Hiking for Beginners: 6 Tips to Get You Started
So, you want to get into hiking? Cool. Hiking is an amazing way to promote physical and psychological well-being and work toward being your healthiest self. It’s one of only a few activities that allows you to connect with nature, unplug from everyday life, and get moving, all at the same time. We’ve compiled a few tips on hiking for beginners to give you a successful start. Avoid being unprepared and consequently turning an otherwise invigorating experience into a miserable mess.
- Choose a trail wisely
If you’re planning your first hiking trip, research needs to be your top priority. The trail you choose can possibly make or break your experience and future enthusiasm for hiking in general. Using the internet, a trail guide, or a variety of relevant apps, find an easy trail. Maybe not a trail where you can push a stroller, but probably not a 2,500-foot elevation change in three miles type of trail. Just saying.
Also consider your current fitness level. Hiking is more than just a walk in the park, it’s a walk up a mountain. If you aren’t already exercising on a regular basis, then start. And if you’re starting now, with hiking, then start with shorter, easier trails and work your way up. Remember, hiking is not like running on a treadmill. Don’t push yourself further than is safe. There aren’t a lot of doctors in the forest, and you may not get cell service either.
- Join a hiking group
Some people like to hike alone. It’s their way of getting away from people and rebooting their mind and body. But even if you plan on doing some solo hiking in the future, it may be a good idea to start with other people. If you can’t drag your roommate or spouse to the trail with you, consider joining a hiking group. There is a plethora of ways to meet other hikers of all experience and skill levels. Plus, you get to meet some truly awesome people who would probably be happy to share their expertise and stories with you. Meetup is a website/app with hiking groups all over the world. No matter where you are, you’ll be able to find fellow hikers. If you’re a parent who wants to take your kiddos hiking and meet other parent at the same time, consider something like Hike It Baby.
If you decide to forego a hiking group and hit the trail on your own, it’s a good idea to let someone know where you’re going. We’ve heard the stories. Stay safe!
- Check the weather
More specifically, check the weather near the trail you’re planning to hike! Although it may be warm and sunny near your home, it could be snowing at the trailhead (or maybe this is just a Utah thing?) There’s nothing worse than planning and prepping for an awesome trek, only to have the weather ruin it. Additionally, knowing the estimated temperature can help you plan your attire and help you know if you should bring extra layers.
- Bring water and snacks
Depending on how far you’re hiking, you may not really need snacks. But they certainly make the trip more fun. Trail mix are an obvious choice, but anything else lightweight and high in protein will do. Just don’t feed the wildlife. It’s not a good idea.
Always bring water! If you don’t bring water, you’ll be hating yourself only a mile in. Stay safe by staying hydrated and give yourself the extra energy you need to keep moving. If it’s an especially hot day, consider bringing extra water or a way to purify water if your trail is close to fresh water.
- Wear appropriate clothing, including good shoes
Wearing appropriate clothing will make your hike much more enjoyable. If it’s hot, wear shorts and a lightweight tee. If it’s cold, don’t forget warm socks, a jacket, and maybe even gloves. Not dressing for the weather can/will make your trek miserable and very well may keep you from wanting to try again.
As far as hiking clothing is concerned, just make sure what you wear allows you to move freely and is comfortable. You don’t have to have REI’s latest collection. Focus more of your time and energy choosing appropriate shoes. Blisters will ruin your day. Make sure your shoes fit well and don’t allow for a lot of movement. You want them to fit snuggly on your foot, with minimal rubbing. Also, choose tighter socks that are breathable and not too thin. Consider bringing moleskin with you, just in case you do find yourself blistering.
- Leave no trace
Be respectful! Other hikers are going to be using the trail to escape from the chaos of their lives and they don’t want to see your trash. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to share in these beautiful trails and your trash will not be welcomed. To avoid getting berated by your fellow hikers, please clean up after yourself.
If you’re adequately prepared for you hiking adventure, I guarantee you won’t regret it. Unplugging and connecting with your surroundings gives you the opportunity to build relationships or, if hiking solo, better understand yourself. And if nothing else, you get a good workout. Who knows, maybe you’ll get hooked and in a few years, you’ll be writing a blog, giving hiking for beginners advice.
Share the beginner hiking tips we missed in the comments below!