Beginner Guide for Hiking: Tips for Best Hiking Trails Near Me



Hiking can be defined as walking across long distances usually on trails or footpaths for recreational purposes. It is also a great way to indulge yourself in the culture and history of a country or area.

Hiking can be of two types

  1. Short hikes can involve a day or half a day.
  2. Long hikes, also known as trekking can involve around 12 days that cover dozens of kilometers. These programs include spending the night in tents, camps or mountain huts.

Longer hikes enable you to experience local communities, their diverse cultures and taste local dishes.

Differences between Hiking and Trekking

  • Hiking can be defined as walking a long-distance across the countryside or in the woods while Trekking is defined as a long strenuous journey by foot.
  • Hiking is a recreational activity on pre-made trails or roads whereas trekking is a rigorous outdoor experience on different terrains which is meant to test your ability and sanity.
  • Hiking can be thought of as a 1-day adventure whereas trekking can span anywhere from 2 days to 200 years.
  • Hiking is less expensive whereas trekking is more expensive.

World’s top 20 best hiking trails

20 of the world’s best hiking trails are listed below:

  1. The Pennine Way in the United Kingdom has the most famous long-distance path that stretches 268 miles from the Derbyshire Peak District to the Scottish Borders. The entire walk takes around three weeks that pass by wild Moorland east of Manchester and Yorkshire Dales before crossing the border of Hadrian’s Wall and heading on towards Scotland.
  2. Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain is a series of different pilgrimage routes that end at the shrine of the apostle St. James in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. This is an 11-day trip that passes through Galicia and one can choose to stay at boutique inns, or in monasteries along the way
  3. The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world that extends for 2,200 miles. It runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, passing through some of the remote places of the United States. The trail has more than 250 shelters and campsites are also available. Also, many people offer their homes, lodges are available for those keen on comfort near Shenandoah National Park.
  4. The Basho Wayfarer in Japan has several trails, connecting temples and cities in between. This six-day-long hike starts in Sendai and goes through the northern Tohuku region, passing through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hiraizumi and the ancient Dewa path, before heading on to the mountains of Natagiri-toge and finishing at the temple of Yamadera.
  5. Refugio Frey and Cerro Cathedral hike in Argentina is home to several stunning walks. The trek starts from Villa Catedral and goes its way into the Andes, passing through woods before emerging into a world of spectacular, soaring peaks.
  6. A hike to North Africa’s highest peak Mount Toubkal is challenging. The path starts from the village of Imlil and passes over a dry river bed before rising sharply through the shrine at Sidi Chamharouch and the move on towards a large mountain hut. After overnighting, hikers can move up to the summit where the Atlas Mountains open out and the views are intense.
  7. The Dragon’s Back trail is one of the best treks in Hong Kong. The hike starts from the shady tree tunnel on the Shek O Road before scaling on Shek O Peak that has white sandy beaches, lush hills and tropical islands before ending at the beach of Big Wave Bay.
  8. Tahoe Rim Trail is one of the finest hikes in the United States and spans over two US states, California and Nevada. This 11-day long hike offers the travelers to explore the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges.
  9. The 11-day long trip in the Armenia and Silk Road in Europe covers some of the finest routes that connect the UNESCO protected monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat, passing through verdant forests, along with the opportunity to hike in the wild Geghama mountains and top of Aragats, the country’s tallest mountain.
  10. Trek in the Indus Valley is one of the famous treks in Ladakh. It starts from the village of Moncarmo and heads to Matho Phu and Shang Phu and covers some of the surrounding peaks and glaciers.
  11. The West Coast Trail covers 47 miles around southern Vancouver Island that involve wading through rivers, battling along muddy tracks, with the opportunity to camp in this stunning place.
  12. The Tergo-La Trek in the Haa valley of Bhutan is one of the lesser-known routes of the country. The trail follows the path of forests to wild mountain tracks with the views of Kanchenjunga which is the third highest peak of the world.
  13. The Lechweg trail starts from the Bavarian town of Fussen, Germany, and heads to the Tiroler Lech National Park, which then follows the Lechweg river to its source in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg.
  14. The nine-day trek into the Percorsi Occitania, which is one of the most unspoiled corners of northern Italy, scales through some of the challenging hills of that area while dipping into its green valleys.
  15. Lares and Royal Inca Trail in the Peru region follow the path through Andean Forests, up to the Huchayccasa pass and through the village of Huacahuasi, with a chance to catch glimpse of soaring Mount Veronica.
  16. The Lycian Way covers 300 miles around the coast of southern Turkey and gives the hikers to explore the former kingdom of Lycia. The 8-day hike passes through the towns of Sidyma and Kaya, cutting through the water, giving a chance for a quick dip after a long walk.
  17. Kucki Kom, which is one of the peaks of Montenegro is at a height of 2,587 meters gives some intense views of the Komovi Mountains. This 14-day long trek along Montenegro and Albania’s high trails starts in Kotor and ends in Tirana.
  18. A trek through the cloud forests of Northern Laos allows the hikers to catch a glimpse of Indochina’s wild tigers. It also includes overnight stays in bamboo huts and watching wildlife at the Poung Nied Salt Lick.
  19. The Cape to Cape Track in Australia starts at the lighthouse in Cape Naturaliste and ends 76 miles away at the lighthouse in Cape Leeuwin. It offers some of the finest scenery in Australia.
  20. The ten-day-long trek in The Dingle Way, Ireland starts in the town of Tralee, passing along the clifftops outside Dingle town and heads towards Mount Brandon, the highest peak on the Dingle Peninsula.

