Louisiana has amazing hiking trails. You can find nature trails all over the state for all experience levels and distances. Not only are there a variety of hiking spots, but you can hike year round because it rarely gets dangerously cold.
However, the middle of summer can reach scorching temperatures. This is more than an inconvenience as it can become extremely dangerous, especially if you aren’t used to the heat. You have to plan your trips ahead of time and bring the right hiking gear to keep yourself and your family safe in Louisiana heat.
1. Check the Heat Index
It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived in Louisiana your entire life, you still need to check the heat for the day of your hike. This is especially true during the summer where temperatures can reach over 100 degrees and higher. The last place you want to be is hiking a tough trail with sweltering heat.
If you must hike on a hot day, you can plan your hike around the heat and schedule rests during the hottest part of the day. You may have to seek shelter during the hottest hours of the day as the sun can drain your energy and dehydrate you to a dangerous level.
2. Bring Plenty of Water
Louisiana hikers must bring extra water to stay fully hydrated. Even then, you may find that you cannot drink enough water to combat the heat. If you find yourself sweating profusely, you may have a hard time replenishing the fluids lost even if you drink non-stop. The human body can only absorb a certain amount of liquids per hour, but you can easily sweat out more than you take in.
You need to bring more water than you think you need. Accidents happen on the trails all the time and being delayed a few hours can increase your fluid consumption.
We suggest bringing a daypack that’s hydration bladder compatible. These allow you to carry much more water and can save weight in your pack. They also save time because you can simply bite the mouthpiece when you’re thirsty. Studies have shown that regularly sipping small amounts of water helps you stay hydrated easier than big gulps of liquids.
You can also carry electrolyte drink mixes with you and mix into your bladder pack. This will keep you hydrated longer than regular water.
3. Carefully Pick Your Trail
You will want to choose the right trail for hot weather hiking, especially in Louisiana. It’s dangerous to leave yourself exposed to the sun in over 100 degree weather. You won’t even realize how quickly you become overexposed and sweat until it’s too late. There are plenty of trails in Louisiana that are covered or partially covered by trees. In fact, many of them are completely covered by trees from start to finish.
If the trail you’ve chosen isn’t completely covered, you can still find a few shaded sections. Also, try to find a trail that has running water so you can cool down when you get overheated.
Take your breaks in the shaded portions of the trail and not in direct sunlight as every little bit of exposure adds up on a long hiking trip.
4. Wear Protective Gear
You may think it’s better to wear less clothing when hiking in hot weather in Louisiana, but that’s not entirely true. While you will want to wear loose fitting clothing, you also want to cover your head and shoulders as much as possible. While a ball cap will help, we suggest a large hat that covers your head, face, neck, shoulders and part of your upper back. The Einskey sun hat is one of the best on the market, but any wide brim hat will help.
You may also want to get a few cooling towels that provide instant cooling when wet. These can lower your body temperature when you get overheated and they’re extremely cheap.
Lastly, you may want to look into buying a few fishing shirts. They’re made from materials that breathe well in the summer and have plenty of pockets for your gear. Fishing shirts also handle water well and can keep you dry longer than a regular cotton t-shirt.
5. Get an Early Start/Finish
The heat index can vary wildly in Louisiana throughout the day. Your best bet for a safe hike to start when the sun comes up or later in the afternoon when temperatures have dropped. Either way, you will want to try not to be too active during midday. The hottest part of the day is between 11:30 a.m. to roughly 3:30 p.m., but it can still be incredibly hot afterwards.
6. Bring the Right Food
You probably don’t want to eat heavy foods while hiking in hot weather, but you will need to bring snacks to keep your body powered. You can replenish your electrolytes with your fluids, but you will also need to eat foods that contain essential nutrients to maintain your energy and to keep you safe.
We suggest bringing a variety of snacks that are high in complex carbs, sodium and potassium to replace what you lose in the heat. Your muscles need a certain level of nutrients and you can become severely dehydrated if you don’t replenish often.
You will want to avoid sugary drinks as they contain simple carbohydrates and aren’t a great choice for hiking. Snacks such as energy bars, nuts, trail mix and regular fruit all contain complex carbohydrates that will keep you hydrated and your muscles energized to keep hiking.
7. Wear a Hiking Hat
We previously covered wearing protective clothing to protect you from the sun, but wearing a hat is important enough to mention it twice. We suggest a wide brim hat with mesh sides to keep you cool while protecting your upper body from harmful UV rays.
8. Take Plenty of Breaks
The heat in Louisiana can sap your energy and bring you to dangerous levels of dehydration. This can happen without you even knowing it due to the gradual effects of heat while hiking in Louisiana. You will want to take regular breaks; that means taking your backpack all the way off and resting in the shade. It’s easy to overdo it on the trails and it’s hard to come back once your body has been pushed to the limit. A quick break can make all the difference in the world.
9. Don’t Drink Alcohol While Hiking
Drinking at the campsite and drinking while hiking are two completely different things. Alcohol can dehydrate you even faster while hiking in hot weather in Louisiana.
10. Know Heat Stroke Symptoms
You need to at least be aware of heat stroke symptoms while hiking in hot weather. Not only for yourself, but others in your hiking group. Most Louisiana hikers will tell you they’ve come close to having a heat stroke while hiking during the summer. It can happen to even the most experienced hikers.
You will need to pay attention to bad muscle cramps, headaches, dizzy spells and sweating. You should be concerned if you’ve been sweating all day, then suddenly stop sweating. If you feel sick while hiking in hot weather, you must seek shelter immediately and cool down.
Don’t be afraid to call 911 if you or your hiking partner shows signs of heat stroke. There’s a good chance there is a park ranger nearby that can come get you. Keep in mind, it may take them some time to reach you, so plan accordingly and do what you can to cool down and stay hydrated.
11. Tell Someone Your Location
You shouldn’t hike alone in the heat, but if you do, it’s a good idea to tell someone where you’re going and what time you should be back. The Louisiana heat has gotten to a lot of experienced hikers and caused injuries and heat stroke.