Yes, You Can Hike In The Rain
Did you know that the Sierra Nevada receives 85% of its annual participation in 5 months of the year!? No surprise that visitors to Yosemite are always super excited about the waterfalls in the off-season!
So maybe it starts raining during your vacation or it just won't quit raining in central California this winter and you're slowly and surely losing your mind (Ahem, sorry. I'm fine. Everything's fine!) Taking a stroll in the rain can be a peaceful and refreshing to enjoy the world around you. Just make sure to wear appropriate clothing and stay safe. How!? That's a great question!
How do I know it's safe?
Whether or not it's safe to play in the rain depends on several factors, including the temperature, the amount of rainfall, and the presence of thunder and lightning. Here are some guidelines to help you determine if it's safe to play in the rain:
Check the weather forecast: Before heading outside, check the weather forecast to see if there are any warnings or advisories in effect. If there is a thunderstorm or flood warning, it's best to stay indoors until the storm has passed. If you're in the National Parks, this is a great time to check out the Visitor Centers!
Assess the rainfall intensity: If the rain is heavy, it can create hazards like flash flooding or mudslides. If the rain is light or moderate, it may be safer to play outside as long as you take precautions like wearing appropriate clothing and shoes.
Look for lightning: If there is lightning, it's not safe to be outside. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from a storm, so it's important to wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before going outside.
Consider the temperature: If it's cold outside, playing in the rain can increase the risk of hypothermia or cold-related illnesses. If it's warm or hot outside, playing in the rain can be a refreshing way to cool off, but make sure to stay hydrated.
Use common sense: I mean, we know that you are probably on vacation or slowly loosing your mind due to all the rain and snow in central California this... ahem, but yeah, just check yourself first. If the rain is causing hazards like flooding or fallen trees, it's best to stay indoors. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe playing in the rain, trust your instincts and find an indoor activity instead... Even if you have already done all of them and the electricity is still out and you are slowly going insane.... ahem. I'm fine!
What if my hike become unsafe!?
Remember that lightning and flash floods can be dangerous and deadly, so it's important to take it seriously and follow these precautions to protect yourself.
Lightning and thunder
Seek shelter: The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is indoors, away from windows and doors. If you're caught outside, try to find a building or a car to take shelter in. Avoid standing under tall trees or being near metal objects like fences or poles.
Avoid open spaces: If you can't find shelter, avoid being in open spaces like fields or golf courses. Lightning tends to strike the tallest object in an area, so it's important to avoid being the tallest object.
Avoid mountain tops: Don't climb trees either, because of that whole "lightning tends to strike the tallest object in an area" thing we just mentioned.
Put your feet together: This significantly reduces the effects of ground current. If you have a foam pad to stand on or a pack to sit on, get on it. Crouch or sit to slightly reduce the effects of side flash and upward leaders.
Stay low: In the same vein, if you're caught in an open area with no shelter nearby, crouch down low on the ground with your feet together and your head tucked in. Avoid lying flat on the ground, as this increases the surface area of your body and makes it more likely that you'll be struck by lightning.
Spread out: Groups should spread out enough so that lightning doesn't take you all out in one strike.
Wait it out: Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before going outside again. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from a storm, so it's important to wait until the storm has passed completely.
Seek higher ground if you're in a low-lying area, immediately hike up to higher ground. Avoid walking through floodwaters, as the water can be much deeper and more powerful than it appears.
Keep your cellphone charged when hiking in inclement weather in case of emergency.
Avoid bridges which can become dangerous chokepoints during a flood. Instead, find an alternate route to higher ground.
Swim Feet first if the flood water do get you. Point your feet in the direction the flash flood is taking you, so you can kick off obstacles and reduce the chance of a head injury.
Do not enter flooded buildings because the water is more likely to be contaminated with sewage, chemicals, or other hazardous materials, and can pose a serious risk to your health.
Wait for the flood to subside and do not attempt to return to your home or vehicle until the floodwaters have receded and it is safe to do so. Even if the water appears to have receded, there may still be hidden hazards or damage.
Be careful while driving to and from the trailhead as backcountry roads, especially mountain roads, are susceptible to rock and mud slides in heavy rains.
What should I wear!?
If you're planning to go for a hike in the rain, it's important to dress appropriately and bring some essentials with you to ensure that you stay dry and comfortable. Here are some suggestions for what to wear and what to bring:
Wear waterproof clothing: This includes a poncho, raincoat, rain pants, and/or waterproof shoes or boots. Make sure your clothing is breathable and has vents to prevent you from getting too hot and sweaty. If you're in a pinch then grab some garbage bags! They can go between two pair of sock to keep your feet warm and dry. You can cut a hole for your head and arms to where one as a poncho. You can cut the bottom out and where one as a rain skirt! Don't trust me, ask a thru-hiker! This is genius level advice!
Dress in layers: Depending on the temperature, you may want to wear a sweater or hoodie underneath your raincoat to keep warm. Just make sure that you are wearing wool or synthetic fibers - No cotton and no down! Seriously, no denim, no down puffy, no cotton hoodie, no cotton socks, no, no, no! You will thank us later!
Bring an umbrella: No one I know hikes with an umbrella, but a good quality umbrella could help keep you dry on a hike. I guess, just make sure to hold it down low so that the wind doesn't turn it inside out.
Wear a hat: A hat can help keep rain from getting in your eyes and on your face. You can also wear a waterproof hat or a hooded raincoat.
Bring a waterproof backpack or waterproof bag: This can be used to store your phone, wallet, and any other essentials you may need. Make sure it's waterproof to keep your belongings dry. Stop by any outdoor store like, I dunno, Echo Adventures Yosemite Basecamp! You can find dry bags or waterproof backpacks for this very occasion.
Wear non-slip shoes: The ground can be slippery when it's wet, especially the granite here in Yosemite, so it's important to wear shoes with good traction to prevent falls.
Water: If you're going on a longer walk or it's a warm and humid day, it's important to stay hydrated by bringing a water bottle with you. Even if you don't feel thirsty, your body can still lose fluids through sweating in rainy weather. It's better to be safe and bring water with you, especially if you're unsure about the conditions you'll be facing. If you're not sure how much water to bring, a general rule of thumb is to aim for at least half a liter of water per hour of walking, depending on your body size and level of activity.
What else can I do in the rain?
Jump in puddles: Put on your rain boots, wellies, rubbers, galoshes, gum boots or muck boots and splash around in puddles! Seriously, right now! It's a simple activity that will absolute bring alot of joy and nostalgia.
Visit a waterfall: Mist trail anyone!?
Have a water fight: If it's warm enough, grab some water guns or balloons and have a fun water fight in the rain. It's perfect, like absolutely perfect!
Head to the Visitor Center or a museum in the area: This is particularly awesome if you are on vacation, because it will help you see the area in a whole new way!
If you're in Yosemite, then have a Hot Toddy at the Ahwahnee. Period, nothing more to say here!
Get a massage or practice self care: Rainy days can sometimes make us feel a little down or lethargic. To combat this, practice self-care activities like taking a warm bath, doing some gentle yoga, or listening to your favorite music.
Watch a movie: If going outside isn't an option, you can always stay indoors and enjoy a movie or TV show. Kinda lame, but we know rain isn't for everyone!
I know it can be hard when you have been looking forward to your vacation. Rather than letting the rain ruin your plans, embrace the weather and find ways to enjoy it. I mean, you don't have a choice here, so go for a walk, jump in puddles, or simply sit and listen to the rain.