Top 10 hiking trails in the USA

  1. Canyon Overlook Trail is one of the best hikes in the United States. This trail gives you stunning views of the lower Zion Canyon as well as the Pine Creek slot canyon.
  2. Panorama trail passes several waterfalls and takes the hikers along the Panorama Cliff Ridgeline for jaw-dropping views. Hiking from the top to the bottom of the Yosemite Valley makes Panorama Trail one of the finest treks of the United States.
  3. The Crow Pass Trail is one of the finest treks of the US that offers incredible landscape views, crossing rivers and streams without the help of bridges, wildlife, etc.
  4. The Sunrise Rim Trail offers breathtaking views of Mount Rainier. The path follows lush green meadows full of wildflowers then moves up to the glacier to the Burroughs Mountain where the rocky terrain is going to impress you.
  5. Grinnell Glacier Trail offers breathtaking views of the mountains and glaciers of the Glacier National Park. You will also get to see mountain goats or grizzly bears grazing in their natural habitat along the way.
  6. The Rock Harbor Trail is a walk along the shoreline of Lake Superior. You will get some amazing views along the trail like barrier islands mooses grazing, and the water of Lake Superior stretching to the horizon.
  7. The Bright Angel Trail is the safest in Grand Canyon National Park and provides the typical Grand Canyon experience. The trail is well-maintained and has regular access to drinking water and sheltered rest areas.
  8. Tahoe Rim Trail is one of the finest hikes in the United States and spans over two US states, California and Nevada. This 11-day long hike offers the travelers to explore the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges.
  9. The Sky Pond and Lake of Glass Trail provide you several opportunities to experience majestic mountain peaks and beautiful waterfalls as you pass the Loch and the Lake of Glass on your way to Sky Pond.
  10. The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world that extends for 2,200 miles. It runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, passing through some of the remote places of the United States. The trail has more than 250 shelters and campsites are also available. Also, many people offer their homes, lodges are available for those keen on comfort near Shenandoah National Park.

