am

Mystic Pass trail. Photo by Ingolfson, Creative Commons

It’s the final glory days on the trails in Banff when the trails are their driest and the temperatures are still moderate. September to October offer some of the most pleasant days for hiking.

Still, mountain weather is unpredictable at best so you should prepare before you head out. Here are some tips for staying safe in the mountains:

  • The higher you go, the more there is a chance of catching some snowfall in early autumn.
  • Bring along the right clothing and camping gear so if you are suddenly hit with bad weather you can stay dry and warm.
  • Be sure to check in at the Park Information Centre to check condition prior to your departure.
    Bring along a backpacker’s camp stove and enough fuel for cooking.
  • Even though this is the far north, the UV rating in Banff tends to be high due to its altitude and the angle of the sun. Bring your sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat that cover your ears.
  • Don’t assume that mountain stream is pure! Some of the waters in this area carry Giardia lamblia and other water borne parasites. Filter or boil your water before drinking.
  • Reduce the temptation for bears coming to your campsite by suspending all food, garbage, toiletries and cooking equipment from at least 4 metres (13 feet) above the ground.
  • Don’t leave any food in your vehicle since this can encourage bears to rip it open in search of some tasty morsel.
  • You’re in the wild so there are going to be any flush toilets. The park has installed pit privies where you can do your business. If there is none available, dig a hole deep enough to hit dark soil and the afterwards bury everything.
  • Do not bury tampax or any other feminine hygiene products. Carry those out with you.
  • Pack it in and pack it out. Don’t leave your garbage behind since it attracts scavengers who can attack you.
  • Elk grazing in the park. Photo by Aude, Creative Commons

  • September and October is mating session for the large Elk population in the park. Males can be particularly belligerent during this period so don’t approach them. Stay back at least 50 metres (54 yards) if you spot them, Use binoculars or a telephoto lens on your camera to get a closer look. Stay calm and don’t provoke them.

Banff is an incredibly beautiful place and the hiking here will lead you to some breathtaking scenery.  Come prepared and you’ll enjoy a memorable hike.  Find out more Elk Managment in Banff and Hiking Safety at Parks Canada.

Tags: autumn hiking, Banff National Park, Elk, hiking safety tips, how to prepare for your hike, Mystic Pass