hiking man

Hiking is a fantastic way to get outside, explore nature, get some exercise, and challenge yourself with new adventures. If you’re new to hiking, it can seem intimidating at first. However, with some preparation and by starting easy, hiking can become an enjoyable hobby for beginners. Use these hiking tips to get started and make the most of your time on the trails.

What is Hiking and Why is it Great for Beginners?

Hiking simply means walking outdoors in natural areas like forests, mountains, deserts or along scenic trails. It’s an accessible activity that almost anyone can do. Hiking is a great choice for beginners because you can start small and work your way up at your own pace. It requires minimal gear, making it budget-friendly. Hiking also provides numerous health benefits, including:

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Increased endurance
  • Stronger muscles
  • Stress relief
  • Better sleep
  • Creative inspiration
  • Time spent in nature

Hiking is the perfect way to get outside, get moving, and explore the natural world around you. The sense of accomplishment after completing a hike, no matter the distance or difficulty, is very rewarding for beginners.

What are the Benefits of Hiking?

In addition to physical fitness, hiking provides many other benefits:

  • Mental health – Being out in nature is calming and soothing for the mind. The fresh air and scenery help boost mood and reduce stress.
  • Social activity – Hiking with friends or family is a fun way to bond and catch up without distractions.
  • Appreciation of nature – Noticing the beauty of your surroundings – sights, sounds, smells – can be meditative.
  • Escape from technology – Time spent hiking is time away from screens, emails, social media, etc. It’s a chance to unplug.
  • Adventure – Hiking allows you to explore new places and experience the thrill of the unknown.
  • Low cost – After any needed gear purchases, hiking itself is free! It’s an affordable adventure.

No matter what draws you to the trails, hiking offers a multitude of benefits for the mind, body and soul.

What to Expect on a Beginner Hiking Trip

If you’re heading out on your first hiking trip, be sure to leave any preconceived notions behind. Hiking can be as challenging or as casual as you want it to be. Here’s what to expect as a hiking beginner:

  • Start slow – Look for short and flat trails to build up your endurance and stamina. Many state and national parks have trails rated “easy” for beginners.
  • Focus on enjoyment – Don’t worry about speed or distance. Stop to take photos, enjoy views, or chat with hiking companions.
  • Take breaks – Frequent short breaks help you catch your breath and regroup. Listen to your body.
  • Pack light snacks – Bring high-energy snacks to refuel along the way. Good options include trail mix, granola bars, fruit, and jerky.
  • Be prepared – Research trail conditions, pack essentials like water and first aid supplies, and check the weather forecast.
  • Appreciate nature – Pause to notice wildlife, plants, waterfalls, rock formations, and other unique natural features.

The main goal for first-time hikers should be having fun, challenging yourself a little, and taking in the natural splendor of the trail.

Essential Hiking Gear for Beginners

Having the right gear will make your hiking experience safer and more enjoyable. The essentials to pack include:

Hiking Shoes or Boots

Proper footwear prevents injury on uneven terrain. Look for shoes or boots with sturdy construction, ankle support, and good traction. Break them in before hitting the trail.


A backpack allows you to comfortably carry water, snacks, layers of clothing and other essentials. Look for one with waist and chest straps for stability.

Water Bottle or Hydration Bladder

Staying hydrated is key when hiking. Carry plenty of water – at least 1 liter. You’ll drink more than you expect.

Snacks and Lunch

Bring high-energy, portable snacks to refuel during your hike. Good options include protein bars, trail mix, jerky, and fruit.


Protect yourself from sun exposure and burns by applying broad spectrum SPF 30 (or higher) sunscreen. Reapply often.

Insect Repellent

Bugs can put a damper on a hike. Use an EPA-registered insect repellent to ward off ticks, mosquitoes and flies.

First-Aid Kit

Be prepared for minor cuts, scrapes or blisters with a small first aid kit including bandages, gauze, tape, antiseptic wipes, etc.

Map and Compass (or GPS Device)

Even when hiking established trails, bring a map and compass in case you get turned around. Alternatively, bring a GPS device.

With this basic gear, you’ll be outfitted for a safe, comfortable beginner hike. Don’t overpack – traveling light is key.

How to Choose the Right Hiking Trail for Beginners

With thousands of hiking trails across the country, how do you select the right one for your first hike? Here are some tips:

Consider the Length and Difficulty of the Trail

Look for short trails around 2-3 miles to start. Choose a route rated “easy” with minimal elevation gain. Check trail maps and guides for this info.

Choose a Trail That is Appropriate for Your Fitness Level

Be realistic about your conditioning. If you’re sedentary, start with flat trails. If you exercise regularly, you can challenge yourself a bit more.

Research the Trail Conditions Before You Go

Consider the terrain, potential obstacles, and if the trail is well marked. Pick a trail you feel confident you can complete.

Let Someone Know Where You Are Going and When You Expect to Be Back

This is a safety precaution in case of emergency. Share your hike plan.

Check the Weather Forecast and Dress Accordingly

Don’t get caught off guard by rain, snow or temperature drops. Check the forecast and pack proper clothing.

Know Your Skill Level

As a beginner, avoid advanced trails with steep inclines or requiring scrambling or climbing. Stick to basic hiking trails to start.

