A Beginner's Guide to Hiking, Part 1: Your First Hike

By Sher Warkentin in Healthy Feeling

Hiking is a great way to spend time in nature while getting some exercise that works for a variety of fitness levels. As a mom, hiking has become a family experience that I love sharing with my kids, and we are all learning as we build to more challenging hikes. It's still new for me, however, and I've learned that when it comes to hiking it's best to start out slow and work your way up from there. This beginner's guide to hiking will give you all the information you need to get started!

Pick the right spot for an easy first hike.

Picking the Right Spot

You definitely don't want to scale a mountain or battle an overgrowth of poison oak your first time hiking. Ease into the experience by starting with beginner's hiking trails that are fairly flat terrain and that can be hiked in a couple of hours.

The question is, how do you know what's easy or hard when you've never seen the trail? One way is by asking friends for recommendations. The first few hikes I ever went on were on popular trails in my area that others had recommended to me, so I knew exactly what to expect.

There are also a lot of great resources online that can help. As I've started exploring more trails, I often turn to AllTrails first. This site lists trails across the country and ranks them as either easy, moderate, or difficult, as well as providing reviews and images. The free app lets you archive your hikes and favorite trails.

Carry a lightweight backpack with the essentials.

Gearing Up

For a short beginner's hike you don't need a lot of gear, but you do need to be prepared. Use a lightweight backpack to carry the items you need:

  • Water is one of the most important things you need for hiking. Bring about one liter, depending on how long the hike is and how hot it is.
  • Pack a protein-filled snack or light lunch depending on how long you'll be hiking.
  • Bring a mini first-aid kit, because even the most basic trails can lead to a scraped knee.
  • Sunscreen and bug repellent are also essentials to either pack or apply before heading out.
  • Print a trail map to carry with you, even if you have your phone.


Suiting Up

It's also important to dress properly. Even if you're not exploring deep into the woods, you'll encounter plenty of bugs and plant life, so covering up is always best. You should obviously dress for weather (rain included), but even in the heat I've learned to wear long, thin pants to keep my legs protected.

Shoes are another factor. I didn't give much thought to my footwear until I encountered my first slippery slope, and then I realized just how important traction is when hiking. Sneakers with a decent grip on the sole will work for basic, flat trails, but when you start to explore inclines you might want to consider upgrading to a hiking shoe. These are more lightweight and less costly than a pair of hiking boots, but will give you plenty of traction on the trail.

Know Before You Go

No beginner's guide to hiking would be complete without some safety tips.

  • When you're new to hiking, it's a good idea to hit the trail with a companion.
  • Whether you go alone or with a friend, always let someone else know where you are going.
  • Don't rely on cell service to help if you get lost, as many trails will be out of range.
  • Don't stray from the main trail, and stick to paths that are marked on the map.
  • Check the weather before you leave to make sure you're dressed appropriately.


It can be tempting to push farther and faster when there's so much to explore, but the key to an enjoyable and safe first hike is to take things slowly and know your limits. You can start to build to more challenging hikes from there once you have a few easy ones under your belt.

Image source: Pixabay | Sher Warkentin | Sher Warkentin

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Why It’s Good

Hiking is not only a great way to spend time outdoors, it's also a good form of exercise for all fitness levels that you can easily build on for a more challenging workout. Start slowly and follow this beginner's guide to hiking to make the experience safe and fun.