Essential Guide To Hiking For Beginners

Do you want to know everything about hiking for beginners? Have you planned a hiking trip with your buddies but realized you don’t know anything about it? 

You’ve come to the right place. This essential guide to hiking for beginners will guide you and help you learn the basics you’ll need to know about this exciting outdoor sport. 

Hiking means going for long walks, especially in the woods or country if you go any kind of walk that isn’t a sidewalk or a road is considered a hike. 

It is a great low-impact sport that has multiple health benefits, both physically and mentally that is beyond fun and scenic. Studies show that it offers multiple mental and physical benefits – from preventing osteoporosis to reducing anxiety. 

If you’re looking to amp up your workout game, we suggest you take it outdoors and go for a hike instead of the gym! Walking is a low-impact exercise and can result in cardiovascular benefits found in other aerobic activities without the strain, stress, or over-exerting of your body. 

Here’s a summary of everything we hope to help you with to understand and master the art of hiking for beginners in this article: 

Essential Guide To Hiking For Beginners

  • How To Prepare For A Hike As A Beginner? – All the best tips to prepare for your first hiking trip
  • What Type Of Gear Do You Need For Hiking? – Everything you need for a safe and comfortable hiking for beginners experience, from shoes to clothes
  • How To Find Hiking Trails Near You? – The best apps to help you look for hiking trails near you 
  • Learn How To Navigate On The Trail – Best methods to find your way in the wilderness and what to do if you get lost
  • Get Acquainted With The “Leave No Trace” Principle – An important rule every hiker should know 
  • Basic Etiquette And Hiking For Beginners Tips – Best practices for every hiker to have a safe and pleasant hiking experience
  • Can You Lose Weight Hiking? – Learn how much calories you can burn with hiking in one week


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How To Prepare For A Hike As A Beginner?

hiking for beginners

If this is your first time going on a hike, and you’re not too sure what to do – we got you. As a beginner, it is important to prepare before you go on your first few hikes. Being prepared beforehand helps you take your time and enjoy your hike while staying safe at all times. 

We’ve prepared some hiking for beginners pointers should you be keen to try a hiking trail sometime soon. The steps are: 

1. Look For A Hiking Buddy

One of the best hiking for beginners tip – If you’re new to hiking we suggest you get one or a few friends together and make a day out of it!

Hiking alone can be freeing and adventurous but if you’re not familiar with the routes or if you happen to hurt yourself, you may risk being in danger. 

Having a friend go with you is always good company especially when you’re still learning the ropes. If you don’t know any hikers in your town, there are sites like Meetup and groups online that you can get in touch with to find out where their next hike is and share hiking tips. 

Optionally, look for beginner hikes near me on Google and you will be able to find all the best trails and hiking groups near you. 

2. Pick A Hiking Route 

There are several ways you can look for a trail that will be suitable for you: 

  • Ask the locals 

Get in touch with a local hiker you know or a hiking for beginners group in the area to get more information about the routes and which one would be suitable for you. You can also contact a ranger station in the area who may be able to suggest which trail would be best for you. 

  • Websites or guidebooks

In this day and age, information is quite literally at the tip of your fingers. 

While guidebooks are a more traditional method, websites like Meetup and All Trails can help you find hiking communities anywhere you go and identify which trails would suit you best with reviews, features you can look out for, and precautions you should take when you’re there. 

  • Social media 

Yes, social media. There are many accounts on Instagram that feature amazing trails with tips and directions to get there. You can also get in touch or join hiking and trail groups on Facebook that can guide you should you need any help. 

When picking a hiking route, be sure to consider the following: 

  • Your level of fitness: Consider your fitness levels before putting yourself through strenuous hikes that will have you gasping for air halfway through. If your endurance is not at its best, don’t worry. Try shorter trails, and increase the distance slowly as you go on your hikes. 
  • How much time you have: The distance you choose to travel depends on how much time you have to spare for a hike. Take how much time you’ll need to get from and to the trailhead into consideration beforehand. 
  • Weather: Some trails may not be available in spring because of the snow whereas, in fall, the sun sets earlier, so be sure to not get caught after sunset in the dark especially if you’re alone. Look up weather reports before you go so that you can dress appropriately and pack all the necessary items you may need. 
  • Distance: Consider how far you know you can walk – an average walking pace is around 3mph but you might be slower than that depending on elevation gain, terrain, and how much weight you’re carrying with you. 
  • Elevation gain: The difficulty of a hike depends on the elevation gain. Over time, you’ll learn to identify and determine how much elevation you’re comfortable handling and what is too much for you. 

