Hiking can be a great way to get exercise, but an even better way to get outdoors for everyone. That includes adults and kids alike, from infant to adult. It is also a great way to learn about nature and the outdoors. For my eight year old’s 4H project this year, she is doing Outdoor Adventures Level One. Yes, 4H is more than just animals (for a later post) and her presentation was about how to plan a hike. I figured that her presentation was so great, I would write a blog post about it. So here you go, seven tips from an eight year old on how to plan a day hike.
When: The first thing to consider, is when are you planning your hike. Weather is a big factor, because you do not want it to be too hot or too cold, or have it rain or snow either. Be sure to check the forecast in advance. We like to plan our hikes for earlier in the day, plan a rest mid-day, and in the later afternoon head back home as it starts to cool down. Also, depending on the time of year, some trail and areas are closed during certain seasons.
How: How are you getting to the trail head? Are you carpooling or walking? Maybe you are going by bicycle or kayak or ATV? This is just some of the things that you need to think about. Several of the trails that we like are not accessible by car. Or maybe it’s just nicer or easier to travel to the trail head a different way. One of our favorite hiking spots is at a lake, but our favorite way to get there is by kayaking or canoeing or by boat.
Where: This is probably the most important tip. Everyone’s ability to hike is different and not all terrain is the same. If there is a trail I am not familiar with, I like to call my local forest service or Chamber of Commerce. Another great way to find what hiking trails are in your area and what level they are, is to check some of the hiking apps or websites that are out there. My favorite is AllTrails (app and website). Also, go to the library and browse the local guidebooks. It’s always best to be as informed as possible when hiking. Check out this list for some other hiking related apps.
Who: Are you going by yourself or with others? Do you have friends that are going that are less or more experienced than you? It’s great to have other people along for safety reasons. Maybe you need to plan more if you are taking your children with you. Are your dogs going too, and if so, are dogs allowed? It is also okay to solo hike, but if you do, be prepared for an emergency, don’t take extra risks and be sure to tell someone where you are going.
Why: This is a great question to ask yourself. Maybe you are planning to hike for exercise or just to experience the outdoors. Maybe you are planning your hike so that you can take nature photos. Or, maybe there is a particular place you want to see and the only way to get there is by hiking. By asking why, you can be better prepared and know what you need and how to plan your hike.
What: What do you need to take with you? I always take with with me water and snacks. Comfortable shoes, a hat or bandanna and moisture-wicking clothing are a good idea, because you want to be comfortable. Maybe you need trekking poles or a walking stick. Some other things you might need are bug repellent, sunscreen, a camera, walkie-talkies, a map, a compass, a knife, bear spray, toilet paper, binoculars, emergency blanket and a way to start a fire. Don’t be one of those people that packs a toilet seat or steaks, just saying… And remember, lighter is better.
Cost: Because we hike often, there very minimal costs to hiking. Usually those costs involve gas a purchasing food or snacks. Most of our gear has been an one-time investment and I do not think we have purchased very much in the last few years.
Always remember to be a prepares as possible. Don’t forget to practice the Leave No Trace Principles. And have fun. Explore the outdoors more by hiking. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous hike, it can be a short one too. Most of our hikes with the kids are between two to four miles round trip. So have fun out there. And don’t forget, be outside with no limits. Love, Pauline