We all know the myriad health benefits of walking. But sometimes simply counting steps feels a little, well, dull. Luckily, National Trails Day (an annual event organized by the American Hiking Society) falls this Saturday, June 4, and now’s a great time to hit your local trails. We’ve compiled a list of hiking tips below so you can stride safely.
Have a Plan
Before setting out, you’ll want to do your homework. Hikers should have a firm understanding of their intended route, the terrain they’ll encounter, and the day’s weather forecast. From there, plan accordingly. What sort of gear will you need? How long should you expect to be gone? What will you do in case of emergency?
Having proper gear can mean the difference between enjoying a hike in comfort and winding up hungry, thirsty, or sore. So, especially if you’re new, don’t be afraid to pack heavy. Sturdy, ankle-supportive shoes are a must, as are multiple layers of clothing to adapt to potentially shifting weather. Make sure your cell phone is charged in case of emergency (confirm in advance that you’ll have service!), and keep yourself fueled with plenty of snacks and water. Check out this full gear list from hikeSafe to be extra safe.
Don’t Go It Alone
It’s safer (and more fun) to hike in a group. This means not only heading out together, but also staying together. If someone in your group becomes sick or fatigued, turn back with them—the trails aren’t going anywhere, so you can plan for a makeup hike for another day. Another good rule of thumb: tell someone at home where you’re headed and when you plan to be back before you hit the trail.
Respect Mother Nature
There are a few things to keep in mind to keep yourself from harm—and from causing harm. First and foremost, stay on the trail. You’re less likely to encounter poison ivy, predatory animals, and other hazards that way. You’re also less likely to tramp on delicate plants or the homes of animals. Second, read the sky and err on the side of caution. You’re better off playing it safe than getting stuck in a summer storm. And finally, don’t litter and familiarize yourself with the park’s rules as well as general best practices around fire-building. In the dry summer months, forest fire is a serious risk that can take lives and cost millions.
National Trails Day originated in the late 80s and 90s as a way to celebrate the nation’s nature trails and the wide array of activities you can enjoy on them. It’s not just hiking—biking, paddling, horseback riding, bird watching, and even geocaching are all activities to try. Take plenty of pictures so your memories last.