Top 10 Best Hiking Tips for Beginners
If you’re ready to get back on the trail, or gearing up for your first hiking adventure, then these top 10 best hiking tips for beginners will give you everything you need to know to get started.
Beginner Hiking Tip 1: Just Start
Trying to find, plan, and organize your first hike can be overwhelming. It’s probably the first time you’re considering distance, elevation, and hiking gear and you’re worried about finding the perfect hike to get started.
But, there isn’t a perfect hike, and spending hours online searching for one will only burn you out and make getting outdoors again stressful. Getting started hiking is a journey, and one that will lead you wherever you want to go with time. Start small, so you can just start!
Beginner Hiking Tip 2: Don’t Overdo it
Start Easy. Seriously. We all see the instagram photos of incredible landscapes at the top of the mountain as the sun sets. And if you want that experience you’ll get there. Eventually.
You want your first few hikes to be simple, easy, and safe. Otherwise you’ll be half way up a mountain sporting blisters the size of your feet, holding your back in pain, and wondering why you ever did this in the first place. Not exactly the peaceful and refreshing experience you were hoping for.
Take Lots of Breaks
Many trails have benches or other natural resting areas as part of the hike. Even if they don’t, sit on a large rock and take as many breaks as you need.
Find a trail that’s under 5 miles, close to your home, and is rated as easy. A good place to find a place like this is your local nature center, preserve, or city park.
If you prefer apps, there are several that allow you to search for hiking trails, but my favorite is alltrails.
Beginner Hiking Tip 3: Check the Weather
We’ve all seen a beautiful, sunny, warm day quickly turn into a cold, windy downpour seemingly out of nowhere. When you’re hiking this can turn a wonderful hike into a dangerous situation, quickly.
Depending on the temperature, wearing wet clothes for significant periods of time can be dangerous to your health. On the other hand, a too-hot day can also be a disaster for a new hiker.
Don’t Get Caught in the Rain
There’s nothing worse than wet socks and clothes while hiking. Not only is it uncomfortable, it can be dangerous.
So check the weather before you head out. Pay attention to the temperature and chance for precipitation, but also be sure to check wind speeds. Windy days can cause tree branches to fall onto trails and become a hazard.
If the weather is too much for you, then stay home! There’s always tomorrow.
Beginner Hiking Tip 4: Tell Others Your Hiking Plan
Hiking with someone is always great fun. But we know that people get busy with their lives, and we may not always have a suitable hiking partner to take with us. That’s okay, hiking alone is definitely something anyone can do.
If you are going to hike alone, then you need to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Not every trail has great cell phone service and you never want to be stuck in a situation where no one knows where you are.
Hike with a Friend
If possible, hike with a friend. If you’re hiking alone at least call and tell someone where you’ll be.
Text a person the park and trail name of where you’ll be and give them an idea of when you’ll be back. This way, you have someone watching out for you if you’re alone on a hike.
Beginner Hiking Tip 5: Be Prepared
When you’re going on your first hike, you typically fall into one of two categories: bring everything, or bring nothing. In reality, what you should carry falls in between. Don’t start your hike with nothing, but also you don’t need to pack a suitcase worth of items for a day hike.
The list below gives you an idea of the essentials you need in your hiking pack
- Water – Bring enough water for your trip, and then a little bit more. You definitely don’t want to run out. Water can be heavy though, so consider a hydration bladder backpack, or a roll-up water bottle
- First Aid – No matter what have a first aid kit on your person. Even if you’re just going for a short hike, you never want to be caught without it.
- A Navigation Device – This is typically your phone, but if you’re ever in an area with no cell phone service, you may want to consider a portalable GPS
- Snacks – Bring something to eat. It’s good to keep your energy up, and it’s always good to have in your pack
- Sun protection – This includes a hat, sun-protective clothing, and sunscreen. The sun can do some serious damage. Protect yourself.
- Clothing Layers – You always want to wear layers when hiking. This allows you to control your body temperature by adding or removing clothing.
Bring Lots of Water
This is one of the most important tips. You never want to run out of water while hiking.
As you start doing harder hikes there will be some additional gear you’ll want to carry with you. But, this list should be sufficient to get started.
Beginner Hiking Tip 6: Be Aware of Surroundings
If you’re anything like me, you see the map, how far you have to go, and then start booking it there as fast as possible. Although this is fine if your goal is exercise, but if your goal is to experience the natural beauty of the outdoors, then this probably isn’t the best tactic.
