Ticks and Trails: Tips for Preventing Bites While Hiking


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Ready for a fun adventure into the wilderness and fresh air? If you live in a grassy or wooded area, watch out for tiny ticks. These creepy pests can quickly turn an enjoyable outing into an itchy and potentially harmful experience that no one wants, but what if you could naturally prevent tick bites while hiking?

Here are my top tips for repelling ticks naturally while you’re out hiking or even in your own backyard. Effective tick prevention strategies are way easier than trying to deal with the aftermath of tick bites and tick borne diseases.

girl with brown curly hair running through forest ferns with borther and parents in the background

Where do Ticks Live?

Ticks are in every state and are notorious for carrying several kinds of parasites and bacterial illnesses that can be deadly, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. There are over 800 types of ticks including the common deer tick and blacklegged tick. Some ticks are no bigger than a grain of pepper and they are sneaky!

forest floor with white sign warning of ticks in the area

Ticks, technically part of the arachnid family, live in densely forested areas as well as among tall grasses, shrubs, and leaf litter. Wooded areas, forests, and even your own backyard harbor these persistent pests. Ticks particularly thrive in warm and humid environments.

Natural Ways to Prevent Tick Bites

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers valuable recommendations for preventing tickborne disease. They suggest using insect repellents that contain EPA-registered active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). If you choose to use these ingredients, it’s important to follow the instructions. Some of these chemical options are not to be used on children, so read carefully!

You know I like to live a little more sustainably and love eco-friendly ways of living, and that doesn’t stop with tick bite prevention while I’m hiking. There are several natural ways to reduce the chance of tick bites even more when you are on the trail. You can use physical barriers as well as natural elements and oils to avoid ticks.

pinterest collage with words "prevent tick bites while hiking" and collage of neem oil, garlic, hiking boots, and a hiking trail

Get out of the Grass

Before you even head out to the hiking trail, take a look around your own property. Keep it as tick free as possible by keeping your lawn short. Critters that harbor ticks such as deer, rabbits, and mice should also be kept out of your property as much as possible.

Do you have a compost pile? Ticks love that for you! It’s warm and slightly damp which makes it a safe haven for ticks. Leaf piles are like a little bit of paradise for ticks and tick nymphs. Even though it’s fun, keep your pets and children out of fall leaf piles.

Man tucking pants into socks to prevent tick bites while hiking

Clothing to Prevent Tick Bites

Another easy way to prevent tick bites while you’re out hiking is to dress properly. In order to pass bacteria onto you, ticks need to get attached. Wear long sleeves and long pants to keep exposed skin to a minimum.

Tuck your pants into your socks. Sure, you might look and feel a bit silly, but it’s way better than getting sick from a tick! Choose light colored clothing as well. It’s much easier to see a dark crawling tick on a white shirt than a black one.

Avoid Ticks (and Vampires) with Garlic

Garlic makes everything better – even hiking! Although I think a healthy dose of garlic makes everything taste better, ticks despise the smell of it. If you eat garlic, the aroma is often secreted in our urine and sweat. You know what that means? Ticks will smell you coming a mile away and turn and run the other way.

You can eat a couple cloves of raw garlic before heading out, eat food with garlic as an ingredient, or take garlic pills.

essential oil bottles with lemon, lavendar, and greens on table to make natural tick repellant

Essential Oils Repel Ticks While Hiking

Mix essential oils with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or sweet almond oil and rub it on your skin, paying attention to cover areas such as ankles, scalp, behind ears and in warm areas of the body so the smell radiates off you. Like garlic, scents such as citrus, lavender, tea tree, rosemary, and cinnamon repel ticks. Do not use cinnamon on young children, however.

Natural Tick Repelling Neem Oil

Neem Oil can be used as a repellent as well. Neem grows in India and it has a garlic type smell to it. It is actually a main ingredient in many natural pesticides at garden supply stores because not only does it repel ticks, but it also repels a lot of bugs the way planting garlic does in gardens. You can buy organic neem oil pesticides at garden supply stores (but use that in your garden and not on your skin) or buy pure neem oil online for avoiding ticks naturally. Just use it with a carrier oil and apply to your skin and scalp as it has to be diluted or it can be irritating to skin. You can add a couple drops of it to your shampoo as well and wash with it.

Perform Tick Checks Routinely

Even if you do your best to avoid ticks while hiking, always complete tick checks on yourself, your kids and your pets. If your kids play outside, they need a tick check as ticks live in cities and yards, too. After coming inside, do thorough tick checks of scalps, in between toes and in ticks’ other favorite hiding spots.

Change your clothes and put the old set in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any wayward hitchikers that might be caught in the seams.

Shower within 1 hour of coming inside for the day. Follow these steps to safely remove a tick if you happen to find one even after you’ve followed all the prevention steps.

What do you do to keep your family safe from ticks?

Natural ways to prevent tick bites

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. It’s totally gross, but I find a tick on myself at least once a year, usually not attached. The dogs get ticks more than that…These ARE REALLY GREAT TIPS, since the only remedy is actually a preventative for the effects of a bad tick bite 🙁

  2. we live on the lake and in the summer find ticks often climbing on us and occasionally biting us. Tea Tree oil seems to work the best. I have learned that while they are gross there is no need to panic. This info is great advice. Since the ticks are tough little buggers I find a finger nail clipper to do great in disposing of them at the bathroom sink where I can wash down the 2 halves of the tick down the drain.