What Type Of Gear Do You Need For Hiking? 

One of the best things about hiking for beginners is that you don’t need fancy gear to go out for a hike. As long as you put on appropriate clothing and have the essential items with you, you’re set for an adventure in the wild. 

1. Appropriate footwear

Wearing proper footwear is important but this depends on your personal preferences for the most part. Some hikers prefer lightweight trail-running shoes while some may prefer more supportive ankle boots

hiking for beginners

The kind of footwear you need also depends on the kind of terrain you’ll be exploring. Well-maintained trails are best for lightweight and low-cut hiking shoes whereas sturdy boots may be more appropriate for a rugged trail with streams, rocks, and roots. 

Whichever you choose, make sure they’ve been broken in and are comfortable for long usage and long distances. 

2. Suitable clothing 

You need to wear clothing that will be appropriate not only for the hike but also for the weather. Make sure to get clothes that are quick-drying and moisture-wicking fabrics such as polyester or wool. Avoid cotton at all costs if you can as it takes a long time to dry when it’s wet.

  • Base layers – Base layers are important when you’re out hiking in cold temperatures as they function to keep your skin dry wicking away moisture and keeping you comfortable. 
  • Comfortable clothing – Wearing clothing that fits you properly and comfortably is key to having a chafe-free hike. Consider wearing polyester or nylon materials for your hiking pants, shirts, and T-shirts. 
  • Insulation layers – Depending on the weather, you may need a lightweight jacket, a puffy vest, or a fleece pullover for warmth especially if you decide to go out hiking in cool weather like a rainy day or winter. 

3. Other essentials 

In addition to proper clothing, it’s important to carry some essential items that you will need on your hike and for any emergencies such as: 

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hiking for beginners
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beginner hiking trails near me
beginner hiking trails near me
beginner hiking trails near me
hiking beginner
hiking beginner
hiking beginner
hiking beginner

To find out more about clothing and items you should carry on your hiking trip, give the following articles a read for more information: 

How To Find Hiking Trails Near You? 

hiking beginner

It can be quite easy to find nearby trails that you can explore. A quick Google search of “beginner hiking trails near me” will usually do the trick but if you’re not sure of the conditions or it’s a place you’ve never been to, we suggest getting an app or two that can help you stay safe on the trail. 

1. Alltrails

This is one of the most popular hiking apps for hikers because it has almost 200,000 trail maps including information about the trail, reviews, and photos of almost any trail you want to go to. 

There’s a section where you will find lots of crowdsourced reviews of the trail, its current conditions, precautions, and advice from hikers who are more familiar with the area. You can also save your hikes and navigation for the next time you head there for a hike. 

Price: Free (To go Pro: USD 29.99/year) 

2. Hiking Project 

Another free trial finder app, this app has a more guidebook feel when compared to other apps. Using crowdsourced information, this app has over 74,000 trails and more from all over the world. 

This app provides clear directions, highlights the top hiking destinations in the area, is very user-friendly, and allows you to download the maps of the location for offline use – for completely free! You can also look for family-friendly trails with lots of tips for you and your family to stay safe on the hike. 

Price: Free 

3. The National Park Service App 

The National Park Service App is a great way to plan all your hiking adventures at over 400 national parks included in the app. The app was created by park rangers so you know that all your information is coming from credible sources.

From interactive maps, general park information, and interactive maps, this app is your comprehensive guide to National Parks. You can also download maps ahead of time so that you have them prepared for offline use. 

Price: Free 

Learn How To Navigate On The Trail

Regardless of whether you have an app or a GPS device, the ability to read a map and use a compass are fundamental skills every hiker should learn to avoid getting lost in the wilderness. Here are some things you should know: 

Pay Attention

To become a proficient navigator, it is important to learn how to pay attention. Keep an eye out for your surrounding and keep track of where you are at all times to ensure you correlate what you see in front of you with what you see on the map

Know The Route You’re Taking

Before going on a hike, especially to somewhere new, make sure to revise the trail you plan on taking and visualize how you’re going to tackle them. Rivers, peaks, cliffs, gradients are all things you might encounter during your hike – knowing where they are can help you plan and navigate through these areas better. 

Take Your Time 

Should you ever be in doubt at any point of your hike, don’t rush. Take a minute, grab a snack, drink some water and study your surroundings. High points are usually great to estimate your bearings. 