Top 10 hiking trails in India

  1. Roopkund Trek is a very popular trek that lies in the Garhwal Himalayas in the Chamoli District of Uttarakhand. The trek provides all that trekkers wish for. Starting from snow-capped peaks to forests, mountain streams, lakes, this trek of about 53 kilometers will give you all.
  2. Trek in the Indus Valley is one of the famous treks in Ladakh. It starts from the village of Moncarmo and heads to Matho Phu and Shang Phu and covers some of the surrounding peaks and glaciers.
  3. Stok Kangri trek is a very challenging trail in Ladakh and also the highest trekking point of India. This trail takes you to the Stok Village and you will also get stunning views of Ladakh Range, Zanskar Range, and Indus-Markha Valley throughout this trek.
  4. The Great Lakes Trek in Kashmir is a very beautiful and picturesque trek of India. This is a seven-day trek with Srinagar as the starting point and Narang as the end. Hikers will get breathtaking views of snow-covered peaks like Sirbal, Kolhoi, Amarnath, and Machoi; gushing waterfalls; Krishansar Lake, Vishansar Lake, and twin lakes of Gangabal will be covered throughout the trek.
  5. Valley of Flowers trek is a trek through the beautiful lands in Himalayas of Uttaranchal, at an altitude of 3,600 meters above sea level. The trek takes around six to seven days where you will get to several waterfalls and lakes like the Hemkund Sahib Lake which is surrounded by seven snow-clad peaks.
  6. The Zanskar frozen river trek that is popularly known as ‘Chadar Trek’ is a very challenging trek In the Ladakh region. Several trekkers take part in this trekking expedition in the month of winter to experience the beautiful frozen river moving through deep passages with snow-clad peaks all around.
  7. Goecha- La trek in Sikkim starts from the town of Yuksum and through the Sachen Pass, up to the Dzongri- Goechala trail. The trek takes you through the Kanchenjunga National Park and covers beautiful tropical coniferous woodlands, colorful flora and fauna, several lush orchids, Himalayan bears, and other beautiful birds.
  8. The trek up to the base camp of east Nanda Devi Peak begins at the popular hill station of Munsiyari followed by a trip to Milam Glacier. The trek takes you through Mapang, Martoli, Ghangharand, and finally to Panchu.
  9. Hapta Pass Trek is a short trek of four days for those who want to explore the high altitude Himalayan trekking experience. You will get to see scenic landscapes, open green pastures, glacial valleys, and also the attractive Chandratal Lake throughout this trek.
  10. The Pin Parvati Pass trek is a very difficult trek in the Himalayan Region which covers a total distance of about 110 kilometers. You will hike through magnificent lakes, wild colorful flowers, thick alpine forest, wide glacier crests, lush greenery and grazing land with unusual natural rocky bridges.

How to Prepare for Hiking?

Hiking is a great way to immerse yourself in the laps of nature. With little planning and preparation, you can make your hike safe and fun.

Follow the steps below to get ready for your first hike:

  1. Choosing a Place

There are several ways to find a hiking trail that will meet your needs. Guidebooks and websites are great resources where you can all the necessary information such as trail difficulty, distance, elevation gain, directions, water sources, trails features, and if dogs are allowed. Some websites often display recent trip reports that might give you an idea about what the current trail conditions are like. You can also call a local hiking organization where you want to height to get current information about the trail conditions

  1. Do your research on the trek

The study of the trek is very important while you are planning a trek. Do not rely on the advice of others and do some proper research before heading out. Reading the right articles on the Internet and books about the trek will help you prepare well for the trek.

  1. Choosing a Guide

After you’ve decided on a place for your hike, it is time to find a guide. Locals or guides will be your best friends in case of any emergency. Several companies offer hiking trips to destinations all over the world. Talk to each of them that suits your interests and ask them what kind of shape you should be in to enjoy the experience.

  1. Keep Buffer Days

Keeping a buffer of a couple of days is necessary while planning your trek. Sometimes things do not move according to your plan. Adverse weather conditions, getting hit by a severe case of Acute mountain sickness (AMS), not being able to meet the daily targets are real challenges.

  1. Choose your travel buddies aptly

If you are new to hiking, you should find a companion to accompany you on the hiking trail as that person will be there to lend you a hand in case of any emergency. You can start by asking your hiker friends to take you on a trek. Some people are happy to share their experiences, lets you borrow gear and introduce the beginners to their favorite trails. If you don’t know any hiker then you can find many hiking clubs who regularly plan outings. Online groups are also a great way to find hiking buddies.

