How to Handle Snakes When Hiking

Posted by Elise Crenshaw on

How to Handle Snakes When Hiking

A recent thread on Facebook in a San Diego based hiking group was started when a distressed hiker in the San Diego area asked for some advice about snakes. She explained that she loves to hike, and often goes alone, but also has managed to steer clear of snakes despite her many previous hikes. But apparently, San Diego hikers have been having much more snake sightings recently, and this has caused our hiker friend some hesitation to get back out on the trails.

Her stresses and fears got some sound responses and advice from other hikers in the San Diego area. Several fellow hikers suggested that she use wider trails to hike, and go early morning when it is a little cooler to try and avoid snake encounters.In the event she does come across one, other hikers reminded her to remain calm and give the snake space, as it will likely just scurry off of the trail.

According to, rattlesnakes are the only venomous snakes found in the state. Most often hikers will come across non-venomous breeds such as gartersnakes, gopher snakes, ring necked snakes, California king snakes, and several varieties of racers. If you do come across a snake and are unsure if it is venomous or not, you can tell by the shape of its head. Venomous snakes have larger, triangular shaped heads, though be careful not to get too close! Non-venomous snakes can still strike out of fear.

In general, we should always be aware of our surroundings and use our senses when out on the trail. Listen for sounds of wildlife and watch where you step as a rule of thumb to stay aware of what’s around you. One hiker pointed out that she probably has already had an encounter with a snake but didn’t know it, as they are ever present in the area but are not seeking to attack passerbys. Others also noted similar concepts that snakes are a big a part of the natural environment as the streams and creeks we often seek. Regardless, we shouldn’t let fear get in the way of doing what we love and are passionate about - hiking!

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