Parks and Rec

Hiking on Hot Days

Video by José Eli Villanueva

Summertime is here, along with some pretty searing temperatures. If you’re planning a hike in one of San Diego’s inland areas, it’s important to know the risks so you can plan ahead.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for hiking in warm weather.

  • Choose wisely. Pick hikes that are appropriate for your skills and physical condition. Trails with low elevation gain are the safest option in intense heat.
  • Have a plan. Check weather forecasts and know the terrain of the place you want to visit. Temperatures rise and fall with the sun, so try to hike early or late in the day. Let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return.
  • There is safety in numbers. Hike with others, never alone.
  • Bring plenty of water. Take more than you think you’ll need, and even more water on longer hikes or more strenuous terrain.
  • Pack healthy snacks. Non-perishable items like dried fruit, energy bars, trail mix, peanut butter, canned tuna, whole grain crackers, and jerky provide fuel to boost your energy levels and to make up for lost calories
  • Wear sun protection. Don a hat and sunglasses, and be liberal with your sunscreen. Dress in layers of breathable, loose-fitting clothes that you can take on and off, based on the temperature and to prevent burns.
  • Pack a bag: In addition to ample food and water, bring extra sunscreen to reapply and a flashlight, first aid kit, multipurpose tool or knife and whistle.
  • Follow all posted safety rules.
  • Wear appropriate footwear. Good boots provide grip in rocky and slippery areas, but they also provide a thick layer of protection from the hot earth.
  • Map your route. Prolonged exposure to heat can cause disorientation or heat stroke. A map will help you stay on track, preferably a pre-downloaded or paper version in case you lose cell phone reception.
  • Watch for heatstroke. If your body temperature gets too high during a hike, you run the risk of suffering heatstroke. Heatstroke is usually caused by dehydration, which leads to the failure of the body’s natural temperature control system. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, disorientation, lack of sweat, and loss of consciousness. If you start to experience any of these signs, stop and find a shady area along the trail where you can rest, drink water and refuel with a healthy snack. If symptoms persist, call 911. Learn more about differences between heat exhaustion and heatstroke from the National Weather Service
  • Leave your dog at home. If you absolutely must take your dog, take these precautions:
    • Do not leave your pet in the car. On an 85 degree day, a car can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes and soar upward to 120 degrees –even with the windows down an inch or two.
    • Don’t walk your dog on hot pavement, asphalt or sand. If it is too hot for you to walk barefooted then it’s too hot for a dog’s paws.
    • Keep your dog on a leash. It’s the law and it’s easier to keep your pet away from rocks and bushes where rattlesnakes may hide. You can also use the leash to pull your dog away from a snake found on the hiking trail itself.
    • Bring plenty of water for your pet.
    • Dogs get overheated easily. Watch for signs of stress or heat stroke. Some may require immediate veterinary attention:
      • If the dog stops and doesn’t want to walk further
      • Rapid panting
      • Bright red tongue
      • Red or pale gums
      • Weakness
      • Dizziness
      • Vomiting
      • Diarrhea
      • Shock
      • Coma
  • Reconsider and keep your dog safe by leaving it at home.



Tracy DeFore is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact