Feeling the earth under your feet and the breeze against your face. Smelling plants and trees. Hearing the bugs and birds and other wildlife. Hiking is an activity that engages all of your senses, while also providing a range of ways to challenge yourself mentally and physically.
A hike can be defined as a long walk in nature or wilderness. But it doesn’t really need a definition — it can be whatever you want it to be.
Maybe it’s a walk in the woods, traversing a coastline, summiting a mountain peak, or simply exploring a natural area in your neighborhood. The path can be flat or rugged. It can be straight and narrow, winding, or circular. It can lead you into the unknown or simply help you connect with an unseen part of yourself.
It’s also an activity that can be adapted to nearly every fitness and skill level.
“Hiking is a workout that you can make as easy or difficult as you want based on how your body feels on any given day,” says physical therapist, coach, and avid hiker John Corbo, DPT, SCS, CSCS.
As you gain experience, you’ll be able to hike farther, higher, and faster. You might consider trying new terrain or venturing out on a solo hike. Perhaps you’ll even choose to thru-hike a national or international trail. Each new variable, no matter how large or small, changes the experience and can level-up your adventure.
The options can seem overwhelming. But coach Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS, author of The Outdoor Athlete, suggests simplifying the intent of your next trek: “Figure out what engages your creativity and your passion, what makes you excited, and make that your goal.”
Although hiking is fairly accessible and low maintenance, requiring little equipment, it’s important to consider possible pitfalls. Any long walk in nature requires strength, stamina, self-awareness, and a heightened sense of the world around you.
The following tips and tricks will help you safely take on your next trail.