Liv Nomadic

Top Tips for a Beginner Hiker

If you are new to hiking or are looking to get into hiking, it is understandable that it can be a bit intimidating. The good news is there isn’t all that much to it and it really isn’t as intimidating as it may seem to be. 

To help you jumpstart your journey to becoming an avid hiker, I have compiled a list which I hope will help you become more comfortable on the trails and will help avoid making any beginner mistakes. 

Only Leave Your Footprints and Only Take Photos

When you go on a hike, it is important to remember the phrase “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” This means that you should not disturb or damage the natural environment in any way. 

Additionally, leaving behind trash or other debris can be harmful to wildlife and plant life, so it is important to pack out everything you bring in. 

Many people believe that leaving apple cores or orange peels is okay because it is organic and will decompose back into the environment. While this is true, it can also be quite harmful and even poisonous to wildlife. Not to mention it will also attract wildlife to the trails which could impact the safety of future hikers.

Bottom line is whatever you bring on a hike is not meant to be there in the first place and should be brought back down to ensure the safety and longevity of the trails.

Choose a Trail that Matches your Fitness Level

As a new hiker, it’s important to choose hikes that are appropriate to your skillset and physical ability.

I know it may be tempting to tackle some of the longer trails with beautiful views, starting with something more manageable will allow you to build confidence and also avoid injury.

I often find people get very excited about the views of some of the more challenging hikes but then forget how challenging they can be. Unfortunately, because of this it is very common to see people turning back early because they realized they were in too far over their head. 

Beginners should choose trails that are well-marked, shorter in length, and have moderate elevation gains. If you aren’t sure how to figure out which trails are best for you, we recommend looking into All Trails mobile app as it has a huge library of trails with many reviews to help you better understand what you are getting yourself into. It also provides important stats like elevation and the length of the trail.

As you gain more experience and confidence, you can gradually increase the difficulty of your hikes. Remember, hiking should be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, so take the time to research and plan your hikes accordingly.

Share the trail

Hikers and bikers share many of the same trails, and it’s important that both groups respect each other and learn to coexist. 

Sharing the trails means being aware of your surroundings and taking precautions to ensure everyone can enjoy nature. 

Hikers need to be mindful of bikers and should stay to the right side of the trail to allow bikers to pass safely. Bikers, on the other hand, should announce their presence when approaching hikers from behind (bells work well), slow down or stop when passing, and yield to hikers when needed.

Remember, trails are for everyone to enjoy, so it’s important to be courteous and share the space. Both bikers and hikers need to be able to respect each other to make sure everyone can enjoy the outdoors safely and no one gets hurt. 

Remember the Map and Know How to Read it

Knowing how to read a map can be tricky but is also very beneficial to make sure you don’t get lost or don’t go down a connecting trail unintentionally. 

Most parks with well marked trails will have a big map sign at the trailhead (the start of the trail). Always be sure to take a picture of the map and plan a route that you want to take so you know what to look for. 

Often I find myself rarely sticking to one trail, and will end up choosing a path that uses several trails. Planning your route before will help you remember what signage you are looking for next so you don’t end up getting lost. 

Don’t Get Caught Up in All the Unnecessary Gear 

I find when people first begin a new hobby, they get caught up believing they need all this expansive gear to help them be the best equipped. 

Fortunately hiking is not one of those activities that require a lot of gear to get started. In the simplest form, all you need is a good pair of closed toed shoes, and a backpack. This will be more than enough to get you started on easier trails and residential/local parks. 

Once you develop a better sense of your desire to continue hiking and tackle more challenging trails, you can always opt to invest in better shoes or hiking boots, hiking poles, a better backpack and other gear. But again just to start there is very little or no investment needed.

Keep the Weather in Mind

It is also very important to pick a day with favorable weather conditions so you can have a pleasant and safe experience.

Bad weather can lead to accidents and can make the hike uncomfortable and borderline miserable. 

Even if you’re set on hiking in any weather, it’s essential to check the forecast beforehand and equip yourself with the necessary gear to keep yourself dry and safe.

I have definitely been guilty of driving for a few hours to a really nice trail only to realize I didn’t check the weather and didn’t bring a waterproof jacket. Trust me it’s a very avoidable mistake you don’t want to make.

I hope that by now you recognize that hiking is a very cost effective fun way to get outdoors and get some exercise. Unlike some other types of exercise, hiking is inexpensive and very attainable for all.

 Please keep in mind my six top tips above to help make sure your experience is enjoyable and effective.

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