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Take a Hike: Your Guide to Hitting the Trails

This summer why not ditch your regular exercise routine and take the path less traveled? Hiking is a fun, low-cost way to get active and enjoy the great outdoors all at once. And with opportunities for any age and ability level and over 170,000 miles of trail to choose from, it’s the perfect way to add some adventure to your life. Start now by using this guide to plan your next weekend hike!

The Basics

These hiking fundamentals are important for both the novice and the seasoned hiker. You can download our pdf file to take along as a handy one page Hiking Reference Guide.


  • Dress in layers: lightweight clothing and raingear will keep you comfortable
  • Day pack: or a small bag for your essentials
  • Appropriate footwear: hiking boots are great for rough terrain, but trails shoes or good athletic shoes will work just fine on even ground
  • Wool socks: warm, dry feet are key to a good hike
  • Walking stick: this optional accessory may be useful for beginners, people with joint problems or those tackling tough hills


  • High-fiber: dried fruit, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole-grain crackers, pretzels
  • High-protein: reduced-fat cheese, nuts and seeds, trail mix
  • Carbohydrates and proteins like these will help your body replenish lost energy

Remember to bring a trash bag with you to collect your garbage—most hikers follow the leave no trace philosophy


  • Stretch first: this will help prevent muscle injury
  • Check the weather: your local forecast will warn you of potential severe conditions
  • Break your boots in: if you’ve gotten new boots you must break them in before your hike to avoid blisters or sore feet
  • Water: summer is a great time to start hiking, but keep in mind that dehydration is a risk—always pack lots of water even if you’re only planning a short hike
  • Tell Someone: always let somebody know where you're going and when you'll be back

The Essentials

Before you hit the trails make sure to consult this essential checklist. These important items will keep you safe and help make your hiking experience more enjoyable.

  1. Map and Compass
  2. First Aid Kit
  3. Sun Protection
  4. Pocketknife
  5. Flashlight (with extra batteries)
  6. Extra food
  7. Extra clothing
  8. Matches and fire starter
  9. Water—and lots of it!
  10. Cell phone or radio

First Aid Kit

  1. Band-aids
  2. Bug repellant
  3. Gauze pads
  4. Adhesive tape
  5. Antiseptic
  6. Burn cream
  7. Aspirin
  8. Allergy medicine
  9. Rescue blanket
  10. Eye wash

The Benefits

Mountain HikingHiking isn’t just a great way to explore nature; it also comes outfitted with tons of health benefits! And an activity this fun will help you meet AICR’s guideline for at least 30 minutes of daily, moderate physical activity in a new, creative way. So what can hiking do for you?

  • Hiking is one of the best moderate activities you can do, burning, on average, 370 calories per hour while building muscle too.
  • The aerobic activity you get from hiking can strengthen your heart and lungs.
  • Moderate physical activity like hiking can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, which can help prevent several types of cancer as well as Type 2 diabetes.
  • It helps lower blood pressure.
  • It may decrease “bad” cholesterol levels and increase “good” cholesterol.
  • As a weight-bearing exercise, it can help prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone density and slowing the rate of calcium loss.
  • A relaxing hike can decrease stress levels and enhance your sense of well-being.

The Details

Ready to get started today? Here are a few go-to sources to give you the important details.

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