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AUSTIN— Heat exhaustion is one of the most common maladies that park rangers encounter during the summer months, and with temperatures soaring to scorching heats well above 90 degrees, Texas State Park staff are encouraging park visitors to follow basic heat safety precautions to stay safe on the trail.
Heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke can be prevented by drinking water, wearing proper clothing, hiking in the morning or evening, checking the weather ahead of time and knowing the length of the trail.
One of the most important things to do is hydrate. Hydration is necessary for good health and helps with heat tolerance. Park rangers recommend having extra water packed while on the trails and to continue drinking water even if not thirsty. Also, if hiking with your four-legged friend, don’t forget to bring water for them.
A good rule of thumb is to turn around and head back once you’ve consumed half of your water supply.
It’s important to know the length of the trail and take a map of the park before heading out. The maps provide an overlook and the lengths of all trails at the park. Park trail maps are available at visitor centers, the entrance to the park and online on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.
People often underestimate the trails and rough terrain, so make sure to be aware of any warning signs posted at parks and seek trail information from park rangers.
If possible, plan hikes early in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t the strongest. Park rangers say starting hikes earlier when the temperature is milder will help you gain more distance before the heat peaks in the middle of the day.
Make sure to take breaks when necessary and know your limit. Stop and rest under some shade and recuperate when necessary before continuing on the trail.
Before heading to a park, wear proper clothing. If going for a hike, wear light-colored, lightweight and loose fitting clothing. The light colors will reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them like dark colors can, and clothing that is lightweight and loose-fitting helps regulate body temperature.
Bring a hat for face and neck protection from the sun. A bandana can also be dunked in water and worn around the neck to keep you cool while the water evaporates.
Lastly, don’t forget to check the weather beforehand so you will be prepared for any conditions you may face on the trail.
If you begin to experience a heat related emergency, call the park headquarters or 911.
For a map of all Texas State Parks, visit the state park page on the TPWD website.