Scorpions and Hiking: What to Do in an Encounter

Very few people start a hike expecting or wanting to see a scorpion. Their little scorpion bodies and their love of dark places make them unexpected and surprising visitors during any hiking trip. But, in certain places around the globe, and especially in deserts, scorpions reign. So, you may be wondering what to do if you encounter a scorpion while hiking. 

Scorpions are generally not dangerous to encounter in the wild. Only a small number of species are harmful to humans. When encountering a scorpion while hiking, do not touch or pick it up. The best advice is to move past it and leave it unbothered. If that isn’t possible use a long piece of gear, like a hiking pole, to remove it from the area. 

Scorpions may be an unavoidable part of your next hike, and if so let’s explore all there is to know about encountering scorpions while hiking!

brown scorpion on a rock with stinger arched - an example of a scorpion you may see while hiking

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Are Scorpions Dangerous?

Most scorpions aren’t all that dangerous. Their stings can contain venom, but this is usually made for paralyzing insects, and because of that it doesn’t have that much an effect on humans. It may cause itching or swelling near the sting site, but that’s really all that you’ll get in terms of symptoms. Most scorpions fall into this non-dangerous category. 

However, worldwide there are a few scorpions that can be quite dangerous. And if you’ll be hiking in scorpion territory you’ll want to be aware of which ones those are. For hikers in the United States, the only one to worry about is the Arizona Bark Scorpion. This scorpion is only found in the Southwestern United States. 

So, how dangerous is the Arizona Bark Scorpion? In adults it causes severe pain and can also cause temporary immobility in the area that was stung, combined with  convulsions and numbness. In children, it can absolutely be deadly. So, should you be stung you’ll want to seek medical attention right away. 

Worldwide, there are a few additional deadly scorpions including Fat-Tailed Scorpion (Southwest Asia), the Brazilian Yellow Scorpion, or the Death Stalker Scorpion (Middle East). 

arizona bark scorpion glowing blue under a UV light

Arizona Bark Scorpion

You can identify an Arizona Bark Scorpion by the way it lays it's tail to the side during rest and by the blue color it emits under UV light.

Where Should I Expect to See Scorpions While Hiking?

If you’re planning to hike in desert areas, then it’s important to understand where you’re likely to encounter scorpions and which ones you’re likely to see, so you know how to best prepare. 

Where scorpions tend to be is really a two-part question. The first is asking where in the world you should expect scorpions (you probably don’t need to worry about them in Antartica), and the second is where on the hiking trail should you expect scorpions if you’re hiking in an area where they live.

Let’s go through each so you’ll have thorough understanding of where scorpions live and where you should expect to see them while hiking. 

Where do Scorpions Live in Worldwide?

Scorpions are located on every continent except for Antartica. Their most well-known habitat is in a desert and if you’ll be hiking in or near a desert climate then it’s nearly certain that scorpions live there. 

But, scorpions don’t only live in deserts. Scorpions also live in the rain forests of Central and South America, the wet-cool climate found in Great Britain, and they even live in the Himalaya mountains. 

If you’re in the United States, then you should always expect Scorpions in the Southwestern states like Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Utah. But, these aren’t the only places where scorpions live. 

You should also expect to find them in the Southeastern states like Tennessee, and North Carolina, and even Mid-Western states as far north as Nebraska or Iowa. Essentially, the only places where it’d be unlikely to run into a scorpion is the Northeast or Pacific Northwest. 

Scorpions live in a lot of climates and areas, so you should expect them when hiking in most places in the United States. 

Where May I See a Scorpion While Hiking?

If you’ll be hiking in an area known to have scorpions you may be wondering where you may see a scorpion on the trail while hiking. Scorpions are generally nocturnal, so a lot of the time you won’t see them at all. 

But, and this is where it can get a little dangerous, scorpions like to sleep during the day inside the dark crevices in tree bark or under rocks. So, that downed tree that looks like a perfect spot to take a rest may actually be a scorpion’s sleeping spot. Or that rock that looks great for stepping on, may be the hiding place for a scorpion. 

Scorpions don’t usually attack unless they feel threatened. And I don’t know about you, but if I was the size of a scorpion and saw a large human about to take a seat on me, I’d feel fairly threatened. And to make it worse, sometimes scorpions burrow together – so sitting down without looking may have you imbibed with multiple stings.

Outside of these naturally tight areas – scorpions will also hide in your gear. What’s a better dark hiding spot than an open backpack? Or hiking boots sitting outside a tent? Scorpions LOVE to hide in those areas, so be careful to keep all your gear secure and closed to prevent the little creatures from making their way into your stuff unsuspectedly. 

black scorpion perched on a rock with it's stinger erect. An example of a scorpion you may see while hiking

What Do I Do if I See a Scorpion While Hiking?

The best thing you can do if you see a scorpion while hiking is to completely leave it alone. Scorpions don’t sting randomly, they do it when they feel threatened. And a huge human heading towards them is almost certainly going to make them feel threatened. 

For the most part, if you’re hiking and encounter a scorpion, you can just move away from it. 

Now, if you find a scorpion on your gear, or in another place where you need to move it, then you’ll want to be very careful. Do not attempt to pick it up and move it with your hands. Instead use a hiking pole or an equivalent object to gently nudge it away. But, only do this as a last resort. 

In most scorpion encounters while hiking you should just be able to hike on by without disturbing it or it’s habitat. 

What Do I Do if I've Been Stung by a Scorpion While Hiking?

If you’ve been stung by a scorpion while hiking then you’ll want to address it immediately. The first step is to always move away from the scorpion as fast as you can. No need in getting stung twice. After that you’ll want to follow these steps: 

  • Wash the area with soap and water
  • Apply ice or a cool compress to the area
  • Take over-the-couter medications as needed for pain

If you find yourself having more severe symptoms, then it’s essential that you take yourself to a medical facility immediately. 

If it is a child who has been stung, then a call or visit to a nearby medical facility is recommended. Children tend to respond more severely to scorpion venom, and it’s always better to be safer now than sorry later. 

Hopefully you’ve found all the information you need about what to do if you encounter a scorpion while hiking. Overall, scorpions aren’t a cause for concern, but if you do happen to encounter one that is more dangerous, then you’ll want to be extra cautious to avoid a sting. 

If you want more hiking recommendations please check out our hiking tips page, or check out any of the articles below. 

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