Selecting a good hiking trail
-- by Kathy Burns-Millyard
The type and location of the trail you select can play a significant role in determining the enjoyment you get from a hiking experience. Before heading out on your next hike, evaluate the trail based on the following criteria.
Define Your Objectives: Select a trail according to your planned activities. Hikers hoping to photograph wildlife are going to want a quiet, secluded trail that sees little foot-traffic. Short trails over easy terrain are better suited to hiking with children. A trail with miles of ups and downs will be great for physical conditioning.
Consider Your Level of Experience: If you're going to hike alone, take an honest assessment of your experience and physical abilities. Are you in good shape or has your physical activity been limited? Can you navigate with a compass and map? If you have a cell phone, take it along. Realize though, that it may not work on the trail and if something goes wrong, you need to know what to do. Unless you have a lot of experience, don't hike alone.
If you're hiking with a group, select trails based on members with the least amount of ability and experience. If you want to reach the summit of mount Buena Vista, make sure you hike with companions that can reach the top. Novices should start on shorter trails over easy terrain until they are comfortable with navigation and carrying a backpack.
Account for Distance & Time: It's easy to underestimate the time you need to complete a hike. This can turn a planned 3-hour hike into a 6-hour ordeal. A good rule of thumb is to plan on 5-10 miles per day over moderate terrain if carrying a full load. On flat terrain, you'll probably cover a mile in about 30 minutes. For every 1,000 feet you gain in elevation add another hour. For every 1,000 feet you lose in elevation add 30 minutes. Factor in 5 minutes of rest for every hour hiked and remember that multi-day trips should include a full rest day for every 4-6 days on the trail.
Location Matters: The trail you select should have ample links to other trails or alternative routes should you find a section closed or in case of a medical emergency. If you're going on a multi-day trip, make sure the trail comes within close proximity to water, campsites and places to re-provision if necessary. Don't hike trails (however well-marked) that don't have a map.
Factor in Weather: Seasons affect the hours of available daylight and use patterns on a trail. Check local weather forecasts. Sudden storms are more typical of certain seasons. Don't forget to take into account variables that might affect the weather, like changes in altitude along the trail.
Rules & Regulations: Group size limits, allowance of campfires, and hunting or breeding seasons regulations may be in affect in areas around certain trails. Check with park or trail officials regarding any restrictions or necessary permits that may apply to the trail you're considering.
About the Author
© 2005, Kathy Burns-Millyard. This article is provided courtesy of DoHiking.com - http://www.dohiking.com - a large and growing hiking website featuring articles, tips, advice and shopping for hiking & camping enthusiasts. This article may be freely published on any website, as long as the author, copyright, website address and link, and this notice are left intact.