San Diego County

Thinking of hiking in the summer heat? Here's what to know before hitting the trail

The biggest piece of advice from experts was to stay out of the high heat of the sun and to hike early or later in the day when temperatures are cooler

A person sets out on a hiking trail in San Diego during the heat.
NBC 7

Weather forecasters are anticipating an exceptionally hot summer this year, and San Diego County recreation agencies are taking precautions to keep hikers safe by closing recreational areas.

The U.S. National Forest Service, which maintains San Diego County's Cleveland National Forest, takes measures to shut down strenuous hiking trails when temperatures soar. The first closures of the summer over the July 4th weekend affected the popular Three Sisters Falls hike and Cedar Creek Falls, the latter of which always requires a permit.

Three Sisters Falls remained closed this week during an excessive heat warning for the area. The heat warning was in effect for the mountains through 9 p.m. Thursday.

San Diego County Parks will also close park areas during extreme heat. Agua Caliente Park (Anza-Borrego) and Vallecito County Park (Julian) are closed for the summer. El Capitan, Hellhole Canyon and Mount Gower county preserves will all be closed starting in August.

In late June, a 50-year-old woman died after separating from a group of hikers on Black Mountain Open Space Park during the region's first heat wave of the summer. The woman's cause of death was not yet known but she had called her sister to tell her she was tired and needed water.

A new report from scientists at Climate Central, the Red Cross, and World Weather Attribution found that climate change added nearly a month’s worth of extremely hot days over the last year. Florida, Arizona, and Hawaii felt some of the biggest increases in heat waves driven by climate change domestically. National climate reporter Chase Cain explains what it could mean for this summer.

Tips for hiking in the heat

The San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department advised hikers to take precautions on extremely hot days, especially when heat advisories or warnings were in effect.

Their biggest piece of advice was to stay out of the high heat of the sun and to hike early or later in the day when temperatures are cooler.

Here are some other tips, according to the agency:

Carry plenty of water: Hikers should plan to drink 24 to 32 cups of water per hike and even more on tougher or longer trails. It's also important to hydrant well before and after hiking.

Take snacks: Non-perishables like dried fruit, energy bars and jerky are best.

Don't forget sunscreen: Apply sunscreen liberally and re-apply.

Wear the right gear: Dress in breathable, loose-fitting clothes and wear a hat and sunglasses. Make sure your footwear is appropriate, too. Thicker boots that don't slip are best.

Pick your hike wisely: Some trails should be saved for cooler weather. Pick ones that are easy to moderate with low elevation gain.

Map your route: Download a map that can be used off-lin or bring a physical version.

Know the signs of heat stroke: Dizziness, nausea, confusion and headache could be signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you suspect someone is experiencing heat stroke, follow these steps:

  1. Call 911 immediately
  2. Don't give them fluids to drink.
    "A person with heatstroke may not be able to swallow. Fluids could run down their tracheas into their lungs and make it hard for them to breathe."
  3. Try to cool the person by moving them into the shade, spraying them with cool water and fanning them

Leave your dogs at home: San Diego County Parks said even easy hikes can be too much for a dog when the ground is hot

Let someone know: Give someone a heads up that you're heading out to a hike and when you plan to return. Sometimes cell phones lose reception in remote areas, the county said.

Don't hike alone: Find a buddy.

Contact Us