JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
With cooler autumn weather arriving, conditions are ideal for one of the country's most popular outdoor activities.
Hiking attracts millions of people in the United States yearly, and park land dedicated to the recreational activity abounds in the San Antonio area, including the 250-acre Joint Base San Antonio Recreation Park at Canyon Lake.
"A great number of our more than 50,000 visitors per year take advantage of our trail system," Jonathan Clifton, JBSA Recreation Park at Canyon Lake general manager, said. "People can be seen taking a hike on a daily basis, weather permitting."
The three miles of trails are not the park's main attraction, Clifton said, but hiking is still a popular activity.
"Many of our patrons will frequent the trails during their stay," he said. "Many use them for the sole purpose of hiking, but most use them as a means of travel from one area of the park to another. They may take a trail to go from their lodging to the office or down toward the water."
The trail system's heaviest use comes during the peak summer months, when the park is full of visitors, Clifton said, but fall and spring "provide the ideal weather for an enjoyable hike."
The park has rules that also apply to its hiking trails, Clifton said, including no littering, no collecting of natural resources such as wood or rocks, and cleaning up after pets, but it also has a rule that is specific to the trails.
"Our hiking trails are for that purpose only, so they are restricted from other forms of travel such as motorized vehicles," he said.
No matter where they are exploring the great outdoors, hikers should be prepared for their outings by wearing the right apparel and following common sense safety rules.
"My advice to hikers is to stay hydrated, wear comfortable and sure-footed shoes, wear sunscreen, know your limits physically, let someone know where you will be hiking and carry your cellphone in case of an emergency," Clifton said.
Appropriate gear for hiking includes a map, a compass, warm clothing for cooler weather and a raincoat and pants for inclement weather, extra food and water, a flashlight, matches, a first aid kit and a pocket knife, Staff Sgt. Gary Lund, 502nd Air Base Wing ground safety technician, said.
Proper planning is also important, Lund said.
"Have a set route for hiking and stick to it," he said. "You should not change plans unless it is an emergency."
Hikers should travel in groups, Lund advised.
"You never know when you'll get lost or need a wingman," he said.
Hikers should also know when it's time to return to their starting point, Lund said. Weather changes, fatigue, unexpected conditions and darkness are all good reasons for turning back.
In addition to the Canyon Lake facility, destinations for hikers in the San Antonio area include McAllister Park, Government Canyon State Natural Area, Friedrich Wilderness Park Vista Loop Trail and Eisenhower Park Red Oak Trail, Lund said.