Look Around While Hiking
If you don’t you’ll not only miss the natural beauty, but you could also miss trail markers, animals, or important trail features
Going slow allows you to look up and see the birds, trees, and features of the trail you’re experiencing. You don’t want to get to the end of the trail and not remember anything about it other than what the trail dirt looks like. So, it’s always good to take a second to look up and around and really take in the beauty that’s around you.
Beginner Hiking Tip 7: Hiking Etiquette
If it’s your first time on a hike, or your first time in a while, it can be a little intimidating passing the other hikers on the trail. Are you expected to say hi to passersby? Who goes first in a tight area? What do I do if I’m faster (or slower) than the other hikers? If you’re on multi-use trails, it can get even more confusing.
Follow all the Rules
Hiking trails have specific rules about dogs and leashing. Follow them!
Follow the tips below and you’ll fit right in on the trail:
- Follow the Park Rules: Each part has different rules, hours, and codes to live by. Some allow dogs to roam free, and some don’t allow dogs at all. Some parks allow you to bring lunch and picnic, and others don’t. The rules are there for a good reason, so follow them!
- Yield the Right-Away: Just like roads, trails have right-a-ways. Whoever is going uphil, gets to go first. Same with faster hikers – move over and let them pass. No one wants an impatient hiker right up behind you – so let them go ahead.
- Don’t be too loud: People go into nature to experience it’s quiet beauty. If you’re with friends, try to not take over the forest with your conversation. If you’re by yourself and listening to music or a podcast for safety, keep it low. Some people don’t like to hear non-natural sounds (like music’s top 100 hits) in the forest, so be considerate to others hiking near and around you, even if you can’t see them.
- Stay on the Trail: Sometimes a hiking trail isn’t the most direct way from Point A to Point B. It’s tempting to take a shortcut, especially if others have done it too. It may be so worn that it even looks like the trail. These shortcuts are called Fall Lines, and they aren’t good for the environment or the trail. Park Rangers try their best to prevent people from doing this, so do your part and stay on the trail. You shouldn’t be in a rush anyways!
- Take Your Trash with You: There’s nothing worse than being on a beautiful hike and you notice a dog poo bag, an old wrapper, or used masks lying about. Not only does it kill the vibe, it’s also not good for our parks, streams, or land. Always pack out what you bring in.
Beginner Hiking Tip 8: Leave No Trace
Leave no trace is an entire philosophy meant to protect our natural resources so that we can enjoy them for years to come. There is more to this philosophy, including 7 main principles for following it, but on your first hike abiding by the golden rule is a good way to get started.
Trash in the Woods isn’t Good
Don’t leave your trash. It’s not good for the environment, and it also doesn’t look nice for others who are hiking after you.
If you wouldn’t go into someone’s house and be destructive, leave trash everywhere, and go through the entire place without permission, then you also shouldn’t go into the Earth’s house and break limbs, throw rocks, leave trash, and go off trail.
Just be respectful of the Earth and the natural beauty it has provided us.
Beginner Hiking Tip 9: Preventing Ticks
Sometimes, as we hike, we accidently collect critters that we do not want. If you’re hiking in the Northeast, then ticks are an especially important concern because of their propensity to carry diseases, like Lyme disease
Tick in the Woods
These critters can really pack a punch if they get on you. Please watch out and do what you can to prevent getting an infection from them.
If you’re hiking in spring or early-summer, this is when ticks are at their worst. You’ll want to take the proper steps to prevent them through wearing the right clothing and repellant. After your hike, you’ll also want to immediately wash your clothes, do a thorough tick check, and properly remove ticks if you find them.
Staying aware and vigilant is the best way to prevent tick-borne diseases when hiking.
Beginner Hiking Tip 10: Have Fun
Everyone has a goal when they start hiking. Maybe yours was to experience more peace, get more fresh air, or get some exercise you don’t hate doing. Whatever your goal, remember that you want to have fun hiking.
Enjoy the Hike
Always remember why you went outside to begin with – to have fun!
It’s okay to stop and smell the flowers, or take extra time at a cool feature you want to explore. Sometimes the best hikes are the ones we weren’t expecting, so don’t get too caught up in planning the perfect hike. Find one that works for you and your experience level, and just try it.
It just might surprise you.
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