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Hike Away Those Winter Blues

Cardio is essential to good health and fitness. But logging hours on a treadmill or stationary bike or a Nordic ski or rowing machine can get boring in a hurry. Walking or biking around the same area of town at least offers a change of scenery – but it’s the same scenery over and over. A great way to spice up your cardio with a dash of adventure and nature is a day hike – and you’re in luck: The Las Vegas Valley offers a wide variety of hiking trails designed to put some sunshine in your day.

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Before you head out

It’s a good idea to ask your primary care provider (PCP) if hiking is right for you. It’s also advisable to let someone you know where you’re planning to hike. Beyond that, there are a couple concerns to address that will help you enjoy your next outdoor adventure to its fullest.

Hypothermia – Even in weather that’s just a little cool, your body can lose vital core heat and it’s no picnic. Advanced hypothermia is one of the main causes of death in the outdoors, so make sure you pack a warm jacket (preferably waterproof), a water bottle, and snacks. The calories in that granola bar will fuel the fire in your furnace and keep you going down the trail.

Dehydration – Here’s a few tips to help you stay hydrated:

  • Drink one or two cups of water before you start your hike.
  • Avoid alcohol – it actually dehydrates you.
  • Pack your food and water for easy reach.
  • Drink BEFORE you feel thirsty to keep the juices flowing.
  • Have a drink when you’re all done to replenish fluids.

Heat Exhaustion – Like a car, your body has a cooling system. But push yourself too far in warm weather or cold, and you’ll overheat. Symptoms include heavy perspiration, thirst, rapid pulse, headache, and nausea. Take a rest stop in the shade, drink some water, and wait until you feel better. Not taking these precautions can up the ante to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that causes confusion, hallucination, and loss of consciousness.

UV Rays – Even when it’s cold out, the sun still shines. So don’t forget to use sunscreen and have something to cover your noggin – bandana, cap, bucket hat, etc.

Layer Up – Dressing in layers is a great way to be active and comfortable. Start with a synthetic base layer (avoid cotton), and add a fleece vest or jacket and a shell parka or poncho. The idea is to control your body’s thermostat and go warmer or cooler as needed so you don’t become hypothermic – and sweat is a great way to get cold in a hurry.

Where to go

Red Rock Canyon offers a network of trails, including the Calico Tanks Trail, a 2.2-mile family-friendly hike that highlights aspects of geology and history. Ice Box Canyon is a more strenuous hike which rewards you with cool relief from summer heat and waterfalls in the winter and spring.

Valley of Fire State Park offers the popular Fire Wave hike in an area with ancient petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than two millennia.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is home to a wide variety of hiking adventures such as the popular Railway Trail. Ranger-guided hikes are available year-round.

Mt. Charleston is home to the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area with 60 miles of maintained trails. The scenic 1.6-mile Mary Jane Falls trail is a popular winter hike.

The Clark County Wetlands Park Nature Preserve has paved trails designed for beginners, as well as dog and bicycle-friendly trails.

Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, located near Henderson, has the Petroglyph Trail which features a glimpse at more than 300 rock art panels.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician or qualified healthcare professional.

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