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safety on hiking trails

Personal safety on hiking trails: Following your gut instinct

 Personal safety on hiking trails is very important – we often forget that not only animals can be predators, but people as well.

Normally I enjoy the opportunity to hike without others crowding the trails. There’s nobody slowing you down in front, and nobody pushing you along behind you.

However, during a recent trip to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, near Mono Hills, Ontario we had an experience that reminded us that sometimes it’s better to be surrounded by people.

For anybody who has been to Mono Cliffs, it’s usually a quiet spot for a walk even in the summer time. We drove into the main parking lot and found only one other car parked further down. What was unsettling was the lone man standing outside in the chilly wind. Inside his car were three other passengers that we couldn’t see clearly from the distance and due to tinted windows.

Not knowing who was in the car and the fact that Mr. Lone Guy Outside was eying our car gave us what Frank likes to refer to as the “heebee-geebies”.

We sat in our car for a good five minutes, sipping our Tim Horton’s coffee, hoping that whoever this guy was waiting for would appear. Perhaps he was waiting for somebody using the public bathroom a bit further down? Or he was waiting for somebody to show up for a group winter hike?

Then we started thinking worst case scenario: perhaps this was a meet up to exchange drugs? Or for some other nefarious purpose.

We didn’t want to find out the hard way. Nor did we want to walk away from our car and find it broken into or stolen.

We decided not to wait any longer and drove off. Although we enjoyed a short walk at Mono Cliffs from a different entrance, we continued to wonder what this fellow and the others in the car were doing in a deserted parking lot at a provincial park, in an isolated area. We’ll never know.

Thinking more about this experience, we’ve come up with some personal safety rules for hiking on quiet trails:

  • Before you head off on a trail, check to see if anybody is loitering around the parking lot. If they are doing so without any indication of leaving, it’s quite possible they are up to no good. If there’s another way you can access trails, do so.
  • Always be aware of who is around you. If you spot somebody suspicious who is checking you out or steadily following you, make an effort to get away from them as soon as possible. Alert them to the fact that you are aware of their presence.
  • A sturdy walking stick or trekking pole can act as a good weapon for self-defence if the need arises. You can purchase a proper trekking pole from many outdoor activity retailers for a range of prices (approximately $60 – $130), depending on the brand and quality. Not only do you get extra exercise but also a make-shift weapon.

Have you ever had a similar situation happen to you? Did you have anything strange happen on a trail?


About Margaret Bourne

Margaret Bourne is the Suburban Tourist – a lover of the outdoors, travel and food. With a career in PR, she balances work life with weekends of exploring with her husband Frank and son “Baby B”. When not learning how to take pretty pictures with her DSLR, Margaret enjoys sharing her experiences and stories through this blog.


  1. It’s too bad that something like that ruined your walk. Better safe than sorry.

  2. Saw some teen hanging around the cars there one fall. The dead end road north of Mono Centre where the Clifftop trail is. Was he looking to break into cars? We decided not to park there, instead we drove to the paid area where you saw that lone male.

    • So we aren’t the only ones who have seen people just hanging about there. I’m wondering if it’s a well-known meet-up spot for the undesirables. Thanks for sharing.