Kentucky is full of many natural wonders, so for many of us, the first sign of warm weather in the spring sparks us to get outdoors and reconnect with nature. Hiking is one of the ways many of us do that. As you hit the trails this spring and summer, remember to keep safety in the forefront of your mind.

Often, hiking is a more strenuous activity than walking. You should consult with your physician before beginning any hiking or exercise program. If you are a beginner hiker, start slow and choose paths with shorter distances and gradually work your way up to more difficult ones. Many times, especially at Kentucky State Parks, hikes will be rated easy, moderate or difficult. Pay attention to the hike rating before starting down the path. Wear comfortable shoes with good soles.

If you carry a backpack, remember it can add 10 to 15 pounds to your frame. The added weight will require you to exert more energy, so you may want to hike a shorter distance until you are used to carrying the extra weight.

Always hike with others and steer clear of noxious plants like poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Avoid walking in high grass or weeds, as these areas commonly have ticks and chiggers. Always check yourself for ticks during and after returning from a hike. Wear light-colored clothing, so ticks are easy to spot. Be on the lookout for mosquitoes, particularly if you are hiking in areas with a lot of stagnant, standing water.

Also, it’s always a good idea to carry a first-aid kit with you for emergencies. If you are going on a short hike, store the kit in your car. Take it with you on longer hikes.

For more information on safe ways to experience nature, contact the (COUNTY NAME) Extension office.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

Contact: Jennifer Tackett, 4-H youth development specialist