Hiking for Beginners: The Ultimate 101 Guide for New Hikers
The beauty was all around me. I really couldn’t believe how deep and expansive the valley floor was from where I was standing. Looking around, I could see the two large peaks from looking over the Brecon beacon. A red kite took off from a branch from behind me and soared right over the cliff face that I was standing on. It was hard to believe that I had gotten to this amazing spot after only a few miles of hiking!
If you’ve been considering getting into hiking, but you’ve been hesitant because you don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. One of my favorite things to do is seek out beautiful places to hike, like the one I mentioned from my trip to Brecon beacon National Park in the beginning! My second favorite thing to do is to share it with people so that they can feel the same joy and exhilaration as I do each time I step on trail.
In this guide, you will learn:
- How to Plan for a Hike
- Tips for While You’re Hiking
- What to do at the End of Your Hike
Let’s get started!
How to Plan for a Hike
One of the first things that you need to do before your boots hit the dirt is to figure out what sort of hiking you want to do. There are several disciplines to choose from, all of which will require different levels of skill, gear, and planning. The three levels to consider when first starting out from easiest to plan to most difficult are:
Day trips are a lot of fun and easy for beginners to plan because they don’t require that you spend the night out on the trail. That means that you only have to account for the gear, food, and water that you plan on bringing along for that day only.
Additionally, you have a lot more options in terms of trails to choose from when day hiking, which makes it a lot easier to choose where to go!
If you have experience with day hiking and you want to be able to access more remote destinations, multi-day hiking is for you. Multi-day hiking will require that you put a little more planning into your trip as you’ll need to account for more gear such as a tent and sleeping bag, as well as your water filtration system and the food you’ll need to carry with you.
One of the most challenging, and often times most rewarding, disciplines in hiking is thru hiking. It is highly recommended that you have several years of experience day hiking and multi-day hiking before you attempt a thru-hike because there are tons of skills and planning considerations you need to have to be safe and successful.
Thru hiking is also challenging because you’ll likely need to plan around how you’ll get from the end of the trail back to where you parked at the beginning! Make sure to have a plan in place for when you finish your hike so you can return home at the end of your journey.
In each case, you’ll need to make sure that you have a good set of hiking boots or trail runners to keep your feet comfortable throughout your hike. The best thing to do here is to go to an outdoor specialty shop to get a professional to help you find the right boot or shoe for your feet. There’s really nothing worse than having uncomfortable shoes while hiking!
To find trails that would be suitable for each discipline of hiking, I recommend using an app like AllTrails to locate a trail that is best suited for what you want to do with your hike. AllTrails is great because you can set the filters to help you find the exact trail that will fit your needs. Each trail is also rated by users to help you know from others what their experience was while hiking, so you’ll know a bit more of what to expect before you get on the trail!
Tips for While You’re Hiking
You’ve selected the type of hiking you want to do, selected a trail, and now you’re ready to hit the trail. Now all that’s left to do is get to where you’re going! But what can you expect while on the trail? Take these tips into consideration so that you have a safe and enjoyable hike.
- Make sure that you stay on trail the entire time you’re hiking.
Staying on trail is important to ensure that the ecosystem where you’re hiking is protected from unnecessary erosion. It is also important so that you don’t get lost! If you need to step off the trail, try to stay as close as you can to the trail tread and be sure to look where you’re going to step off to.
2. Take breaks as often as you need to.
If you’re new to hiking, you’ll likely need to take several breaks to ensure that your heart rate stays in a safe zone. Remember that hiking can be a strenuous activity! Take your time and try to take your breaks where there is plenty of shade and good views to enjoy!
3. Drink plenty of water!
Aim to drink about a liter of water for every hour that you’re hiking at a minimum. As mentioned before, hiking can be a strenuous activity! One of the most common problems that new hikers have is dehydration. To optimize your hydration, consider bringing some electrolyte tablets to drop in your water!
4. Take only pictures and leave only footprints.
One of the most important things to remember when hiking is that nature can be very delicate. If you disturb the ecosystem by taking rocks, pinecones, or anything else out of it, you risk harming the plants and animals that depend on those resources to survive. In order to preserve the beauty of the areas that you choose to hike in, choose to take pictures of the interesting things you find along the way and ensure that the footprints you leave are only on the trail.
5. Respect Other Hikers.
Remember that when you’re hiking on public lands that you need to respect the fact that you’re likely not the only one using the trail on the day that you’re hiking. A great way to demonstrate respect for other hikers is to say hello and step off to the side if you meet another hiker traveling the opposite direction that you’re traveling. Let people pass you if they’re hiking faster than you. And please, please, please don’t play music on a speaker. If you need to listen to music while you hike, use headphones.
What to do at the End of Your Hike
A really good tip for when you immediately finish your hike is to have a cooler in your car full of cold drinks and something to eat. I can’t tell you how many times my day has been saved by having something to eat and a cold drink to sip on after hiking several miles during the day!
Another great tip is to make sure to stretch your legs and back as those two areas were likely used a lot while you were hiking. Stretching will help prevent overuse injuries and will keep you hiking longer!
When you get home, be sure to clean up your hiking gear and properly store it. Clean any dirt or mud off of your boots to make sure that they stay in good shape for as long as possible. The same thing goes for your pack and clothing! Dirt, sweat, and grime all create friction points on your gear that can wear it down and shorten the life of your gear if not cleaned properly.
One of the best things that I can recommend to new hikers is to remember to enjoy your trip. Take it slow at first and remember that the goal isn’t to beat the other hikers to the end point. The goal is to enjoy your time in the outdoors! Make a plan, enjoy the journey, and make sure to have plenty of cold drinks to enjoy when you’re done! Where will you go first? Let us know by dropping a comment below!