So You Want to Go on a Hike

How do you get started?

Hiking can be an amazing way to get out of doors, explore nature, get exercise. What are the main things to think about?

Three big things to think about:

  1. Who am I going with?
  2. Where am I going?
  3. What do I bring? What do I wear?

Part 1: Who Am I Going With?

Group or Solo

Hiking is a great way to explore the outdoors and enjoy nature near and far. Especially for new or young hikers, the company can make or break the trip. Knowing who you’re hiking with can also open up the opportunity to explore new locations, go for a slightly longer outing, or move into hiking more technical routes (more on routes in Part 2, Where am I going?). 

If you’re new to hiking and are looking for tips and tricks about hiking, asking a friend or family member who is a more seasoned hiker to take you along for a short day hike. This can be a low-key way to start. If you’re new to an area, look up a local hiking group that you might join. Many of these are sponsored by local outdoor shops. If you prefer to hike alone, you’re in good company: many people take to the trails for some personal time in nature. 

What is my – and my groups’ – fitness level?

One of the most important parts of starting on a hike – with a group or solo – is to have a good sense of your own fitness. This means taking a realistic look at your current fitness and being realistic about your endurance, strength and balance, as well as any medical conditions. Ask yourself how far you think (or know) you can hike, how long you can or want to be outdoors, how comfortable are you on uneven, rocky, or technical terrain. Are you hiking in a new location – if so, are you at a new, higher elevation? Do you have the medications you need (e.g., inhaler, epipen) for emergencies?

It is also important to assess the fitness of the group members you are going with. Hiking with a group of people with similar fitness levels often leads to the most comfortable hiking as the group meshes well throughout the day. Look at the group and notice age group differences: are you hiking with small children, older adults, young adults? There is no fitness level too low to start hiking, however, if entering an experienced group of hikers, be sure you voice your goals for the day (“I’m learning the basics, not climbing a 14er!”) before you start, so that the whole group can be in sync.

Regardless of whether you’re hiking in a group or solo, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Be sure you leave your start/stop location, planned trail route, and estimated return time with a friend or family member, and be sure to check in with them to let them know when you’re back home safely.

As you grow in comfort and confidence on the trail, it can then becomes your turn to take new hikers out onto the trail. This allows you to grow your leadership skills, and to be a role model for good hiking practices.  Most of all, it allows you to share the joy of hiking with others!

How to start planning your hike.

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