Looking to add variety to your walking routine, experience nature, or take some beautiful photos? Try adding hiking to your walking repertoire!
If you’re a casual walker, the word ‘hiking’ might seem a bit intimidating. It conjures up images of high mountain peaks, muddy trails, and heavy backpacks laden with all manner of expensive equipment.
While that vision might be true in some cases, hiking is an accessible, easy way to add variety to your walking program. Wouldn’t it be nice to see new things, explore nature a little, and feel a sense of accomplishment while you’re at it?
This doesn’t mean you should set out to climb Mt. Everest or explore the Grand Canyon—not yet, at least! There are plenty of options available almost everywhere – including where you live! Here are a few tips to help get you started and reaching your step goals on the trail instead of on the road.
Discover Nearby Trails
The first step to starting a hiking routine is finding out what trails are available near where you live. Hiking does take a little more planning than just walking out your door and down the street, but the rewards are worth it.
You can find resources online through sites like AllTrails.com or your state’s Audubon Society website. What’s more important, they also provide ratings of the trails. This helps to ensure that you won’t end up stuck in an area that’s beyond your comfort zone, unless you want to push yourself!
Some important things to keep in mind:
Trail length – Make sure the trail you pick isn’t too long. Unlike city walking, there’s probably not going to be park benches or a coffee shop to sit and take a break. Make sure it’s a walk you can complete!
Mobile service – Try to find out if you can get mobile reception in the hiking area. With no cell signal, you won’t be able to call for help if you’re lost or injured.
Trail difficulty – There’s a big difference between walking on a well-maintained trail and a path in the woods. Make sure you can handle any natural obstacles or difficulty.
Trail location – Make sure you can get too and from the walking location easily! If you end up very tired from walking, make sure you have a safe way to get home.
Hike with a Goal in Mind
Do you want to see the sunrise from the top of a hill? Do you like taking scenic photographs? Or, maybe you enjoy observing plants and animals in the wild.
If so, try bringing your camera (or just your phone) and take some beautiful pictures of your hike. You can share them to your Pacer Feed or social media accounts, or create a new Pacer Route and share them that way.
Hiking is more than just walking to achieve your step goals. It gives you the unique opportunity to walk with a purpose and an immediate feeling of satisfaction when you reach the top of that hill, capture that perfect image, or spy that rare bird you’ve never seen nesting in the bushes.
Your hiking goals help to enhance your motivation and keep you on pace toward your fitness goals, something we all need now and again.
Come Well Equipped
Aside from finding yourself on the wrong trail for your skill level, realizing you forgot something important back at your car can derail even the best hike. Assuming you’re going for a gentle hike, you don’t want to take too much gear that you’re weighted down and your back hurts. It is good to plan ahead just in case, however!
We’re not covering gear selection in this article, but you can find a few recommendations from our previous hiking piece. You don’t need to make a trip to your local wilderness outfitter to get out on the trail, but you will need a few things to make the experience a positive one. Make a checklist and have, at minimum, the following things with you before you take that first step at the trailhead.
- A simple, comfortable backpack
- Your phone … with Pacer on it of course!
- Weather-appropriate clothes that will dry easily
- Plenty of water
- A snack … or lunch if that’s your goal
- Map of the hiking trail (you can use your phone if you’re sure you have enough battery and you can get cell reception)
- Good, comfortable hiking shoes
Depending on the season, you’ll also want to carry or apply bug spray and sunscreen before you begin. You may need to add or subtract from this list depending on the location. Make sure to put safety #1! It’s better to take something with you and not need it then get stuck on the trail without it.
Hike with a Buddy and Hike Safe!
Two of the most important safety tips for hiking are always hike with at least one friend, and tell someone where and when you’re going.
It’s more fun hiking with a buddy as well! While easy and moderate trails aren’t typically dangerous, it’s always a good idea to hike together just in case of an injury or emergency. If you do happen to get injured, your friend can assist you or go for help if necessary. It’s also less likely that two or more people will get lost.
Even if you’re hiking with friends, make sure to tell someone not on your hike where you’ll be and when you expect to be back. This way, if you get lost or if there’s some kind of emergency where you can’t call for help, someone can call for help for you.
Hiking is just plain fun! You’ll chew up the miles—and your step goals—without even noticing as you talk, laugh, and enjoy being together in the outdoors. Going for an occasional hike can bring new energy to your walking routine by changing up the location and scenery. Take some great nature photos and enjoy some fresh air by adding hiking to your walks!