There are many ways to enjoy the great outdoors, and hiking is one of them. People from all around the world go on incredible hiking trails in the United States. Not to mention there’s an endless amount of hiking opportunities in other parts of the world too!
You may have heard of well-known trails in the US. The Mist Trail at Yosemite National Park is a must-do trail for many. Burroughs Mountain Trail in Mount Rainier National Park is another popular trail.
Seeing pictures of these trails may make you eager to start hiking, and it’s easy to see why!
There’s no doubt about it. Hiking can take you on some incredible adventures both on foot and in spirit.
Are you wondering where to start?
As a novice hiker, you may have a few questions about hiking. I have some pointers for you so you can look forward to tackling the Mist Trail in no time at all!
1. Get the Right Gear
It’s essential to have the right gear right from the get-go when you start hiking. If you’re going to start with short hikes (which I recommend), then you’ll only need a few basics.
Here’s what you should have for a short hike:
- Hiking shoes
- Fanny pack or small backpack
For day hikes that are seven miles or more, you should consider bringing:
- Sturdy hiking shoes with more protection
- Plenty of water
- A day pack
- Snacks or a lunch (granola bars, nuts, and beef jerky)
- Lightweight jacket for weather changes
- Sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection
- Flashlight & compass (especially if you’re not familiar with the area)
You should always bring your keys and ID with you in case something should happen. And even if you have a locator app on your phone, inform a few friends of your whereabouts.
If there isn’t any reception, you may want to invest in a personal locator beacon, or satellite messenger. They’re pricey but worth it if you find yourself in an emergency. Either could be invaluable if you were to get lost and lose your way.
2. Choose Short Trails to Start
As I briefly mentioned, it’s a good idea to get your feet wet before going on long hikes that take all day. Shorter treks will allow you to condition your body and get used to your hiking shoes.
You’ll also be able to see if you like your clothes, hat, and anything else you bring along. Being on a long hike with leggings that are too tight or loose is never fun!
Based on how things go, you can slowly scale up your mileage week by week. Gradually increasing your distance will give your body time to adapt to this new form of exercise. It’ll also prevent you from getting injured.
If you’re already a fit person and a go-getter, it may work to do a longer hike right away. Take note of what type of hike it is and decide whether you’re up for an easy or intermediate trail.
Enjoy yourself but don’t overdo it. You’ll enjoy hiking much more if you can walk without being in a lot of pain the next day!
3. Ask Local Hikers for Recommendations
Another suggestion I have is to consult with local hikers to find some excellent trails in your area.
If you’re not sure how to connect with hikers, here are some ideas on where to start:
- Join hiking Facebook groups local to your area
- Ask someone at a local outdoors store, such as REI
- Consult with friends and family who are hikers
- Connect with hikers on a hiking app such as All Trails (more on this later)
Once you’ve connected with some fellow hikers, ask about what a few of their favorite trails are. You can even inquire about what type of gear they love. Also, pick their brains on other hiking questions that have been on your mind.
4. Take Enough Water
As a new hiker, you may get extra thirsty while hiking. Don’t feel embarrassed for bringing a lot of water, even on short hikes. It’s better to bring too much water than not enough.
It’s important not to get dehydrated. If you’re hiking on a warm day, inadequate hydration can lead to heat exhaustion. You wouldn’t want that to happen!
For short hikes, a water bottle or eco-friendly bottle will do. Yeti and Hydro Flask are two companies that sell reusable bottles. They’re made out of stainless steel, though, so they tend to get heavy. But if you can tough it out, then a reusable bottle is always the way to go.
For seasoned hikers, something like a Hydro Flask works for hikes around six miles. But if you plan to go longer than that in the future, you may want to bring a big backpack that holds a lot of water. Staying hydrated is essential!
5. Check the Weather
Don’t let the weather rain on your hiking parade!
Check the weather beforehand so you won’t run into any issues.
Keep in mind that if it’s hot, then you can expect it to feel at least 10 degrees hotter while you’re on the trail. If you’re in the shade, you might be okay.
If you go hiking when there’s a chance of rain, a trail can become slippery. If it starts downpouring, the path may give way, putting you in harm’s way. And if you’re on a treacherous trail, you really must be careful! Also, remember that rocks become slick, and it’s easy to fall.
Always be aware of the weather conditions in your area. While you can’t always predict the weather, you can prepare in case a rogue storm tries to catch you off guard.
The weather is one reason why you should keep your family informed of your whereabouts. Plan for the worst-case scenario, especially if you’re doing an all-day hike.
6. Bring a Friend
As you begin your hiking adventures, think about bringing a friend or friends along. There’s safety in numbers, especially if the trail is in a remote area.
You may enjoy being a solo hiker, and that’s okay. As a beginner, however, you may want to ask a friend to come along. You’ll stay safer and have twice the amount of fun!
There are plenty of benefits to having a hiking buddy. For one, you’ll have someone to chat with and get to know better.
Regarding safety, if you were to get lost together, you’ll have a better chance of getting back on track. If you’re alone, you may panic and get disoriented, which can make matters worse.
7. Download a Hiking App
Download a hiking app so you can connect with other hikers and learn about new trails! Hiking and outdoor apps allow you to engage with different nature and hiking enthusiasts.
On AllTrails, you can record your trail as you hike. If you’re out of range, you can still download a map ahead of time so you won’t get lost.
Some apps allow you to write reviews of the hikes you’ve gone on. Providing feedback gives other hikers intel on the trail and what to expect. Likewise, reading over other’s reviews helps you learn more about the route, parking, etc.
There’s no going back once you have the hiking bug. It’s a hobby you’re absolutely going to love!
Once you’ve conquered all the local trails — get out and explore more. Check out hikes in other cities, and have fun venturing to other parts of the United States.
Soon you’ll find you’re no longer a novice. You’re a hiking pro who eats, sleeps, and breathes nature!
Caitlin Sinclair is the Property Manager at Woodland Park with five years of property management experience and many more in Customer Service. She shares her passion for her community and looks forward to making Woodland Park the place to call home.