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Taking your First Steps: How to Pick a Place to Hike

Posted by Sharon Harrington on

Once you’ve determined that you’re ready to take a hike, the next step is to pick a place to do it. Where you go depends a lot on your hiking group, your location and your end goal.

The group you choose to hike with will be a limiting factor on how far and where you can go. For example, you won’t want to take Great Aunt Ida up a mountain, but a local nature park would be nice for her. The same goes if you’ll have small children with you. The skill level and attention span of your hiking partner(s) should be the first thing on your mind when you consider where you want to hike. If your group is somewhat inexperienced, choose a walking path with few, small elevation changes, easy terrain and an easy way out. You’ll want to make sure you have cell phone service and know how to get help fast, especially if one of the hikers has any medical conditions.

Your location also plays a great role when deciding where to take a hike. If you’re at home, you’ll feel more comfortable trying out unfamiliar trails but if you’re traveling, try to stick to the main routes. You won’t be privy to which places are safe and when, or where side trails might lead you, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, when traveling, you’re likely to not have all of your gear with you, especially safety gear. Of course, if you’ve planned ahead and are well-prepared, your location doesn’t play as big of a role in deciding where to hike

Lastly, what you want to get out of a hike will influence where you go. Are you looking for a challenge or a simple escape from the city? Do you want to hike a set number of miles, or for a set number of days? Just one trail can provide lots of options when you consider hiking it end-to-end or in an out-and-back fashion. Some trails even have connecting side trails so that you could make your trip into a loop. For groups with kids, short loops are often the most appealing choice as the new scenery will keep them excited and you’ll never be far from a way out!

Don’t fret over where to take your first hike—just get out there! Keep your first trip simple. Experience is the best teacher, and the best source of motivation for your next step into the wild. 

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