One of the most common mistakes made when venturing into Oregon’s magnificent outdoor wilderness is to venture forth without a map.

Oregon’s got some great cities and towns, but there’s a lot of wilderness out there that isn’t necessarily close to civilization. If you get lost, in some places you can’t simply just ‘walk down the mountain’ and find a town and assistance. Knowing where you are going and what lies ahead will help keep your hiking fun, safe and enjoyable.

Another thing you should know is that many of the trail systems are linked with paths joining up at junctions. If you don’t remember which direction you came from, you could take a wrong turn. (I know- as a newbie years ago, I’ve been there before and retracing your trail a couple miles on a hot day is not fun!!)

Having a map or detailed information on the trail you want to hike is important. Oregon author William Sullivan has written a series of books (“100 Hikes“) that cover different regions of the state. Pacific Northwest hikers revere these books as reliable guides to wilderness areas, with his descriptions of trails. Information usually includes trail difficulty, length, water sources, altitude gain and scenic stops along the way, as well as key landmarks to help orient hikers. In addition to those books, other local trail information resources can be found at National Forest Service offices – they have topographic maps that can provide detailed information available for purchase.

A good idea also when planning a hike is to let someone else other than your hiking party know where you are going, and when you plan to be back. In the event something goes wrong, at least there is a starting point for searchers – and can also mean that help arrives hours and days earlier than if no one knows where you are going.

One last note: Never go ‘bushwhacking’ – only an experienced “orienteer” who has a topographic map and compass/GPS should even attempt this. It’s easy to get lost in terrain that often times looks very similar but is completely different, and going in a different direction. Plus, trampling on non-trail areas damages ecosystems, so it’s best to stay on the trail and enjoy the scenery from a safe and familiar vantage point.

Oregon has many trails to explore – and hiking is the best way to get into the heart of the scenic beauty which makes this a great place to live and recreate in. Having a safe and planned route makes a hike an enjoyable experience.
~ Dawn

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