How to Plan My Hiking Route Part 1: Where Am I Going?

How to plan a hike, or where should I go?  A lot that goes into answering this question, including:

  1. How do I find a trail/route?
  2. What is in the route (how far, how much elevation)
  3. What season is it?
  4. What are other logistics I need to keep in mind?

Today we’ll talk about the first step in deciding your route: finding a trail. Stay tuned for the next posts.

  1. Where am I Going, aka How to find a trail?!

Trails are all over, but where they start, how they connect, and what kind of terrain they cover can be somewhat mysterious.

Paper maps!

Traditionally, you would use a paper map. These are great tools, and often allow for unimpeded trail browsing, however, these days you are much more likely to start searching digitally for a trail.

The most common way of finding a route is using a web search or trail app. Guidebooks, local groups and friends are also great sources of information regarding trails and trail conditions. A few resources are here:

AllTrails: this uber-popular (20 million+ users!) app is easy to use, has thousands of trails, and has many ways of searching for routes. Want nearby trails? Scenic trails? Trails with water access? You can filter them here.

Hiking Project: Another very popular trail finding app, you can find state-by-state recommendations and more.

Gaia Maps: This app allows you to search and find trails, record activities, create routes, and more. Paid versions offer ability to take Outside classes, digital magazines, and terrain/weather information.

For basic info including trail and access conditions, seasonal closures and other updates (like fire status) on public lands, the US Forest Service local Forest Service page is where you want to go. Similarly, info for and maps of trails on National Parks and BLM land can be found from their webpages.

If you are looking for local urban hikes, check out your city’s open space trail maps for information. Published guidebooks abound for trails by state, near a city, or in a wilderness area – check your bookstore or library for these gems.

Want to find a group to hike with? Try your local hiking meetup, mountaineering club, cross country ski club (they probably hike in the summer), or local trail running groups. You can search for local clubs here. You can also peruse “eye candy” photos and join in conversations on the hiking communities on Slack and Reddit.

2 thoughts on “How to Plan My Hiking Route Part 1: Where Am I Going?

  1. Pingback: How to Plan My Hiking Route Part 2: Distance & Elevation - Bun on the Run

  2. Pingback: How to Plan My Hiking Route Part 3: Seasons & Weather - Bun on the Run

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