One of the best ways to reconnect with the great outdoors is through hiking. Whether you're an avid adventurer or a beginner seeking a new and rewarding experience, hiking is a fantastic way to explore nature, challenge yourself, and improve your overall well-being. In this blog post, we'll walk you through everything you need to know to get started with hiking.
So lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and let's dive into the world of hiking!
Choose the Right Trail
Hiking offers a wide range of options, from gentle strolls through meadows to challenging climbs up majestic peaks. As a novice hiker, it's crucial to select a trail that matches your fitness level and comfort level. Beginners should start with shorter and less challenging trails to build endurance and confidence. We have hundreds of well-maintained trails to choose from.
Hike Finder Map by Washington Trail Association is a great tool to find trails matching to your criteria of mileage and elevation. Start with shorter and well-marked trails to build confidence and gradually progress to more advanced ones.
Research the trail beforehand by reading trip reports on Washington Trail Association and AllTrails for road and trail conditions.
"Hiking teaches us to challenge our limits, appreciate simplicity, and find joy in the journey rather than the destination." - Gary Snyder
Safety should always be a top priority while hiking. Be aware of any potential dangers, such as wildlife or unstable terrain, and take necessary precautions.
Inform Others: Let someone know about your hiking plans, including the trail you'll be on and your estimated return time.
Download map: Use CalTopo, Gaia, FootPath or other apps to download the trail map.
Stay on the Trail: Stick to marked paths and avoid shortcuts or venturing off the designated route.
Pace Yourself: Start with shorter hikes and gradually increase the distance and difficulty as you gain experience and fitness.
Hike with someone: Hiking with a buddy is a great way to stay safe and have fun. Find a friend, family member or hiking group to hike together. Having a buddy can help you stay motivated, provide extra support, and make the experience more enjoyable.
Check the Weather: Be aware of the weather forecast and avoid hiking in extreme conditions such as thunderstorms or high heat. NOAA's National Weather Service is an excellent source of forecasts and weather warnings. Check Northwest Avalanche Center for avalanche danger when hiking in late autumn, winter and spring.
Investing in the right gear will enhance your hiking experience and ensure your safety on the trail. Consider the following essentials:
Hiking Shoes: Invest in a pair of comfortable, sturdy hiking shoes or boots that provide ankle support and have good traction for varied terrain.
Clothing: Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions. Moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics are ideal. Don't forget a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for sun protection.
Backpack: Select a backpack that fits well and has ample storage space for your essentials, including water, snacks, a first aid kit, navigation tools, and extra clothing.
Hydration: Carry an adequate supply of water or a water purification system, especially on longer hikes.
Navigation: Bring a map, compass, or GPS device to stay on track. Familiarize yourself with the trail and study any route descriptions before you go.
Always carry 10 essentials with you while hiking. Other essential items include a first aid kit, map and compass or GPS device, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a whistle.
Get the Pass
To park at most of the trailheads, you will need one of the three passes depending on the trail location.
Washington State Parks, Department of Natural Resources lands and Department of Fish and Wildlife trailheads require Discover Pass. You can either get an annual pass for $35/car or day pass for $11.50/car or borrow Discover Passes through your local library.
National Forest trailheads in WA and OR require Northwest Forest Pass. Day pass is $5/car and annual pass is $30/car.
National Parks require either a day pass that can be purchased at the national park entrances or online or annual America the Beautiful Pass. America the Beautiful Pass is valid for all the national forests in the country and costs $80.
To make your hiking experience enjoyable for yourself and others, it's important to follow proper hiking etiquette:
Yield to Others: Uphill hikers have the right of way. Step aside and allow them to pass comfortably.
Mind Your Noise: Keep noise levels to a minimum to preserve the tranquility of nature and respect fellow hikers.
Be Prepared to Share: Be courteous and share the trail with other hikers, bikers, or horseback riders. Pass safely and communicate your intentions.
Respect Wildlife: Observe animals from a safe distance, avoid feeding them, and do not disturb their natural habitat.
Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace is a set of principles that encourages hikers to minimize their impact on the environment. This means packing out all trash, respecting wildlife and their habitats, staying on designated trails, and avoiding disturbing natural features. Familiarize yourself with these principles to help preserve the beauty of our natural areas for generations to come.
Enjoy the Journey
Hiking is not just about reaching the destination; it's about embracing the entire journey. Take your time to admire the beautiful Evergreen State landscapes, listen to the sounds of nature, and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Engage all your senses and make memories that will last a lifetime.
"Hiking is not just about reaching the summit; it's about embracing the challenges, discovering oneself, and finding solace in the untamed beauty of the wilderness." - Diane Spicer
Hiking is a rewarding and exhilarating outdoor activity that offers a myriad of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. By following these guidelines, you'll be well-prepared to embark on your first hiking adventure. Remember, hiking is a journey that allows you to connect with nature, challenge yourself, and discover new horizons. So step out of your comfort zone, explore the world of hiking, and let nature be your guide.