It’s always better to make sure you’re clear about where you are before setting off again instead of going in the wrong direction and getting lost. If you’re unsure of where you are, it would probably be better to set up camp and get a better picture after a good night’s rest. 


Every time you reach a landmark that stands out, make a mental note of it (e.g. lakes, summits, passes, junctions, etc.) Should you find yourself lost, these landmarks can come in handy to get you back on track. 

The Road With The Least Resistance

When you come across multiple paths when hiking, more often than not the road with the least resistance is the best option. It may be longer, but it is usually the most efficient as it may have been a path taken by hikers before you or by animals in their natural habitat. 

What If You Get Lost?

hiking beginner

There are five things you can do if you lose your bearings while hiking and are not sure of your location: 

1. Stay Calm 

Rushing your decisions and panicking will only make you more anxious and paranoid about your surroundings. Take deep breaths and relax. 

2. Stay Where You Are 

Don’t move from where you are until you’ve assessed your position and your surroundings. 

3. Formulate A Plan

Remember how we said to make a mental note of landmarks? If you have a map, determine if you are where you’re supposed to be. If not, consider retracing your steps. 

If you don’t have a map, try making an educated guess – think about the landmarks you saw, the terrains you covered, and the approximate pace at which you have been walking since your last “sure” destination. 

4. High Points 

If you are in a hilly or mountainous area, it could be useful for you to climb to the closest highpoint to get a lay of the land. Using your compass and map, identify landmarks that may be able to help you figure out where you are. 

5. Nature’s Indicators

Should your battery end up dead or you lose your compass, you can use your surroundings to help you. You can use the sun to discern direction – the sun is due south at midday and vice versa in the southern hemisphere. 

The wind on the other hand helps you identify direction by watching in which direction do plants and trees lean towards. Flora is a good indicator of south and north as most growth will be on the southern sides of trees and rocks (like moss) when the sun is in the southern part of the sky. 

Get Acquainted With The “Leave No Trace” Principle

As a hiking beginner, you should get yourself acquainted with the “Leave No Trace” principle that directs people and communities to minimize any alterations onsite by prohibiting actions such as cutting branches from live trees, digging trenches for tents, hammering trees with nails, or clearing and removing any natural items including rocks or twigs

It’s very important that you respect the natural environment that surrounds you and therefore adhere to the 7 main principles that you should keep in mind when hiking – alone or with friends. 

You can learn more about the Leave No Trace principle here

Basic Etiquette And Hiking For Beginners Tips

hiking for beginners
  • Be mindful of how much noise you’re making. Speak slowly and turn your cell phone down. Immerse yourself in the sound of nature and let others do the same. 
  • When taking a break, stand aside to allow others to pass through unobstructed. 
  • Do not litter, not even biodegradable items such as fruit peels or biodegradable packaging. It’s not healthy for animals to eat food that is not native to their habitat. If you bring it in, you bring it out. 
  • If you’re bringing a pet with you, make sure to keep it on a leash and keep them under control. Don’t forget to clean up after them as well! 
  • Do not feed the animals you find on your trail. A lot of animals like to stay hidden, some not so much. Feeding them will only disrupt their natural feeding habits. 
  • Leave what you find regardless of how pretty or interesting they are. They belong in the wilderness, leave them be. 
  • If you have a toilet emergency, be sure to relieve yourself at least 200 feet away from the trail or any open water sources. 
  • Help preserve the hiking trail by staying on the trail – without going around muds and puddles when you come to it. Instead, you should walk through it because widening trails are bad for trail sustainability. 
  • When hiking in a group, walk in a single line and avoid taking up the whole trail and obstructing others. 

Can You Lose Weight Hiking?

Yes, you can! Hiking is considered a low-impact workout, so the calories you burn are mostly from fat which is great for anyone looking to lose weight. When compared to high intensity exercises, low intensity exercises like hiking can help burn calories long after you finish which is great for weight loss. 

Your current weight, diet, and the terrain where you hike can all affect how many calories you burn. An average 185-pound person will most likely lose 1 pound per week if he or she hikes 3 times a week for 2 hours, each session.

Although, you should keep in mind that you may lose more if you have higher weight or lose less if you weigh less. 


Hiking can be a great low-impact workout for those who are looking for something a little more challenging than walking. In addition to providing great health benefits both physically and mentally, it also helps you lose weight and stay fit. 

We hope this essential guide to hiking for beginners has helped you understand the basics of hiking, what to do, and all the things you may need for your next hiking trip. Remember, be safe and respect your surroundings at all times! 

All the best! 

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