Hiking is a wonderful way to get up close and personal with the stunning natural beauty of our nation’s national parks. And you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to enjoy a few trails in your favorite park. While you shouldn’t take on the hike to Angels Landing as your first trail, there are plenty of beginner-friendly options to choose from in every park.
If you’re thinking about taking on your very first hike, keep reading. We’re bringing you the hiking tips that every beginner should know before they even lace up their boots.
NEVER HIKE ALONE
This may just be the most important tip that any hiker can follow, regardless of their skill level. It doesn’t matter how short or easy a trail seems. Having a buddy along can be the difference between life and death if something happens on the trail.
From twisting your ankle to experiencing a medical emergency, having someone else along can mean the ability to get help when cell service is non-existent or to have someone there to administer first aid.
Plus, a hiking buddy is someone you can talk to and experience the trail with. Whether you bring along a family member or a close friend, a hike is a wonderful way to spend time together and form new, lasting memories.
This tip isn’t referring to a post-hike celebration (though you will certainly have earned one after conquering your very first trail!). Instead, it’s important to start drinking water long before you start your hike.
Preventing dehydration starts hours or even days before you hit the trail. Not only do you need to make sure that your body is already hydrated, but you also need to get into the habit of drinking frequently.
Drinking plenty of water isn’t the only preparation you should do for your first hike. While you may be planning to take on an easy, beginner-friendly hike, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do some physical preparation.
Hiking on a rugged, uneven trail that may have some elevation change (especially if you’re hiking in Southern Utah) is a far cry from crossing a large parking lot or walking up the stairs to work. You’ll want to start exercising at least a few weeks ahead of your hike. If you are out of shape, you might want to start even earlier.
If possible, try to walk outdoors. Even a sidewalk hike can help you start preparing for climbing hills, and condition your entire body for your hike.
When you’re ready for more difficult hikes, later on, your preparation should shift towards building your endurance. You might try speed walking, joggings, or using exercise equipment like ellipticals that help you re-create climbing steep elevations.
LEARN SOME BASIC FIRST AID
Even an easy hike comes with some risks. From rolled ankles to blisters, there are plenty of minor injuries that you might encounter on your hike. Having a first aid kit along, and knowing how to use it, can help you treat them so that you can keep hiking on.
Before your trip, you should learn how to tape an ankle, clean a cut, treat a blister, and stop bleeding.
LEARN TO LEAVE NO TRACE
It’s every hikers’ responsibility to leave our national parks more beautiful than we found them. The principals of Leave No Trace make this easy.
The seven principals of Leave No Trace include:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
PACK THE RIGHT GEAR
Besides a first aid kit, there is some other basic gear that every hiker should have along, no matter how short or easy their chosen hike is.
The first piece of gear, and perhaps the most important, is the right pair of hiking boots. The right boots will help prevent blisters, allow you to keep your balance on a slick surface, enable you to scale rocks, and more.
Your hiking boots don’t necessarily need to be top-of-the-line. What they do need to be is durable and comfortable. They should also fit right. You want space in front of your toes and a comfortable fit on your foot to prevent blisters while also leaving room for normal foot swell while you’re hiking.
Other important gear includes synthetic clothing to wick away sweat, a flashlight in case you get caught on the trail after dark, snacks to keep you energized, and plenty of water.
PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST HIKE
Hiking is a wonderful sport that almost anyone can enjoy. You don’t need to be in perfect shape to enjoy an easy nature trail. You’ll get up-close and personal with nature, see your favorite national park like you never could from a car, and also get a great workout.
Now that you’re ready to get hiking, check out this list of the best hikes at each of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks. Even if they are out of reach for you right now, they’ll give you something to start working towards!