Bushwacking a Mountain: 8 Things to Consider


Sometimes I just don’t have the money to cover a National Parks entrance fee. But after driving for about an hour to climb a majestic mountain, it is hard to tell myself I need to do something else. Thus, I get pushed to the bushwack.

Bushwacking is free, though it can be dangerous if a few small things aren’t don’t to keep you from getting lost:

  • Firstly, always have a compass handy. Since I am almost always parking on the side of some road, I can almost always find my way back to the car if I just hit the road I was driving down.
    • To use a compass, find a landmark to aim for (such as the top of a mountain). When you want to turn around, go 180 degrees on the compass (if you were going North, turn and go South) and follow the little arrow until the car is found.
    • Follow a stream or valley in the upward direction towards the top. Mountains always have valleys and ridges that are relatively easy to follow, and it is usually nice to hike near a stream. The sounds are soothing.
    • But I also have found that in hiking near a stream, while soothing in sound, is a jumble of sticks reaching out to smack and scrape me as I walk past. So I follow this stream until a ridge is in sight that leads to the top. Then I move up the mountain to the more reliable terrain.
    • Make sure to note a landmark at the bottom of the valley, or directly opposite the valley, so the mountains many valleys don’t begin confusing themselves. The objective here is to make sure that I get myself down to the car, and not awkwardly explaining to a ranger that I broke into his park and need a ride back out.
    • Perhaps the most important thing is I always make sure to call or text somebody before I go, because if there is anything I learned from the movie, “127 hours” it is that I don’t want to end up in that guys shoes. If a friend of mine knows I am doing something stupid again, they can at least tell somebody that can save me that I have gone and lost a group of friends and myself in the woods.
    • Build cairns as trail markers. Cairns are those delightful little stacks of rocks which I thought were art at first, but now realize mark a trail. If I walk over an open section with no landmarks, I always make sure to leave a trail of rock piles to follow back to my little valley again.
    • Also be sure to get down the mountain before the thunder storms come. Read more on that here: http://moderatextremetravel.com/2013/05/26/climbing-14ers-a-brief-guide-to-avoiding-electrocution/

Bushwacking can be extremely arduous, but also very rewarding. Making my own trail has its own philosophical implications, but it also presents solitude. It’s a great time to get back in touch with nature without other people around (except at the top).


Bushwacking also means I am bringing at least one meal, and probably a few snacks because I will need my energy to get back towards finding the car. Maybe a few beers also.

Happy travels!

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