What are the essential safety tips for hiking in the UK’s national parks?

The UK's national parks are a treasure trove of natural beauty, teeming with towering mountains, tranquil bodies of water, and enchanting trails that beckon to all hiking enthusiasts. But as with any outdoor activity, safety must always come first when hiking. So before you slip on your boots and sling on your backpack, let's explore some crucial safety tips for an enjoyable and secure trek in UK's national parks.

1. Plan Your Route and Stick to It

Before embarking on a hike, the first step is to plan your route meticulously. This involves deciding on which park you'll be visiting, the exact trail to take, and the duration of your hike.

Research is key. National parks in the UK like Snowdonia, The Lake District, and The Yorkshire Dales have diverse trail options suitable for different skill levels. So, make sure to choose a route that matches your hiking abilities.

Once you've determined your route, don't deviate from it. Keep to the designated pathways and resist the urge to venture into unauthorized areas. At times, the call of unexplored terrain may be tempting, but remember that these limits are there for a reason. Going off-route could lead to unforeseen dangers.

Also, ensure you inform someone trustworthy of your hiking plan. Provide them with details such as the park you're visiting, the trail you've chosen, and your estimated return time. This will heighten your safety net if anything goes awry during your hike.

2. Check the Weather Forecast

When it comes to hiking, the weather will play a crucial role in determining whether your day out is enjoyable or a battle against the elements.

Before you set off, make sure to check the local weather forecast for the area you'll be hiking in. The UK is famously unpredictable when it comes to weather, so it's crucial to be aware of the conditions you might face.

Rain can make trails slippery and treacherous, while intense heat can lead to dehydration. If the weather forecast predicts unfavorable conditions, consider postponing your hike to a safer day.

3. Carry Adequate Supplies

The importance of packing the right supplies for a day of hiking can't be overstressed.

Water, of course, is a must. The general guide is to carry at least two liters of water per person for a day’s hike. However, this amount can vary depending on the weather and the trail's difficulty, so plan accordingly.

Food is also essential. Trail mix, energy bars, and sandwiches are good options that are both lightweight and nutritious. It's essential to keep your energy levels up during your hike.

Finally, it's advisable to carry a basic first aid kit, including bandages, antiseptic wipes, and plasters. This is just a precaution, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.

4. Dress Appropriately

Hiking requires appropriate attire. Always dress in layers, which allows you to add or remove clothing depending on the weather.

Invest in a good pair of hiking boots that are both comfortable and sturdy. Your footwear should provide good ankle support and grip, especially in wet weather conditions. Don't forget to wear hiking socks to prevent blisters.

Also, don garments that are made of breathable, quick-drying materials like nylon or polyester. Cotton clothing should be avoided as it retains moisture and could lead to hypothermia in cold weather.

Lastly, always have a rain jacket and a hat. The rain jacket will keep you dry in case of sudden showers, while the hat will shield you from the sun.

5. Respect the Environment

While the focus may be on your safety, it's equally important to consider the environment's well-being. Remember, the national parks are protected areas, and it's our duty to help maintain their natural state.

Never leave any litter behind. Carry a small bag where you can place your trash and dispose of it properly after your hike.

If you plan on camping, make sure it’s in designated areas and that you follow the park's guidelines. Don't light fires or disturb the wildlife. Enjoy the beauty of the environment but always leave it as you found it.

6. Understand the Outdoor Access Code

When hiking in any of the national parks in the UK, you must follow the Outdoor Access Code. This set of government-issued guidelines promotes responsible behaviour in open-air environments while ensuring that everyone can enjoy public spaces.

The code highlights the importance of keeping dogs under control, particularly on farmland where livestock is present. It also instructs walkers to not disturb wildlife - an instruction that extends to foraging. The Outdoor Access Code reinforces the 'leave no trace' principle, advising hikers and campers to take away all litter, including biodegradable food waste, and leaving the environment as they found it.

It also covers wild camping, which is permitted in some national parks such as the Lake District and the Brecon Beacons National Park. However, when wild camping, ensure you are not too close to roads, buildings, or historical structures, and that you set up camp late in the day and depart early the next morning to minimize disturbance.

Understanding the Outdoor Access Code not only safeguards your safety but also helps preserve the natural beauty of the national parks for generations to come.

7. Choose a Safe Time of Year

Depending on the time of the year, the conditions in the national parks can vary greatly. The Pembrokeshire Coast, for example, may be a delightful walk in the summer, but in the winter, the weather can turn quickly, and paths can become treacherous.

In general, spring and summer offer the most favourable conditions for a day hike. However, even then, you must be prepared for sudden changes in weather. In the autumn and winter, shorter daylight hours also mean that you have less time for your hike. Hence, it is vital to plan your route accordingly and make sure you can complete your hike in daylight.

Regardless of the time of year, always check the local weather forecast and trail conditions before you set off and ensure you are adequately equipped with the right clothing and supplies to stay safe.


Hiking in the UK's national parks, from the stunning landscapes of Table Mountain in the Brecon Beacons to the tranquil waters of the Lake District, is a rewarding experience. However, like any outdoor activity, it comes with its own set of risks.

By taking the time to plan your hike, checking the weather, packing the right supplies, dressing appropriately, and respecting the environment, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Remember to stick to your plan, adhere to the Outdoor Access Code, choose a safe time of year for your adventure, and always leave no trace.

Armed with these safety tips, your hiking boots, and a sense of adventure, you're ready to discover the natural beauty the UK's national parks have to offer. Happy hiking!