Choosing the right beginner hiking trail will help ensure your first hike is enjoyable and successful. Starting easy allows you to build skills and stamina over time.

Hiking Safety Tips for Beginners

While hiking has inherent risks, you can hike safely by following some common sense precautions:

Always Hike With a Buddy

There is safety in numbers. Hike with a partner or group in case someone gets injured or lost.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Watch your footing and look out for potential trip hazards like roots, rocks and branches.

Stay Hydrated and Eat Regularly

Drink frequently and refuel with high-energy snacks to avoid fatigue. Dehydration and hunger can cause issues.

Take Breaks When You Need Them

Listen to your body. Take rest breaks before you’re overly tired. There’s no shame in hiking slowly.

Be Prepared for All Types of Weather Conditions

Check forecasts and pack proper clothing and gear for sun, rain, wind or temperature drops.

Leave No Trace

To preserve the wilderness, pack out all trash and stay on marked trails. Follow Leave No Trace principles.

Research the Trail in Advance

Know what to expect regarding distance, terrain, navigation, emergencies, etc. to be prepared.

Share Your Plans with Someone

Provide the details of your hike plan to a friend or family member before departing.

Know Your Limits

As a beginner, be conservative in choosing hike distance and difficulty. It’s better to finish feeling successful.

Following basic safety precautions will help ensure you have an enjoyable and accident-free hike. Use good judgement based on conditions. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

What to Pack for a Day Hike

The essentials to pack for a full day out on the trail include:

  • Sturdy hiking shoes
  • Lightweight, breathable clothing
  • Water and electrolyte drinks
  • High-energy snacks like protein bars, nuts, jerky
  • Hearty sandwich or trail mix for lunch
  • First aid kit
  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Fire starter kit and blanket (for emergencies)
  • Sun protection: hat, sunglasses, sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Map and compass
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Lightweight, packable rain jacket

Here are some additional items to consider:

  • Trekking poles – Helpful for ascending and descending trails
  • Camp chair – For resting comfortably during lunch
  • Bear spray – If hiking in bear country
  • Water filter or purification tablets – For filtering water from natural sources
  • Whistle – To call for help if needed
  • Portable charger – For GPS and other devices

The exact items to pack will vary depending on trail conditions, weather, distance and difficulty. But using the list above as a guide will help any beginner prepare for a successful day hike.

Hiking Tips for Beginners in Hot Weather

Hiking in hot weather conditions presents some unique challenges. Here are tips for beginner hikers to handle the heat:

Hike Early in the Morning or Late in the Evening

Avoid the hottest part of the day. Get an early start to beat the heat.

Take Breaks in the Shade

Rest in shaded spots to cool down periodically. Seek shade under trees, rock outcroppings or shelters.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Hydrate frequently along the trail. Carry more water than you think you’ll need.

Wear Loose-Fitting, Light-Colored Clothing

Light fabrics in light colors will keep you cooler. Avoid direct sun exposure on skin.

Protect Yourself from the Sun

Use sunscreen, wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses. Sunburn decreases your body’s ability to cool itself.

Check the Forecast and Be Prepared

Know the expected high temperature so you can plan accordingly. Heat stroke is a serious risk.

Choose Shaded Routes

Look for trails with tree cover when possible. Avoid completely exposed trails.

Take it Slow

Hike at a leisurely pace and take rest breaks. Listen to your body’s cues.

Pack Electrolytes

Replenish electrolytes lost from sweating by drinking sports drinks or electrolyte tablets.

Be smart in the heat to prevent issues like heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration. Take extra precautions as a beginner until you acclimate.

Hiking Tips for Beginners in Cold Weather

Hiking during cold weather can be enjoyable with proper preparation. Here are some tips for beginners:

Dress in Layers

Wear breathable base layers, insulating mid-layers and wind/waterproof outer shells to adapt to conditions.

Wear a Hat and Gloves

Much body heat is lost through the head and hands. Cover up to retain warmth.

Bring Extra Food and Water

You’ll burn more calories and get dehydrated faster in cold weather. Fuel up properly.

Be Aware of the Signs of Hypothermia

Know the warning signs like shivering, fatigue, and confusion. Descend and warm up immediately if symptoms appear.

Check the Forecast and Dress Accordingly

Know expected temperatures, wind chill, precipitation, etc. to dress properly. Conditions can change quickly.

Pack Hand and Foot Warmers

These air-activated warmers provide portable heat when needed. Helpful during rest breaks.

Bring Fire Starters

Fire starting supplies allow you to build an emergency campfire if required.

Watch Your Step

Icy trails increase your chance of slips and falls. Use trekking poles for stability.

Stay Dry

Use waterproof boots and gaiters. Change into dry layers if clothes get wet.

Shorten Your Route if Necessary

Frigid weather may require adjusting your hike distance or elevation goals.

With the proper gear and preparation, winter hiking can be an incredible experience for beginners. Just take steps to ensure you stay warm, dry and safe.


Hopefully these hiking tips provide an informative overview of how beginners can start hiking safely and successfully. The key is to start slowly on short and easy trails, use proper gear, and build your skills and stamina over time. Hiking is a rewarding lifetime activity. With some preparation and patience as you learn, you’ll be exploring the trails like a pro in no time. Remember to enjoy the journey, soak up the natural beauty around you, and have fun!