Once you’ve decided to go hiking, you need to have an idea of what type of experience you want to have. Are you wondering how to choose the best hike for you? Well, the next step is to find a place to hike. Though this sounds like a simple enough task, I know from experience that it can be hard to choose a hike.
To help you figure things out, I decided to put together this guide on how to choose. Believe me, I know what it feels like to not know where to go, especially when I have a lot of options.
What are your goals?
This is the number one deciding factor that will you select a hike. What are your goals? Is the hike purely for leisure or do you want it to be an outstanding workout? Is your main concern the destination?
I have different reasons for hiking. Some days I want to enjoy a well-earned view and a nice bagged lunch from a mountain top. Other days I just want a flt hike through the woods so I can enjoy swimming and relaxing by a like. Other days, I don’t care where I go – as long as I get a great workout.
Different trails serve different purposes. Having a goal in mind helps me narrow down the choices.
What’s the weather?
For me, this is a huge factor because I hike throughout the year. (I live in a four season state). Some hikes are better at certain times of the year. I learned this lesson the hard way in Washington State. In the Cascades, some of the roads are closed in the winter, for example.
Things like ice, wind, rain, fog, and conditions are all things that affect the trails. I’ve been in whiteout conditions, thunder storms, came upon ice patches in the trail, flooding, mud, etc. If you have the right gear and a plan in place it makes things a lot easier.
Or, you can simply choose to avoid the difficult trails all together and find something where the conditions match your abilities, experience, and preferences.
Where do you find trail information?
I have a routine for finding trail information. My first stop for finding trail information is Trails.com because it has a very comprehensive listing. Once I find a trail or a series of trails that interest me, I use the search engines to dig even deeper.
As a tip, type the name of the trail plus the word “reviews” in the box in your search engines. Getting reviews from other hikers is essential. So, if I wanted to do the Cactus to the Clouds hike (Palm Springs, CA – San Jacinto) I would search for “cactus to the clouds hike review” or something like that.
Next, I would try to find an official website for the hike or a phone number I could call to talk to someone “in the know” concerning trail information and conditions. This works especially well if the hike is on a State or National Park, City Park, or National Forest. Most of these places have information centers.
It’s important to gather this information to make sure that you find the right hike for your skill level and so that you have the best experience possible. You also want to make sure that you know the conditions of the trail before you start so that you can be prepared. This is what being a successful hiker is all about!