Monsoon hiking

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- While the monsoon is officially here (it starts June 15 every year), we are still waiting to feel the effects.

But it is coming and this means for all you fellow hikers/campers/backpackers that there are additional dangers out there of which we have to be cautious.

[MORE: Monsoon 2019: An Arizona Weather Authority Special]

It doesn’t matter if you are still braving the Phoenix heat or heading to the high country, a thunderstorm can severely “dampen” your adventure.

What is a Monsoon?

A monsoon is a weather pattern resulting from a seasonal reversal in wind patterns coupled with increased precipitation. Those of you who have lived in Phoenix through at least one summer have experienced this shift with increased humidity, brief and sudden downpours, hail, dust storms and some amazing lightning shows.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Monsoon]

How do you stay safe?

Hikers want to hike and campers want to camp, so opting inside is probably not an option – nor does it have to be. I have spent many o’ days hiking and camping during thunderstorms that would make a grown Grizzly cry and have come out of it unscathed. “How?”, you may ask. Well, a shot of good bourbon and by following these tips.

Before heading out

• Know weather patterns and predictions for the location you are planning to travel so you can avoid areas where lightning strikes and/or flooding are most likely to occur

• Only venture out to places you are already very familiar. Monsoon season is not the time to check out that amazing place you saw on Instagram.

• Have your “escape plan” determined in the event of a thunderstorm. This means you will want to have an idea of the landscape so you know where to go in the event of lightning or a flash flood.

• Leave the ear buds at home and only listen to the music created by nature. Listening to your surroundings is essential to staying safe in the backcountry at all times.

If you hear thunder, start looking for safe terrain and follow these tips:

If hiking on mountains or plateaus…

• Avoid peaks, ridges, shallow overhangs, cave entrances or anyplace you are the tallest object. Dry ravines or a low spot among rolling hills is a good place to take cover.

• Don’t stand near trees or tall, isolated objects.

• Stay out of water. Damp ground is safe but puddles, creeks, lakes, and streams are not.

• Lightning ground current can injure huddled groups. This means if one person gets struck, the current will travel through other members of the group. If you are hiking with others, spread out at least 50 ft between individuals when possible.

• Remove your pack, ditch the trekking poles and stay away from anything metal. Sit on the ground in “lightning position” by hugging your knees to your chest, making yourself as small as possible.

If hiking in canyons…

• Avoid venturing into any narrow canyons. Even a couple inches of rain can result in a deadly flash flood.

• Do not set up camp in a wash. Floods can occur when you are sound asleep. Besides, we always follow Leave No Trace principles and camp at least 200 feet from water or dry washes.

• Watch for changes in water clarity and level. It is best to avoid hiking or camping near water, but if you are, remember that flash flooding can occur at anytime, even if it is not raining in your area.

• Keep you ears open! That babbling creek will start to sound like a thunderous stampede as the water comes crashing through the canyon with debris leading the way.

• Find high ground – If you are hiking in or near a wet or dry creek, stream, river, you need to know where to find high ground. High ground is a place well above the water line but accessible by walking or scrambling. Remain here until the rushing waters have subsided.

Have fun, enjoy the uniqueness the monsoon season does bring to the Arizona landscape, but stay safe!

Find more information on hiking and gear at


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