Finding great hikes is easy to do, and for me it’s one of the really fun aspects of the sport. Much of the enjoyment for me comes from the planning and anticipation. There are lots of sources of information. Taking this class is a good start!
Choosing a Hike – Things to keep in mind
- Always try to make an accurate assessment of the level of difficulty of a route in advance of the hike, to ensure that it is within your capabilities. You don’t want to take on a hike that is so difficult you are discouraged from the sport. It is also inconsiderate to hold the whole group back through your lack of judgment. Many hiking trail guide books use a rating system to help you determine in advance the level of difficulty of a particular trail. Remember that not all ratings are created equal. You can make your own assessment of a hike’s difficulty level by studying some of the trail data, such as distance, elevation gain/loss, and description of the terrain. Also consider that a hike that may be moderate in the spring or fall could be extremely difficult in the summer when it’s very hot.
- Consider the details. If you’re looking for a shady place to get away from the summer heat, or if you prefer to hike uphill at the beginning of a hike and downhill at the end, those are details that you can usually find in a trail description. Think about what kinds of hikes you enjoy doing the most. Would you rather hike to someplace where there’s a great view, or be surrounded in interesting features throughout the hike? Do you want to choose hikes that challenge you physically, or would you prefer to keep it reasonably easy? Do you want to be able to see some wildlife, or a particular type of scenery, or perhaps you’re interested in seeing a variety of plants. Your choices may change with your mood, the amount of time you have available to hike, or the weather conditions. The point is, you’ll enjoy hiking the most when your experience meets or exceeds your expectations. You can avoid disappointments by doing your homework and choosing hikes that are appropriate for your immediate needs.
- Plan a program of advancement for yourself. Taking into account how often you are able to get away on a hike, try to select hikes that are progressively more difficult. If you find yourself struggling at a particular level, then do several more hikes at that level before taking on something more difficult. Work on personal goal-setting (you will be your only judge), and derive satisfaction from your progress.
- Consider who you are hiking with. If you’re planning a hike for a group, you will need to take into account the fitness levels, stamina, and abilities of the rest of the hikers in your group. It’s usually best to err on the side of caution, and choose one that’s a little easier rather than a little harder. Don’t be afraid to ask the other hikers in your group what kind of hike they want to do (long, short, flat, climbing, etc.) I always ask that question when someone asks me for a trail recommendation, because I know that my favorite hikes are not always ones that others will be comfortable attempting.
- Consider time constraints. Again, it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you only have a limited amount of time to hike, choose a hike that will allow you to accomplish what you want within the time you have available, while allowing a little extra time for the unexpected. If you know what your pace is (most people are pretty comfortable walking at a pace of about 2mph) you can use that information to help you figure out how much time you will need to complete a certain hike. Make sure you allow extra time if there’s boulder hopping, bushwhacking, lots of climbing, other difficult terrain, or tricky route finding involved. Also, remember that you don’t always need a half a day to take a nice hike. There are lots of great hikes that can be done in an hour or so.