  1. Physical Training

Do not go for hiking without physically unprepared. If you are out of shape or haven’t been active for a while, start with some basic exercises to warm up your muscles. Train your legs with exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and running. Cardio is also important while you are climbing, moving, and walking.

  1. Mental Preparation

Hiking is more of a physical challenge rather than a physical one. You will be exhausted and in pain at several points during the hiking. Also, you should know that you have to live in conditions with only limited facilities available.

  1. Pack appropriately for hiking

Do not overload your backpack while heading out for the hike. Get the right bag that can hold your water bottles, sunscreen lotion, and jacket to hold gears for your multi-day hike. Bring hiking boots with good ankle support. Hiking poles act as your third leg and provides constant support to you by giving extra balance. Also, don’t forget to carry the necessary medicines based upon your requirements if you have any previous medical conditions.

List of Essential things to carry while hiking

The essential things that you need to carry on your hiking trail are listed below:

Navigation

Navigation tools for traveling in a backcountry include:

Map

You should carry a topographical map that includes all the important directions, impossible-to-miss footpath, and the frequently visited natural trails.

Compass

A compass that is combined with map-reading knowledge is an essential tool if you lost your way in the backcountry.

GPS Device

A GPS device enables you to find your accurate location on a digital map. Carry those GPS devices that are designed specifically for outdoor travel and are built rugged and weatherproof.

 Altimeter Watch

Consider bringing an Altimeter watch that uses a barometric sensor to measure air pressure or GPS data to provide a close estimate of your elevation.

Personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger:

These gadgets when activated sends a message to emergency personnel via government or commercial satellites in case you need any help in the backcountry.

Headlamp

Carrying a headlamp is important in the backcountry as it keeps your hands free for all types of tasks like cooking dinner, finding your way at night or holding trekking poles.

Sun Protection

Do not forget to carry sun-protected clothing, sunscreen lotions, and sunglasses while packing your bag. If not, it can result in sunburn or snow-blindness in the short term and potentially premature skin aging, skin cancer, and cataracts in the long term.

First Aid

It is essential to carry and know how to use items in a first-aid kit. The kit should include treatment for blisters, adherent bandages of various sizes, gauze pads, adherent tape, antiseptic ointment, non-prescribed pain medication, pen, paper, and nitrile gloves.

Knife

Knives are essential for gear repair, food preparation, first aid, to start a fire or other emergency needs. In addition to a knife, you should also get a small repair kit that includes duct tape, cordage, fabric repair tape, zip ties, safety pins and repair parts for a water filter, tent poles, stove, sleeping pad, etc.

Fire

In case of any emergency, you need to have essential supplies with you for starting and maintaining a fire. Waterproof matches, firestarter, or a stove is recommended as an emergency heat and water source.

Emergency Shelter

Do carry some type of emergency shelter to protect you from wind and rain in case you get stuck or injured during the hike. Options include an emergency space blanket, a bivy sack, an ultralight tarp, or a large plastic trash bag

  1. Extra Food

Always carry extra food with you in case something such as injury or bad weather causes your trip to go long. Carry some items that do not require cooking like extra energy bars, nuts, dried fruits, etc.

  1. Extra Water

It is vital to carry enough water for your outing and have some method of treating water while you are out on the trail such as filter/purifier, chemical treatment or a stove for melting snow. Carry enough water depending upon factors like outside temperature, altitude, level of exertion or any emergency.

  1. Extra Clothes

It is necessary to carry extra clothes beyond what is required for the trip as conditions like bad weather or any unplanned injury can extend your trip. Options include waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support, an insulating hat, hiking socks, gloves, and a synthetic jacket or vest.

What Food Should I Bring Hiking? What Should I Eat on a Day Hike?

As a hiker, you need food and hydration to fuel your body’s performance. It is essential to eat around 200-300 calories per hour while you are on a hike. Drink at least 4 cups of water before a hike and about 2 cups of water for every hour of hiking. Pack non-perishable foods that are light and filled with vital nutrients such as:

  • Nuts, nut-based bars
  • Fresh, whole fruits that do not require refrigeration like apples, bananas, and oranges
  • Dried or freeze-dried fruits and veggies
  • Energy bars, chews or gels
  • Granola or granola bars
  • Ready-made tuna salad pouches
  • Whole-grain tortillas
  • Shelf-stable, dried jerky, such as poultry, salmon or meat-jerky.

