Hiking 301 – Adventure Hiking
In life a risk to reward ratio exists for almost any activity in which we choose to engage. Often we don’t consider the risk, or even realize it exists. Please be advised that adventure hiking is a serious matter. The risks are potentially great, but in my opinion, the rewards greater still. Note that risk can be minimized through proper conditioning and preparation, but never avoided entirely. If you are properly conditioned and prepared with the right gear and knowledge, you can enter the wilderness with a high degree of confidence.
There are places one can only see on foot, and the best of these often require some serious effort and considerable conditioning to achieve.
Our Southern California Adventure Hikes list contains descriptions of hikes to some of the most wondrous places in the area, but realize that these natural wonders of Southern California are special and uncrowded precisely because they are not easily accessible. Do not attempt these hikes if you are not a well-conditioned hiker.
What is Adventure Hiking?
Adventure hiking is essentially traveling into areas with no maintained trail. The difficulty of such hikes can vary dramatically. Sometimes there exist use trails – a usually faint trail that is formed over time by adventure hikers – but sometimes there is no trail at all. Many of the hikes covered here involve exploration of mountain canyons, and in many of these cases you are simply following the mountain stream, so that while you still may have difficulty in negotiating the rugged terrain along the stream, the direction of travel is self-evident to a large extent. In other cases you will have to use landmarks and natural features to find your way.
Because there is no trail, you will be required to exercise good judgement to pick your path through wild terrain. Nature is not always kind in her placement of obstacles, and when you first enter a truly wild mountain canyon you may wonder how to traverse the terrain, or if it is even possible. But eventually this becomes one of the most enjoyable features of adventure hiking, because you realize that it becomes a form of puzzle solving and creative thinking that forces one to focus totally on the matter at hand. It is an axiom of adventure hiking that if you think about yourself or your daily problems for more than a half second you’ll probably hurt yourself. So stay focused!
Dangers of Adventure Hiking
Obviously you can slip and fall, and hurt or kill yourself. Especially in canyons with mountain streams the rock becomes extremely slippery when wet, and note that water-polished rock can be slippery even when dry. Many of the off trail hikes traverse areas with poison oak and/or stinging nettles, so be aware of what these plants look like and always have long pants or convertible pants and some long sleeved shirt or jacket with you. There are mountain lions in all areas of Southern California, and black bears in all the larger ranges. In addition rattlesnakes are a potential threat, especially in the spring.
Where to Start
You should be a well-conditioned hiker with good basic knowledge about hiking safety and the ability to negotiate varied terrain, and also have quality hiking gear – especially The Ten Essentials – before trying any adventure hikes. Make sure you have someone at your skill level or above to go with you – never hike
alone on a dangerous adventure hike. Then you need to pick a hike and go for it, remembering to understand your abilities and accept your limitations.
Note that whatever trail you choose, be prepared for both expected and unexpected dangers – but also for an experience of profound beauty and a tremendous sense of personal liberation. The most spectacular, pristine, and private places in nature exist in areas that can typically only be reached by Adventure Hiking. So if you’re ready, go for it!