Need something fun to do this weekend? Why not take up hiking? You could take a short few hour hike or a longer overnight hike where you camp. Either way, you will need to decide which hiking trail you are going on and what things you could see along the way. You may think what is the difference a hike is a hike, but in reality there are many things to take into consideration. It is important to take the time to map out the one that is the best fit for you. If you take your time and select the trail that is the best fit for you and your companioins then I can garuntee that you will have a much better time. There are many ways that you can research which trail is the best for you, but the more important thing is finding out what you are looking for in your hike.
There are many ways to research which hiking trails are best. You could talk with friends and family, head to the local sporting goods store, contact the local Forest Service field office, or the best way is to head online. There are numerous sites that you can use to find the best trails. The first place to check out online is www.alltrails.com, because they have a great selection of trails with descriptions associated with them. Doing your initial research online is great, but what happens if you are out in the wilderness on your hike and you lose cell service? This happens quite frequently, but don’t worry this is a good thing! In that case your best option is to conduct initial research online but back it up with an old school method such as a trail map like this one for the Appalachian Trail. With this in hand you will get an outline of the trail you are heading on plus things to see along the way. If the thought of carrying a heavy book or a cumbersome map doesn’t really do it for you then the next best thing for mid hike research and orientation is a GPS such as the, Garmin eTrex 30x. Finding the best GPS can also be a task in itself and we will discuss this in another article. Any of these methods would be a good way to initiate you trail hunt.
Once you have decided where to look and do research for your hike it is important to determine the difficulty level you want your hike. Sometimes trails will be listed with difficulty. This is not always the case and trail labeling can very from local to state to federal facilities. They are not outlined quite the same as ski trails. Because of this it is important to read as much information about the trails as you can. If you are a first time hiker then you should look for flatter well maintained trails. These will provide you with a good experience on your first few times out while you build up the muscles you need to hike. Don’t take hiking as just a walk. You may and will run into obstacles that will strain your muscles and wear you out. As you gain experience in hiking start to take on more difficult trails. The most difficult trails will either be really long or they will be short and steep. When determining difficulty take into account the grade or slope of the trail, the length of the trail, how improved the trail is, known or marked obstacles, popularity of the trail, and trailhead access. All of these things will help you to noarrow down which trail to take based on you experience level.
Now that you have decided the difficultly level of the hike that you would like to take you need to decide what you want to do or see along the way. What are your interests? If you like to bird watch then maybe a hike to an open field would be better. This way you could hunker down with your binoculars and look for your favorite bird. Maybe you want to cool off and so finding a trail that leads to the calming spray of a waterfall is best. If fishing is more your thing then heading to a fishing hole back in the mountains would be a good fit. The important thing to remember is that a hike can be more than just a walk. Even if it gives you time to just think it will be a freeing and enjoyable experience. If you are more experienced and have a long weekend that it is recommended that you gear up and go for an overnight hike. Load up your backbacking gear and set out on a hike. Make sure you map out the different campsites you will need to hike to each day. Finding something to see at the end of the trail is always a bonus and will help to give you the motivation you need to keep on going. So along with the difficulty level, figuring out what you want to accomplish or see along your hike will help narrow your search down.
There are many many factors that go into finding the perfect trail for you. Honestly, there is no limit to how many trails you take hikes. So start your list now. Build your way up to more difficult trails and really experience the world around you. Start on local trails and then branch out further and further. In doing so, you will get to see the natural world around you and accomplish a connection to nature that many people have lost. When you get back make sure to share your experience with your friends and family and some of the websites that you use for reference. That way others can get a feel for the experience that they may have.