- How do I find a trail/route? ✓
- What is in the route: distance, elevation ✓
- What season is it?
- What are other logistics?
Logistics are the small but critical things that are a little bit boring to think about, but have a huge impact on the overall hike or outdoor trip. These include permits, trail conditions, trail/area closures, fire awareness, transportation, weather, and communication.
The biggest of these is likely transportation. Transportation depends on the route style you picked earlier (Part 2!). If you are doing an out and back, you’ve got it made: your car is where you end up. If you chose a point-to-point, you’ll need to arrange to be dropped off or picked up at your start and end points. This can be done easily with a friend/family member (maybe buy them a coffee or some lunch!), or, if you are in an urban setting, with a car service like Lyft/Uber. If you are doing a point-to-point and are relying on someone to pick you up, you want to be able to tell them when and where to pick you up. Hopefully you have a good idea of timing from your distance/time trip planning (Part 2!), so you don’t leave your friend stranded for hours waiting for you.
You will want to keep in mind the time of day you want to be starting out and how long it takes to drive to your trailhead to ensure you start on time. Give yourself time to use the bathroom, fill out any trailhead paperwork, and tie your shoes.
Permits! While many trailheads are free, many trailheads have a user fee. Be sure you have the fee, and fill out the documentation required. Be sure to place the proof of payment in the designated location (rearview mirror/front dashboard/etc.) to avoid any accidental citations. Many National Forest or other sites that have usage fees honor the America the Beautiful Annual Pass (aka “National Parks Pass”): check the trail/forest/wilderness/BLM information page to find out what fees are, and what passes are required or honored.
If you are camping or backpacking, be sure you check out the overnight parking regulations for that location. If you plan to have a picnic or campsite, be sure you check whether the sites are first come, first served, or if you need to make a reservation.
Next, you’ll want to do a check trail conditions. This means checking out the hosting area’s website (like the Forest Service) for any alerts on trail closures, construction, or changes. This can happen due to floods, fires, or trail maintenance activities. These sites are generally kept up to date. You can also check out an app like AllTrails to peek in on recent reviews of the trails you will be traveling on; these are particularly helpful when on the lookout for ice or snow in spring or fall, muddy or washed out conditions, and wildlife sightings.
It’s wildfire season here in New Mexico (& much of the West), and as our skies are a dull reddish-gray all day long this week, fire is forefront on our minds. You will want to keep in mind forest fires in the area, smoke and air quality. More important if you are planning on camping or extended hiking with cooking: check whether and what type of flame (fires? grills? stoves? none?) is allowed.
A last check on weather conditions the evening before you plan to head out for your hike is a good idea. Long-term weather forecasts are amazing, but things can change, and you want to be sure you are prepared for what’s coming up.
Lastly, send your finalized itinerary to your trusted person(s) so they know what you are doing, where you are going, and when you plan to be back. Then, enjoy your hike and don’t forget to check in with them when you get back! Happy Hiking!
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