Where to buy hiking essentials?

Some of the best sites to shop for hiking essentials such as hiking gears, hiking boots for men and women, backpacks, and shoes are listed below:

  • Amazon
  • REI
  • Moosejaw
  • Backcountry
  • Eastern Mountain Sports
  • Altrec
  • Backcountry Gear
  • The Clymb
  • Sierra Trading Post

Additional Hiking Considerations

Personal Health & Safety

  • First-aid kit: Always carry a first-aid kit in case of any emergency and know how to use it.
  • Going to the bathroom: Going to the bathroom in the woods is a concern for many hikers. If you have to pee, find a place that is well away from the trail and at least 200 feet away from the water sources. Women can bring toilet papers and a small zip-top plastic bag. Some heavily traveled areas require people to pack out solid human waste. If you are going to such areas, do carry human waste disposal bags. After you are done with the bathroom, use some hand sanitizer to wash your hands.
  • Hiking with your period: If you are hiking with your period, carry menstrual supplies such as menstrual cups or tampons and know how to manage them efficiently.
  • Safety: Always leave a detailed itinerary with a friend or family member. You can leave a note with your route plans inside your vehicle to inform search-and-rescue folks of your plans if they come searching for you.

Trail Etiquette

If you are hiking for the first time, it is necessary to know some basic trail etiquettes.

  • Right of Way- Following the rules listed below, you can help everyone get along:
  1. a) Hikers vs. Hikers: Hikers going uphill has the right of way. Uphill hikers may let others come downhill while they take a breather but that depends upon the uphill hiker’s decisions.
  2. b) Hikers vs. Bikers: Mountain bikers are expected to yield to hikers. However, as mountain bikers move faster than hikers, it is easier for hikers to step aside and yield the right of way.
  3. c) Hikers vs. Horses: If you are sharing the trail with equestrians, give them a wide berth when you are passing each other and do not make abrupt movements. It is recommended to step off the trail to the downhill side while yielding to a horse.
  • Leave No Trace: Leave no trace provides seven principles that guide you to enjoy outdoors in a sustainable way that avoids human impacts. The seven principles are:

▪ Plan 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

Hiking with Kids and Dogs

Sharing the beauty of outdoors with children is a surreal experience. Kids of any age can go hiking, starting from infants in baby carriers to grade-schoolers who can hike on their own feet.

Tips to handle kids on a hike:

  • Keep the kids dry, warm and fed
  • Choose a short hike and stop often to look at plants, rocks, animals, etc.

You can also carry dogs while you are on a hike. But do find out if dogs are allowed in the place where you are going.

Tips to handle dogs on a hike:

  • Have your dog carry its food and water in a dog pack
  • Always pack out filled poop bags. Also when you are out on a hike, leave it on the side of the trail for later pickup.
  • Stop often for snacks and water.

Hiking benefits for heart and more

Hiking outdoors provides plenty of health benefits that can:

  • Lower your risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Improves cardio-respiratory fitness
  • Lowers risk of cancer
  • Improves your blood sugar and blood pressure level
  • Increases your bone density and slowers the loss of bone density
  • Builds strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, muscles in your hips, and legs.
  • Help control your weight
  • Strengthens your core which improves your posture and balance.
  • Provides daily recommended dose of Vitamin D.

Step Up Your Hiking Workout

  • A short hike is best for the novice hikers and then gradually work up to trails with hills or uneven terrain.
  • Digging into the ground and propelling yourself forward pushes your upper body muscles to work harder and gives you a stronger cardio workout.
  • Heading for the hills will intensify your heart rate and burn all your extra calories.
  • Uneven terrains can help you strengthen your muscles while improving your balance and stability.
  • Stocking your day pack with extra weight will help you in burning calories and strengthening your lower back muscles.
  • Walking on the hilly surface while carrying various degrees of weight in a backpack will keep your fitness level on track.

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