To reduce the chances of getting blisters on the trail, try your new walking shoe on a casual walk near your house so you can get used to it, suggests Daneri. “I started wearing them while walking my dog,” she says.
As for what clothes to wear for hiking, select a suitable exercise outfit that fits the weather forecast for your outing. Consider moisture-wicking fabrics, which will keep you cool if you sweat, as well as clothing that protects you from harsh rays on sunny hikes. Pack an extra layer or two in case the temperature drops or the wind or rain blows. Check out these suggestions for quality clothing and other hiking gear, including backpacks, water bottles, and safety tools.
6. Watch the weather.
The forecast for a hike, especially if it’s in a remote area, can be substantially different than the forecast for a nearby town, Trimble says. So try to be as specific as possible when you’re checking conditions, which you can do through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s point forecast tool. This is a virtual map that allows you to zoom in on a specific location and then receive an accurate forecast. Additionally, land managers often post these spot weather forecasts at visitor centers and sometimes at popular campgrounds and trailheads, Trimble says.
Depending on where you are, some trails are not suitable for winter (perhaps they get too icy or snowy) and some trails are not suitable for summer (perhaps they are too buggy or too exposed to the sun), Trimble says. Asking a local expert for advice, whether at a visitor center, outdoor retail store, or grounds manager, can help you determine which trails are best for different times of year.
7. Obey trail closures.
When you come to a trail, pay attention to posted signs. If a trail, or sections of it, are closed, it’s for a good reason.
“Many times trail closures are put in place to protect visitors, wildlife, different ecosystems and the environment,” Trimble says. For example, a trail may be closed if it needs repairs or is part of wildlife habitat that can be dangerous to people at certain times, Trimble says. For example, in Yellowstone National Park, grizzly bears come out of hibernation in the spring, so certain trails are closed to help minimize human-bear encounters.
Trails can also be closed due to weather hazards, such as flash flooding or recent fires, both of which can increase the risk of falling trees, Daneri says. Certain trail conditions, including excessive mud, are another possible culprit, as walking on a muddy trail is not only unpleasant, but could also damage the trail and increase your risk of injury, says Daneri. In addition, “the same conditions that cause trail closures also make it difficult for search and rescue or park personnel to contact you in an emergency,” he adds.
8. Be prepared for wildlife and watch what you see from afar.
Respecting wildlife is only one part of Leave No Trace principles, something all hikers should keep in mind when heading into the wild.