When the weather starts to turn chillier, it’s difficult to give up all the outdoors activities that are enjoyed throughout the summer. But beaches and picnics don’t work as well with the cool breezes and changing leaves. A great way to get out into nature in fall is hiking, an activity that can be as simple or as difficult as you want it to be, with trails and equipment for any skill level.
New York is known for the big city, but we’re a state full of mountains and lakes as well. Across the entire state, there are fantastic hiking trails, and this season is one of the best to enjoy them. So if you’re new to hiking, here are some basic do’s and don’ts to know before you go.
- Plan ahead: There are several things that go into this, including finding a partner and researching a route. When picking your trail, consider how much time you have, the weather, and your fitness level. Don’t try to be macho—honestly assess what you will enjoy, and remember, your first hike is just that. You can always graduate to more difficult paths as you gain experience.
- Choose your gear: As a casual hiker just getting started, there’s no reason to go all-in on equipment. Most importantly, make sure that you’re wearing good footwear, meaning supportive boots or shoes that are already broken in so they’ll be comfortable. For clothing, opt for layers that are moisture-wicking. Consider insulation, raingear, and sun hats, depending on time of year. Navigation tools like maps and compasses are also a smart choice, as is a knife or other multi-tool. A backpack for your extra gear, water, etc. is also a good thing to have with you.
- Be prepared: You can plan and plan and still not guess what could happen. Try to anticipate what you might need, including having enough food and water with you to sustain you throughout the hike. A basic first aid kit, including personal medications, should definitely be in your backpack at all times.
- Know trail etiquette: Like any other social activity, hiking has its own set of rules. Learn the ‘right of way’ rules for when you meet other hikers (hikers going uphill have the right of way), bikers, or horses. Understand that respecting the trail is paramount and the basic rule is to leave no trace that you were even there. This includes taking anything with you that you brought, leaving what you find, and respecting wildlife. It’s sort of like going to someone else’s house and wanting to be invited back.
- Safety: Even though you want to feel wild and free when you’re out on the trail, make sure someone knows where you are. Leave a detailed itinerary with a responsible person, including when you’re leaving, when you should be back, and the exact path you intend to travel. Even for a short hike. A twisted ankle or a fall could happen to anyone.
Preparing so your first hike is as successful as you can make it will give you more confidence and excitement for the hikes that follow. When you’re just getting started, don’t worry that you’re starting too easy. Hiking it not about the destination, it really is about the journey. Let yourself enjoy the things you find along the way, and let your senses explore as much as your feet do. Looking for a place to start? Try AllTrails.com to find a good trail near you!