If you want to get outside, opt to take a hike. You don’t need a whole lot of fancy gear or knowledge to start hiking, but you’ll immediately see the health benefits of getting outside and spending time on the trail. In this day hiking guide for beginners, we will dive deep into how to get into hiking.
As you grow and develop as a hiker, other activities open up to you, such as mountaineering, backpacking, even rock climbing. I’ve developed this ultimate guide to day hiking for beginners, so you can get out smarter and be prepared for the trail ahead. These hiking tips for beginners aim to help you make the most of your time on the trail.
Simply put, the best way to get started with hiking is to go for a hike! When you first start hiking, pick a short hike (between 2 and 5 miles) so you can get familair with what to expect, and how to follow a trail. A great way to get started with hiking is to go on a popular hike. Thay way if something goes awry, you’ll be able to seek advice or help from fellow hikers. Here’s a look at planning and executing your first hike.
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Hiking Tips for Beginners to Plan Like a Pro
There are many resources available to you to start planning a hike. However, before we begin we want to look at where to start. With countless trails in the US alone, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the planning process. For beginner hikers, you want to start your search off right. Understand the where, what, and how of the trail you’re going to tackle.
Factors to Consider When Planning Your First Hike
If it’s your first time on the trail, start small. New activities tend to make people nervous, so don’t be ashamed to even do a simple three-mile hike. Believe me, I’ve been on some three-milers that are rather difficult. Keep in mind, it takes the average hiker roughly 30 minutes to cover a mile. Add in a few breaks, and you can see how an eight-mile hike can easily take up the majority of your day. Although mileage plays a role, it’s not the only thing to consider when planning a hike.
The elevation is another important factor to think about when planning your first hike. If you aren’t used to elevation, but you’re hiking in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, you may want to take the starting elevation of your hike into consideration. Another important factor is the elevation gain. It takes the average hiker 30 minutes to cover 1,000 of vertical gain. Those 30 minutes are spent working quite hard, especially if the gain happens over a shorter distance. When researching trails, take a look at the elevation profile. An elevation profile tells you how steep a trail is over a certain distance. If you can’t find one, us an app to trace out a trail to see what you’re up against.
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Next, and most importantly, are the predicted conditions for the day of your hike. Always check NOAA for the weather. You can type your area, and sometimes even trailhead, in the search bar and get pinpoint accurate weather. NOAA doesn’t care about their ratings, so you don’t need to worry about fanaticism in the forecast. Furthermore, they have hand hourly graphs on the bottom right side of the page that will tell you useful information such as storms, wind speed, and cloud cover. If you’re heading out in winter to an avalanche-prone area, be sure to check your local avalanche report before hitting the snowy trail.
Putting it All Together
Ok, so you may be thinking 30 minutes, that’s no big deal, I can handle that. However, if you’re headed up an incline that gains 1,000 in a mile, that’s roughly a 19% grade, quite significant when you think about it. If you equate that to skiing terms, you’re pushing into expert terrain. I wouldn’t recommend this kind of intensity for beginner hikers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it a goal for the future! Start with a beginner hike that is a bit more manageable and has an interesting feature to motivate you through the difficult sections.
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However, if you are gaining 1,000 feet over five miles, that’s much more reasonable. You’ll still feel the uphill, but it won’t be the butt-kicking suffer-fest. Keep in mind that it will take you around two and a half hours to make that distance, so it may be longer, but it won’t be as physically demanding.
Resources for Finding Hiking Trails
Now that you understand how quickly you can move, the next step for how to get into hiking is to find that perfect hiking trail. There are many websites and resources for finding the perfect hike. My go-to hiking resource is Alltrails.com. It’s free to set up an account, you can print maps, save trails, get recent reports, and explore. The paid version of the app offers a GPS feature. Another great resource is the Hiking Project. It’s not quite as up-to-snuff as AllTrails, but it usually has what I need when AllTrails fails me.
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For bigger hikes and mountains, I love Summit Post. Beta, or route information, varies greatly on the site, but it will usually help me get started in my search. I also rely heavily on blogs, trip reports, and Facebook Groups. However, I will do a little research before I go into a forum or group, so my question is specific. Facebook groups are great for asking about current conditions, road closures, and so on.
For GPS needs, I use the free TopoMaps+ app on my iPhone. I don’t believe it’s available on Andriod (yet), but Gaia is another great resource. You can purchase the full app and it’s fantastic, or you can simply use the free version. Be sure to download the topo maps before heading to the trailhead. Simply trace the route (by looking at a map on AllTrails or similar website) and then download the section of the map where you drew your route.
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