How do I plan the perfect hiking route? This is an important question for first-timers and hiking professionals alike!
Planning a perfect hiking route can be a challenging but rewarding task. For some, the planning is all part of the fun and is very much part of the adventure. But for others, the planning process can seem overwhelming or boring, putting people off from venturing out in the first place.
For those who dread the thought of studying maps or scouring the internet to look for new routes. We have some good news…Planning the perfect route is not as hard as you think!
Follow the simple tips below and start to enjoy better hiking today!
Determine Your Hiking Goals
Every hiker is wonderfully individual and takes enjoyment from their hike in a variety of different ways.
When planning a route it´s important to consider what you would like to gain from your hike. Then make preparations to better your chances of achieving those goals.
The process of defining these goals doesn´t need to be lengthy or difficult but can add to your experience on the trail.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing your hiking goals:
Length and difficulty
Think about how long and difficult you want your hike to be.
Are you looking for a short, stroll on an easy trail that’s close to home? Or would you enjoy a longer, more challenging route out in the wilderness? Testing your strength and endurance to their limits?
Consider the type of scenery you want to see on your hike. Do you want to hike through a forest, along a beach, around a lake, or up a mountain? Maybe all 4!
Nature is full of unique wildlife. Many hikers plan routes that pass through the habitats of wildlife they would like to see or take photos of.
Migratory patterns, mating seasons, and hibernation are factors to consider when picking the best time to spot wildlife on a hike.
Points of Interest
It is fairly common for hikers to plan hikes that pass through or lead to popular points of interest
Some popular points of interest for hikers are:
- Natural landmarks
- Areas and structures of historical or religious significance
- Man-made structures such as dams or bridges
- Beautiful viewpoints
- Picnic spots
Consider your current level of physical fitness and how much of a challenge you want your hike to be. If you’re new to hiking or haven’t exercised in a while, you may want to start with a shorter, more accessible trail. Read on to find out more about how to physically prepare for your hike.
Do you want to hike solo or with a group?
Finding a partner or partners that share your goals and abilities can very much add to your experience.
It can be beneficial to hike with a more experienced companion as they can pass on lots of tricks and tips while out on the trail or help you find a good route.
They also make helpful photographers…
Time and availability
Think about how much time you have available for your hike and whether you want to do it in a single day or over a longer period.
Having a plan of timings can be useful for many factors. Helping you to plan meals, equipment, transport, accommodation, and weather.
Choose A Trail
Areas of nature such as mountain ranges, coastlines, and forests often have many trail options for all abilities.
With all the options available, finding a suitable route may seem daunting, but when done right can be a straightforward process.
Read on to find out how to choose your perfect trail.
What to Consider When Choosing A Hiking Trail
There are a few key factors to consider when choosing a hiking trail:
- Length and difficulty: Ensure the trail is a suitable length and difficulty level for your abilities. If you are in a group, also consider the abilities of everyone in your group. If you’re new to hiking, it’s best to start with a shorter, easier trail that is well-marked.
- Distance from home: Think about how far you want to travel to get to the trailhead. It’s usually more convenient to choose a trail that is closer to home. If traveling a long distance to your start point, ensure that you leave enough time to complete the hike before dark, or bring flashlights.
- Safety: Research the trail to ensure that it is safe to hike. Consider factors such as the presence of wildlife, the difficulty of the terrain, and the availability of water and other resources.
- Permits and fees: Some trails may require a permit or have an entrance fee. Make sure to check and obtain any necessary permits or pay any fees before you begin your hike.
- Time of year: Consider the time of year you’ll be hiking. Some trails may be more suitable for certain seasons due to weather conditions or the closure of local amenities. To know more about the best season for hiking click here
How To Find Hiking Trails
There are many resources available for finding new trails, our favorites are:
- Ordinance survey maps
- Local trail maps found in information centers, local outdoor shops, or on signage at the trailhead
- Websites such as AllTrails and The Hiking Project
- Hiking guides
Pro Tip – Trails may not be maintained by local services, businesses, or clubs. Even if documented on your map, they may be impassable due to natural factors such as flooding, fallen trees, or overgrowth. Before heading out for a hike it is good practice to check that your chosen trail is open or have a backup plan.
Check The Weather
Weather can make or break a hike! Picking the right weather for your hike can be just as important as the choice of route.
If you are a beginner; It´s better to choose mild and dry weather for your hikes until you have built the equipment and experience necessary to safely handle yourself in stormy conditions.
Weather Hikers Should Avoid
Unless fully prepared and experienced in adverse weather conditions hikers should avoid adverse weather where possible. Not just for safety but also enjoyment of the hike.
When checking the forecast for your hike, beware of the below conditions.
- Snow, sleet, and hail
- Very cold temperatures
- Very hot temperatures
- High winds
- High levels of humidity
- Lightening storms
Pro Tip – Different parts of the World have different seasons. When traveling a large distance for your hiking trip, study how the unique seasons of the area may affect you.
Weather can make or break a hike!
How To Check The Weather
It’s always a good idea to check the weather before you go on a hike, especially if you’re planning a longer or more challenging hike. This will help you prepare appropriately and ensure your safety.
Our favorite ways to check the weather are:
- Use a weather app or website: There are many weather apps and websites that allow you to enter a location and get an up-to-date forecast. Some popular options include Weather.com, and AccuWeather.
- Check the forecast at the trailhead: Many trailheads have a bulletin board with a current weather forecast posted. This can be a good source of information if you’re planning a hike on the same day.
- Ask a ranger or local: If you’re hiking in a national park or another area with rangers or other staff, you can ask them about the current weather conditions and any potential hazards. Local residents or other hikers may also be able to provide useful information about the weather.
- Historical Data: Look online to find the historical weather data for the area that you plan to hike. This can give good information on the best months to visit.
Consider Your Physical Fitness
Hiking can be a great way to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors, but it’s important to be physically prepared before attempting a hike.
Increasing your fitness can lead to safer and more enjoyable hiking. Reducing leg pain and allowing you to hike further to some incredible destinations.
Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re physically fit for hiking:
- Build up your endurance: If you’re new to hiking or haven’t exercised in a while, start with shorter hikes and gradually increase the length and difficulty as you get more comfortable and fit.
- Strengthen your legs and core: Hiking involves a lot of walking over undulating and uneven terrain, so it’s important to have strong legs. To build up your leg strength, try activities such as walking up and down stairs, running, or doing squats and leg press exercises. Other less impactful activities such as yoga and pilates are also great ways to strengthen your legs and core whilst stretching your muscles.
- Train with a backpack: If you’re planning a longer hike or backpacking trip, it’s a good idea to train with a backpack. Start with a lighter load and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger.
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration can be a major issue on a hike, especially in hot or dry conditions. Dehydration can lead to such issues as cramps, lack of energy, and even fainting. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your hike to stay hydrated.
- Get A Check Up: If you suffer from any illnesses or health conditions, it’s a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before pushing your body on more difficult or longer hikes.
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