September 03, 2020 8 min read

 Table of Contents
• How to Prepare for a Hike
• What to Bring on a Hike
• When & Where to Hike During the Year
• Hiking Safety Tips

 

The summer months are the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy a hike. Enjoying the magnificent scenery and wondrous views can be exciting, especially when you have ventured to the top of a mountain or along a trail to see them. But before you plan your next hiking adventure, be sure to plan accordingly to make sure you have everything you need. Keep reading to learn a few tips for hiking for beginners!

How to Prepare for a Hike

In order to enjoy your hiking journey, it is important that your body is ready for the long days filled with climbing over rocks, walking up a steep mountain, or jumping over puddles. While you may not think hiking is strenuous exercise—it is. Hiking requires a lot of strength and balance. Whether you’re taking a short, hour-long hike or planning on spending a few days among the trees and stars for a day-or-two adventure, your body needs to be prepared for the work it will endure. Here are 3 ways to prepare for your hiking journey:

1. Walking or Running

Before you set off on your hiking adventure, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself by doing at least 15-minutes of walking or running a day leading up to your big hike. Walking and running prepares your muscles for the endurance that it will take for a moderate or long hike.

2. Strength Training

Hiking up steep mountains and hills, as well as, climbing over rocks takes a lot of strength! If your muscles aren’t used to it—specifically your calves, hamstrings, and quads—you could experience soreness or even injury if your muscles are strengthened beforehand.

Using light weights (such as 5 or 10-pound dumbbells) or resistance bands when engaging in strength training will help build the muscles in your legs. Some great strength exercises to do that will help build your leg muscles are squats, calf raises, and lunges.

3. Backpack Cardio

Whether you’re taking a long or short hike, it’s essential to carry a backpack with you to make sure you have all the proper hydration, nutrition, and equipment with you. However, these backpacks can weigh at least 10 pounds! This added weight to your body can cause hikers to be off-balance requiring more strength than usual to walk or hike. Prior to your hike, engage in cardio with a backpack on. You can fill your backpack with books, rocks, or other heavy items to simulate the heaviness of the backpack you will be carrying during your hike.

Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park

What to Bring on a Hike

Packing your hiking gear a few days before your adventure is a good way to ensure that you don’t forget anything and aren’t rushing to pack last-minute. What to bring on a hike can vary based on the duration of your journey, but there are 4 essential hiking gear items that all beginner hikers should bring with them:

1. First Aid Kit

Safety first! You never know what will happen when you’re out exploring the wilderness. Whether accidentally stepping in poison ivy or simply getting a blister from your shoes, it’s important to carry a first aid kit with you. Now, you don’t need to be excessive, but having ointments, bandaids, gauze, and isopropyl alcohol with you is a good idea to ensure you have a few ways to remedy yourself and others.

2. Nourishing Snacks

Snacks are key! As mentioned above, hiking is a workout. And like any workout, you will lose energy (and nutrients) causing you to feel hungry. Packing healthy granola bars filled with nuts and seeds, or making your own trail mix with dried fruits and nuts, or packing premade sandwiches are great options full of protein, carbs, and fats that will keep you satiated on your hike.

3. Extra Hydration

Hydration is key to a happy and safe hiking experience. During the summer months especially, it can be hot outside. Since hiking is a workout, you will most likely sweat. Replace any lost fluids and electrolytes with pre-packed water. Because water can get heavy, it might be a good idea to splurge on a travel water purifying tool. These tools purify water that you got from a stream or lake, ensuring that you don’t sip any pesticides, bugs, or other debris found in these bodies of water.

4. Navigation Tools

As much as we rely on our smartphones to navigate us through cities and towns, oftentimes, service is unavailable when hiking. While disconnecting from social media and the outside world is one of the perks of going on an outdoor adventure, it can make it hard to know where to go when your digital map isn’t working. To be safe, it’s a good idea to bring a paper map of the area where you’re hiking with you. Most national parks and regional parks have paper maps available for free at their visitor’s center. When in doubt, stop there first and ask a park ranger for a map so you can make sure you stay on the right trails and paths during your journey.

Yosemite Valley

When & Where to Hike During the Year

The best times of year to hike really depend on the different state and regional parks you’re venturing to. Depending on the area, there are different times of year that will allow you to see more wildlife or experience the beautiful foliage. Keep reading for hiking tips and to find out the best national and regional parks to visit during each season!

