If the concept of trekking through woods, wading through creeks, sloshing up muddy trails, and hoisting yourself over roots and rocks appeals to you, it’s time to learn how to become serious about hiking. Hiking is one of the most flexible outdoor activities there is—nearly every location has a hiking trail; you can hike at any skill level; and you can bring however many other hikers you want along for the ride.
No matter how or where you learn how to hike, you’ll always have some essential rules to follow. Pay attention to these hiking tips for beginners and learn everything you should know about the trails less traveled.
Depending on where you choose to hike, you may find you can pick from multiple different trails. Larger hiking locations often provide adventurers with trail choices that reflect the different difficulty levels for every type of hiker—young, old, experienced, or novice—so that they can find the trail that’s right for them. Sometimes, trails intersect or follow similar routes for a short time. This may confuse you as a beginner hiker, especially if you’re going the opposite way of the intersecting trail. Make sure you consult your trail guide often and follow your own trail markers. You may feel tempted to switch trails along the way, but doing so may result in you and your group getting lost.
Most importantly, remember that the trails are there for a reason. If you’re a beginner, there’s no reason for you to carve out your own path through the woods or up a mountain. You could get lost, and you may also find hazards you wouldn’t find on the trails, such as wildlife and dangerous terrain.
The boots make the hiker, and if you’re wearing uncomfortable footwear, then you can put yourself at risk of tripping or blisters and other foot injuries. You may feel tempted to go on a spontaneous hike wearing casual footwear such as sandals or flats, but it’s best if you change into shoes that give you good support and that can handle the sometimes wet or dirty terrain on a hiking trail.
Know what kind of trail you’ll be hiking, and pick your footwear accordingly—some paths may require you to have waterproof boots or shoes if you need to go through water.
If you think you’re drinking enough water, drink more anyway—especially during the summer. Hiking during the summer can be challenging due to the amount of water you lose while doing it. Bring along several bottles of water or one large water bottle; unless you’ve traveled the trail before, you never know whether or not you’ll come across a place to refill your water bottle.
In addition to drinking enough water, make sure you’re giving yourself enough nutrition while you hike. On a beginner trail, you may not feel as though you’re doing an exhausting workout, but if you have an empty stomach, the exercise will hit you harder—and not in a good way. Bring healthy snacks such as trail mix or granola bars just in case you get the munchies while you’re in the wilderness.
Temperatures and weather events add extra layers of unpredictability to any hike. You may make it halfway up your trail and encounter a sudden pop-up shower. Before you go on your hike, be sure to check the weather. If there’s a chance of isolated thunderstorms, be careful! Watch the clouds when you can, and remember: when thunder roars, stay indoors.
When you’re a beginner hiker, you may not have the perfect wardrobe with the right hiking gear. What you wear makes a huge difference in the quality of your hike, and it all depends on the environment in which you’ll be hiking. If you’re planning a hike in the woods, you may want to cover up more than you would if you were hiking out in the open. It’ll be cooler under the verdant canopy of twisting, leafy branches, and you’ll also protect yourself from any pests that lurk in the shelter of the trees. Mountainous hikes may require you to pack layers as you ascend to new heights. Hiking in the bright sunshine may allow you to dress light, but you’ll also need to continuously apply sunscreen to avoid sunburns.
Your wardrobe should also contain accessories that keep you safe while you hike. Some accessories you should bring on a hike include:
Outdoor hiking backpacks come in a variety of sizes, and each size has its use. Make sure to pick the right-size pack for your lifestyle and choice of challenge level for each hike you complete.
Littering is a serious problem in our local, state, and national parks. It’s important that you don’t contribute to the issue as a hiker. Respect your hiking trails by holding onto any trash you create while you hike. Never leave behind any marks or graffiti unless it’s an emergency or the park allows it.
No matter where you hike, you’re likely to encounter local fauna. Don’t underestimate the raw power of nature, including the animals. Even the smallest rodent can hurt you and inflict disease on you, and you certainly can’t challenge something as large as a bear.
If you encounter any dangerous predators, back away slowly before they see you. Don’t interact with any small animals, either, as you may disrupt the ecosystem and encourage the animals’ reliance on humans. Never take a creature home with you unless it doesn’t belong on the trails—such as a lost dog or cat.
Most importantly, be patient. You won’t become an expert hiker within a day, and you’re bound to make mistakes. Be sure to learn from your mistakes and to keep an open mind. When you’re traveling with a group, don’t try to rush or succumb to peer pressure with a decision you’re uncomfortable with. Learn your limits gradually—don’t rush into the most challenging trails without proper practice first.
Following these simple hiking tips for beginners should make your first hiking trip an incredible experience. Remember to stop and take in the beauty of nature several times during your hike—the entire activity allows you to feel close to nature, and it can be a meditative experience for you.
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