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Tips on Selecting the Perfect Hiking Trail

Updated on June 26, 2012
Southwestern Colorado
Southwestern Colorado

Hiking is easily one of my favorite pastimes. The connection with the wilderness does something for my soul. This feeling can be somewhat hampered, however, when your feet are bleeding from blisters, your legs are about to give out from exhaustion, and you're panting like every breath is your last. Fortunately, it is quite simple to avoid this by doing your research before hitting the trail.

Where to Go

This is one of my favorite parts of hiking and backpacking trips. Personally, I love hiking in the mountains. The feeling of accomplishment and the great view I get after a grueling climb is amazing. This might not be your cup of tea. When you hike, you will be looking at a lot of the same scenery over and over. Make sure it's something you really like! Whether it's a canyon, the desert, a forest, a glacier, or a lake, if it's outside, there is a trail out there somewhere that will be perfect.

Often National and State Parks and Forests will have better maintained hiking and backpacking trails. This is a great place to start when looking for a trail. Park rangers will also have helpful advice. Make sure you research park rules about hiking and backpacking. Some parks require you take a bear canister if you will be camping over night. Others have designated camping spots that must be reserved in advance.

You would be surprised how many trails are right outside your front door. Hiking websites have search engines that allow you to find trails that are close to home.

Duration of Hike

Trails come in all shapes and sizes. No matter where you are, there will be something that suits your needs. After finding your destination, you need to decide is how long your hike will be. Do you want to take a light afternoon stroll or a two week long trek that pits you against the wilderness? Know your limits!! If you haven't hit the gym in years, the wilderness will win! Find a shorter hike with little elevation change. Once again, talking to local park rangers will be a great way to learn about trails. You can also find books that have trail descriptions, including length of the trail, elevation changes, and what types of scenery will be found along the trail.

Checking the elevation change is very important. A four mile hike that changes elevation by a couple thousand feet will be a lot harder than a flat eight mile trail. Once again, knowing your limits can be the difference between an amazing hike and an injury. Also keep in mind, you should plan your hike around the individual who is the slowest.

Also look at other features that will be on the hike like streams or rock outcrops. I made the dangerous mistake once of not paying attention to the many small streams I was crossing as I made my way up a trail. After a few hours of rain, those streams were bigger and swifter. Crossing them on the way back was much more difficult. Paying attention to small details like this will also make or break your hike.

Whether you have an afternoon, a weekend, or a summer, hiking is a great way to spend time. Not only are you working out and enjoying nature, your stress level is guaranteed to go down because most places you head off to won't have cell phone service. I don't know about you, but a forced break from my phone always clears my mind. As you're enjoying nature, make sure to leave no trace. Our National and State Parks and other wilderness areas are a treasure that must be preserved for future generations.


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    • brenda12lynette profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Utah

      Thanks Jools99! I agree completely about the hikes being worth the effort!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      6 years ago from North-East UK

      Great photos and the hikes and trails you describe sound challenging but worth all of the pain and effort. As you say though, doing the research is worth the trouble. Voted up.

    • brenda12lynette profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Utah

      Thanks, Outband Dan! Sounds like a great trip. I'm hoping to squeeze a weekend trip in somewhere this summer.

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 

      6 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Great information here! The Backpacker magazine site that you listed is a great resource. When I've been traveling and want a quick place to hike - that is where I turn to.

      I tend to do most of my backpacking in the Adirondacks in NY, though I wander around it other places to. Thinking about heading to Vermont for about a week.

    • brenda12lynette profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Utah

      Thanks, bankscottage! I have yet to do any hiking on the east coast, but I definitely want to. Pictures I've seen are amazing!

    • bankscottage profile image


      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Brenda, great suggestions for planning a hike. For big hikes, like my Bright Angel Trail hike, I spent a lot of time looking at distance and elevation changes. For our shorter hikes in Arizona, we just looked for something that would be interesting for all of us.

      I love to hike in National Parks and Forests. My favorite hikes are in Acadia National park. Some are strenuous, some are easy for all ages, but most of them try to avoid the crowds.

      Living on the east coast, I also like to day hike the AT. It is more accessible than most people think and with proper planning, you can find a hike that is appropriate for almost any level of hiker.

      Voted up and interesting and shared.

    • brenda12lynette profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Utah

      Thanks for the feedback billybuc!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      As a life-long hiker I can say that your tips are great ones. Nice job on this hub!


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