Hiking for beginners: How to get started

Hiking is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of society and feel fully engaged in the beauties of the natural world. If you’ve thought about hiking but have yet to get around to it, there are plenty of tips to get you started. Whether you’re looking to hike up towering mountains or through dense trails spanning miles upon miles, the following hiking tips for beginners will get you prepped and ready for your big outdoor adventure.

Consider the seasonal weather

girl hiking in warm weather with yellow backpack
Holly Mandarich/Unsplash

Unless your plan is to hike up an icy, snow-covered mountain, it can be helpful to know just what kind of hiking environment you will be getting yourself into. If you’re from a warmer location and going to a location up north, it is important to do your research on the weather patterns. Since northern states get snow much earlier than southern states, a nice fall hike might end up being a skiing trip if you’re not careful.

Beyond understanding your hiking location’s climate, figuring out what kind of hike you want is a great way to ensure it is enjoyable. While avid hikers scale mountains and trails all year long, rain or shine, you may feel like you want to work your way up to that level. In that case, check out these tips for planning out the perfect trip with the perfect weather:

  • Decide if you want to hike in the heat, in the cold, or in a more mild temperature. This will help you decide between spring, summer, fall, or winter hikes.
  • If possible, plan your hikes as late as you can. This will help you see a weekly forecast in case of rain or thunderstorms.
  • Overdress whenever you decide to hike. Dressing for the weather that could possibly occur, even if it’s not in the forecast, will ensure the most comfortable hike possible, whether it’s in ice, rain, or sunshine.

Pick a hiking partner or group

group of people hiking while wearing large backpacks
Austin Ban/Unsplash

While some adventurers with an independent nature like to venture off into the wilderness alone, it is not advisable. Hiking tends to be a generally safe activity, especially around national parks, but there is always a risk. Because of this, finding yourself a hiking partner or a small group of hikers is the best way to stay safe on the trails. In the cases of snake bites, sprained ankles, getting lost, and more, it is always safer to travel in numbers.

Find a manageable trail

If you are ready to tackle your very first hike, it can be helpful to pick a manageable trail. All state parks offer maps and difficulty levels of each and every trail, allowing you to find the one that is perfect for beginners.

Starting off small is the best way to ensure your clothes and gear fit well, you have enough snacks and water, and you feel comfortable out in nature. Once you accomplish your first few trails, you’ll be ready to move up the ranks and challenge yourself more and more with each new adventure.

Some extra tips that can help you find the right trail for your first few hikes include:

  • Talk to locals about the best trails for you.
  • Consider elevation and length — trails with elevation take longer.
  • Arrive early to give yourself enough time to complete the trail before dusk.
  • Keep your fitness level in mind.

Buy the right gear

a bunch of hiking gear laid out
Muhammad Masood/Unsplash

If you are serious about hiking and ready to be equipped with the essentials, these are the main types of items you should look for:

  • Something for sun protection: Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, etc.
  • Something to keep you warm: Insulated hiking jacket, rain jacket, vest, etc.
  • Something to light up the night: Flashlight, hat light, reflective clothing, etc.
  • Something for emergencies or accidents: First aid kit, fully-charged phone, etc.
  • Something to keep you energized: Protein bars, nutrition bars, fruit, etc.
  • Something to keep you hydrated: Camelback, water bottles, sports drinks, etc.
  • Something to carry it all in: Hiking backpack.

Beyond just the types of items you need for a long hiking trip, you also need certain clothing and footwear for this strenuous activity. Clothing, in particular, is fully dependent on the weather. Even during hot summer months, it is important to bring a light jacket because temperatures can drop as you go farther and farther up a mountain. There are a variety of great clothing options that combine insulating warmth with flexibility to ensure the best fit. When it comes to buying shoes, hiking boots are the way to go. Designed to grip the ground, support the ankle, and provide overall comfort, you cannot go wrong with a good hiking boot.

Going on a hiking excursion is fun, and it’s a great workout and a great way to bond with your partner or group. It is the perfect way to sweat off some calories while enjoying the beauty of nature, too, and that is not something you can find in the gym. Whether you’re going hiking in your own backyard or across the country, preparation is important. You’ll be glad you have all the supplies you need to make every hiking trip as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible.

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