Go take a hike!

Can you hear it? The outdoors is calling you right now. This is the perfect time of year to take a day hike with the family.

Not only does Alaska have a wealth of trails along which to explore the natural beauty of the region, but hiking is also a great form of exercise. A 150-pound person burns about 500 calories in 6 miles, and walking can help guard against many chronic health problems such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It’s also a great way to teach youth to appreciate and enjoy nature.

But a healthy hike is a safe hike, so it’s a good idea to know basic safety tips before you set foot outdoors.

Know where you are going. Get a trail map and find a path that fits your family’s level of expertise.
Tell someone your hiking plans. Make sure to tell someone where you are going, how long you are going, and when you are coming back – in case of an emergency.

Put your best foot forward. Make sure your kids have adequate hiking shoes. Depending on terrain, this could range from cross-training sneakers or trail shoes to hiking boots. Make sure footwear is broken in properly before a hike; new or ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters.

Be prepared. Along with the right footwear, bring long sleeve shirts, warm clothes, rain gear, hats, maps, GPS, cellphone, bug dope, bear spray, etc. Make sure you take plenty of loose layers, especially moisture-wicking fabric to prevent it from getting damp.

Hit the trail but be safe. Stay on the trail. Keep an eye out for animals. Don't touch unfamiliar plants. Stop at the ranger station or visitor center before the hike to find out information or updates such as animal activity, trail conditions, poisonous plants, etc.

Plan frequent stops. Hiking requires a lot of energy, and energy-sapped kids are cranky kids. Keep them happy and motivated by taking numerous short breaks for snacks and drinks.

Know bear safety. Alaska is bear country, so keep these tips in mind:

For more bear facts, visit alaskabears.alaska.gov.