Basics of Hiking Part 3
by Laurie DePhillips
Part one and two of this series, what to wear and what to bring, focus on your pre-hike. Now we'll cover the final things you need to do before you set out. I promise, I will get to the actual hiking part in my fourth installment.
Hiking doesn’t always mean setting out to conquer a 14,000 ft mountain; you can take a walk through a field of wildflowers and have as great of an experience. Do what makes you feel good and what you enjoy. I tend to focus a lot of hiking in the mountains because I live in Colorado, and we have a lot of mountains! Your prep for mountain hiking is going to be a bit more involved than a shorter, flat hike, but there are certain things you should consider regardless of where you go:
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to get back. There are some great apps that you can download that require you to check in and will contact your family or friends if you don’t check in.
- There are so many great websites and apps to help you pick your trails. My personal favorite is the AllTrails website and app. This site gives you an overview of the trail, photos, maps, what’s allowed (such as dog friendly, biking, etc.), current trail conditions and reviews by fellow hikers. I like that I can track the trails I’ve completed and favorite the ones I want to do. You can also check out state DNR sites for some good information. Especially if you are overnighting it and planning on having a fire, you will want to know if any fire bans are in place before you go.
Is your planned trail dog friendly? Check trail websites before heading out!
- Have a good understanding of not only distance, but elevation gain and terrain. One of the more difficult hikes that I like is only 5 miles but it’s several thousand feet in elevation gain making it tough. I’ve encountered many people who are seriously underprepared with not enough water or the right footwear because they didn’t research the trail. You will also want to know if your hike is a loop or out and back.
- Make sure you check the weather for where you are going. Living in Colorado, we also learn quickly to watch the sky more than reports though. Any hikes above treeline you should try to get down by the early afternoon. Storms come in quickly and out of nowhere, and if you are completely exposed it can be really dangerous. I had a really scary hike where I didn’t pay attention to the clouds and was above treeline when some really gnarly lightning came through. My hiking buddy and I had to sprint down the mountain. I won’t be doing that again!
I hope you are enjoying the autumn and getting out to be in nature! The fall is one of my favorite times to hike, with spectacular leaves changing and cooler weather, but it's also a time when you need to be extra prepared for changes in weather. Be sure to be prepared with the right gear!
Check back in for the last part of my hiking series where I discuss what to know while on the trail.