Hiking Crabtree Falls in Western North Carolina

Hiking is one of the best activities to incorporate into your vacation. Not only does it allow you to explore a beautiful area of the country that you might otherwise not have seen, it is also free (or at least cheap), an excellent workout, and a perfect opportunity for photography.

Hiking adds a bit something extra to your trip. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment, serenity, and a new appreciation for the outdoors. It’s a great opportunity to take a break from technology and the everyday hustle and bustle. Next time you are planning a trip, be sure to research the many hiking options in your destination. Each area of the country offers its’ own unique hikes and nature walks, from the flat swampy preserves of Florida to mountainous all day adventures in high altitude mountain areas.

Listed below are a few general hiking tips, along with some special tips for summer and winter hikes. Enjoy the list and be sure to add a few recommendations of your own!

Keep these tips in mind on your next hiking trip

Skeleton Point along the South Kalibab trail at the Grand Canyon
The amazing South Kalibab trail at the Grand Canyon

*Bring with plenty of water. A water hydration backpack  works well for any type of hike. There are many different varieties which hold from under a gallon to several gallons, depending on how long you plan to hike.

*Use a GPS watch to keep track of time and distance. You do not want to overexert yourself. It is much easier to hike when you know how far you have gone as a mile seems much further when you are hiking uphill. Tracking your distance will allow you to make adjustments (such as turning around early).The Garmin Forerunner  is an excellent watch which I use for just about any activity including jogging.

*Wear a backpack and pack plenty of snacks, especially if you will be out for more than a few hours. Camelbaks usually come with a few small pockets if you prefer to avoid a full backpack. Trail mix, raisins, and pretzels are perfect.

*Hike in groups for increased safety.

*Bring with a travel first aid kit. You can never be too prepared especially when out in the wilderness.

*Be prepared for possible wildlife encounters. Be sure to research how to handle various wildlife encounters, especially in the case of bears and mountain lions.

Black bear sighting in the Smoky Mountains
Black bears are common in many areas especially the Smokies. Keep your distance!

*Leave early in the morning to give yourself enough time before dark. You never want to start your hike too late and risk getting stuck in the woods after sunset. Always pack a flashlight just in case.

*Pick up a trail map. You will want to have it with you at all times in case you get lost. Usually, you can find a brochure in the park office, near the start of the trail, or even online.

*Bring with a compass just in case you get lost.

*Tell family and friends where you will be just in case something happens and people know where to find you.

*Schedule a guided ranger led hike, especially if heading out to an area known to have a large grizzly bear population like Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.

*Check all park alerts before heading into the park. Check for updates on the park’s website.

*Invest in a nice pair of hiking boots with good traction. While gym shoes are okay for most hikes, they will just not cut it for more rugged, rocky climbs. I like Columbia cross training boots which are lightweight but still provide good traction.

*Research the park’s plants and wildlife in advance so you know what to expect. Take necessary precautions and be prepared. It is common to carry bear spray if you are in an area known to house an active bear population.

Bobcat sighting on a trail in Tucson, Arizona
Bobcat sighting on a hike in Tucson, Arizona

*Bring with a camera. Hiking is one of your best opportunities for beautiful nature and wildlife photography.

*Invest in a nice camera bag to protect your equipment. A backpack camera bag makes it easier to hike as opposed to slinging the camera over one shoulder.

*Plan your hikes based on terrain, not distance. 4 miles may seem like an easy distance, however, a large uphill climb can make that 4 miles a much longer and more strenuous excursion.

*Research hikes with great overlooks. Having something to look forward to like an awesome view makes the hike much more motivating.

Breathtaking scenery from the Sugarloaf Summit trail in Sedona, Arizona
A great view makes a hike all the more rewarding!

*Cover up and tuck your pants into your socks in areas known to have high tick populations.

*Hiking poles are a great idea as they can help you maneuver around, not to mention scare off a potential mountain lion attack.

A hiking backpack works great for intermediate to long hikes.

Summer Hiking Tips

A tall Saguaro Cactus at South Mountain Park in Phoenix Arizona

*Check the forecast for summer storms. You don’t want to get caught in nasty weather. Dangerous thunderstorms are frequent in certain areas of the country i.e. monsoon season in Southern Arizona.

*Wear loose light fitting clothing. Do not overdress especially if the temperatures are already hot.

*Apply sunscreen before heading out and also bring with a bottle to apply again as needed.

*Wear a hat to shade yourself from the sun. Sunglasses are also a must.

*Use bug repellant especially in areas known to have a lot of mosquitoes. Being constantly bothered by mosquitoes can definitely end a hike early.

*Plan hikes early in the morning when temperatures are cooler.

*Bring with a personal fan mister. These work really well for hot desert climates like Tucson and Phoenix.

Winter Hiking Tips

Winter hike along the Veit Springs trail in Flagstaff, Arizona

*Save your hikes for mid-morning or early afternoon when the sun is warmest. This will help warm you up a bit. Just don’t head out too late – remember that it gets dark much earlier.

*Don’t forget that you still need sunscreen in the winter months even if it is not sunny. Be sure to cover your face, especially at high elevation.

*Bring with plenty of water to hydrate yourself in the dry winter air.

*Cover your extremities to prevent frostbite.

*Dress in layers. Although it may be brisk outside, you will start to warm up as you get moving.

*Wear waterproof socks and hiking boots if trekking through the snow and ice.

*Consider snowshoeing, an excellent winter workout which burns an enormous amount of calories. It’s fun, easy, and affordable. Check sports stores for rentals or buy a pair on Amazon.

Snowshoeing in Kachina Village, Arizona
Snowshoeing – an amazing workout