Winter

    1. Mount Rainier National Park, Utah - On average, Mount Rainier gets 54 feet of snow every year. If you’re interested in hiking and doing outdoor activities like skiing and snowshoeing, then Mount Rainier is a great place to hike in the winter.
    2. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California - The beauty of Lassen Volcanic National Park truly shines through during the winter months. The volcano’s peak becomes snow-covered allowing for steam to rise above the mountain tops. This national park displays its beauty during the colder months.
    3. Glacier National Park, Montana - Just by the name itself, it’s clear that Glacier National Park is a sight to behold in the winter. Known for its glaciers, the wintertime is prime time to see these icy and snowy peaks.

    Spring

      1. Death Valley National Park, Nevada - The name, “Death Valley,” is enough to make you question your decision to explore this national park. However, visiting Nevada’s national park during the spring is a great time as the temperatures are cooler than they are in the summer. During your visit, make sure to check out the park’s “sailing stones”.
      2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - Since kids are off of school and adults have saved up their PTO, the springtime is the best time of year to visit Grand Canyon, National Park. This park is popular for its canyons and breathtaking views. The perks of visiting in the spring include plenty of photo opportunities and less crowded trails.
      3. Yosemite National Park, California - There is nothing quite like the calming sound of a waterfall. If you’re looking to rejuvenate during your hike, then Yosemite National Park is the perfect place to go on your hike. During the spring, the waterfalls at this national park are lively.

      Summer

        1. Acadia National Park, Maine - Acadia National Park’s landscape of both mountains and beaches makes for a unique hiking experience. Spend the day hiking in the forests while spending your nights relaxing on sandy beaches that line the Atlantic.
        2. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky - Summertime in the south can get quite warm, but there’s a way to cool down while still enjoying the wondrous outdoors. Mammoth Cave National Park has an abundance of cool, dark caves to explore that will keep you out of the blazing summer heat. This national park is ideal to visit in the summer as park rangers lead a variety of tours ranging from cave crawls to canoeing outside of the cavities.
        3. Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska - If you’re looking to spot wildlife on your hike, then Denali National Park & Preserve is the place to venture to during the summer. With long hours of sunlight, you will have the chance to spot grizzly bears and moose—just make sure to tie up your food in the trees before stargazing and hitting the hay!

        Fall

          1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee - There’s nothing quite like seeing the gorgeous fall foliage while hiking to the tops of the Great Smoky Mountains. While exploring these vast peaks, you will enjoy the vibrant colors of the landscape, making for breathtaking views and amazing photo opportunities.
          2. Zion National Park, Utah - Zion National Park can become crowded during the summer months with tourists and explorers. This national park is known for its red cliffs and trails along the Virgin River and is best to be explored during the fall when it is less crowded and the trees are starting to show their magnificent colors.
          3. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming - Visiting Grand Teton National Park in the fall is a surefire way to see the park’s wildlife and luscious fall foliage. With fewer crowds and more beautiful colors, hikers can explore Wyoming’s national park in peace. Plus, adventurers might see a few animals—like bears and wolves—along the way.

          Zion National Park

          Hiking Safety Tips

          Now that you know what to pack with you on your hiking trip, where to adventure to, and when to go exploring, it’s time to make sure you stay safe (especially if you consider yourself a beginner hiker!). Read below to learn more about the top 5 hiking safety tips that beginner hikers should keep in mind when exploring new trails and landscapes.

          1. Don't Push It

          As a beginner hiker, it can be easy to get excited about exploring a new place. However, it’s important that you make a scheduled hiking plan and don’t push past your limits. Being in the mountains and on trails can be tough—you don’t have your normal, everyday luxuries with you on hand. Make sure you know what your limits are and, if you’re feeling tired, to head back to your campsite.

          2. Bring a Friend

          Not only is hiking with a friend or family member a lot more enjoyable (as you can enjoy the magnificent scenery and make lasting memories with someone), but it’s a safer way to hike. Even though most national park trails are vetted by park rangers, there’s always a chance you might run into an unexpecting furry friend or get injured along the way. Having a friend or family member with you ensures that if something does happen, you have someone there to help.

          3. Check the Weather

          While the weather is hard to 100% predict, it’s important to check the weather of the location where you’re hiking before your trip. Unexpected hazardous weather conditions—like thunderstorms and strong winds—can be especially dangerous for beginner hikers (let alone experienced ones!). Checking the weather beforehand is imperative to ensuring your safety and inclusion of weatherproof equipment in your backpack.

          4. Bear Safety

          Many national parks are home to bears. As much as it is incredible to spot one of these four-legged creatures during your adventure, it can be dangerous if you’re not prepared. Hiking in groups, having bells attached to your clothing, talking during your hike, and carrying bear spray are just a few of the ways to make sure that you keep the bears at a safe distance from you.

          Now that you know how to prepare for a hike, what to bring on a hike, and where to go on a hike, you will graduate from a beginner hiker to an experienced hiker in no time!