Planning the Perfect Day Hike

Ahh, summertime. That glorious time of year when we step into the great outdoors with fervor and excitement. When the weather is nice, it’s impossible not to facilitate experiences – restaurant patios, walks around the neighborhood, gardening galore – where you get to enjoy comfortable temperatures and warm sunshine.

If you’re looking for a new way to really soak in the outdoors this summer or fall, we’d recommend a day hike. Hiking can sound intimidating if you haven’t done it before, but not all hikes include camping on the cold ground, days out in the woods, and the need to forage for food. No, hiking can simply consist of a couple hour’s worth of walking through the woods, feeling the serenity nature affords, and getting in a little exercise.

Inspired? While much less preparation goes into a day hike than a multi-day extravaganza, there are a few key things you should prepare to make the most of your experience. Don’t worry – you won’t need to drop a lot of money on gear, as you probably already have all of the essentials in your home. We recommend a comfortable backpack stuffed with water, food (trail mix is a favorite; granola bars, fruit, or crackers can also do the trick), sunscreen and sunglasses, a small first aid kit, and a trail map. You’ll also want to be sure you have comfortable footwear that’s broken in; for easier hikes, your favorite athletic shoes can work, and for more treacherous jaunts, you’ll want to grab a comfortable pair of hiking boots.

Once you’re all prepped, you’ll want to find a trail nearby. We recommend American Hiking Society’s trail finder if you aren’t sure where to find hiking spots in your area. Even better – crowd-source! We’ve always found that the best hiking trails come from recommendations from friends and family. Be sure to print out or find a trail map before setting on your quest, and choose the appropriate mileage and elevation for your fitness level. Many online apps will tell you these metrics for different hikes you’re exploring, and, as we mentioned, help from more experienced friends will always suffice.

Throughout your hike, as with any type of exercise, pay attention to how your body feels. Are your shoes rubbing the wrong way? Do you have pain in any of your joints? If so, take a break on a rock and stretch it out, or take your shoes off and identify the spot that doesn’t feel quite right. Adjusting early and often will make your hiking experience all the more pleasurable.

It’s also important to stay hydrated and full of fuel, so put that water and those snacks to good use! While you’re on the trail, always bring any trash with you (tip: bring a small plastic bag in your backpack to store trash). You’re out there to enjoy the great outdoors, so you want to make sure you leave it the way you found it for others to enjoy!

All in all, hiking is a wonderful warm weather activity that helps you take advantage of the great outdoors while staying active and healthy. Try it out this summer, fall, or even in the winter – and let us know what you think!

Where are your favorite hiking spots near your community? Let us know in the comments below.

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