Planning Your First Hike – A Guide For Beginners

Hiking guide by Stitch & Simon

Hiking for Beginners

Mountains to lakes, coastal paths to quaint countryside villages, there is a whole world out there waiting to be explored. While we can go anywhere by car these days, some of the most magical spots simply cannot be reached by vehicle or public transport. They will lie at the end of a winding footpath or mountain pass, only revealed to those who explore on foot.

Opting to go hiking will not only open up a multitude of opportunities for off-the-beaten-track discoveries, but it also offers physical and mental benefits that are not to be underestimated. Regular hiking is a brilliant way to get a cardio and muscle workout without the extra strain and impact of running. Studies show that getting active in the great outdoors can calm anxiety, reduce stress and lower the risk of depression.

No matter where you live, hiking can be a great addition to your life. So how do you get started? If you’ve never hiked before there are essentials you need to know before you can head off on your first adventure.

Know your limits
If your gym card has been gathering dust and you’re huffing and puffing when you’re climbing the office stairs, then don’t attempt a climb to Everest Base camp just yet. In other words, be aware of your fitness levels and avoid hikes recommended for those with experience and good fitness levels. Instead, start doing gentle hikes or longer walks whilst at home to get your body used to exercise and build stamina and fitness. This way you will make the most of your time away and you will be able to enjoy the view rather than gasping for breath when you get to the top of a hill.

Join a group
To find the confidence to get started, it’s good to go for your first hike with a partner or group. The Ramblers is the largest walker organization in Great Britain and a fantastic place to find like-minded people to hike with. There are local ramblers groups all over the country, and the organization have an interactive map online where you can search for local groups based on certain criteria such as age group, and whether walks are family and/or dog friendly. In addition, maps of local walking routes are also available on their website.

You can also use Facebook or MeetUp to find fellow hikers or hiking groups. Joining a group can be a great way of experiencing a hike for the first time whilst not having any pressure to plan everything yourself.

Choose the right hike for you
If you’re just starting out, it’s best to opt for an easy day hike or walk. To pick the right hike, think about the following:
• Location
• Hiking distance
• Elevation gain (i.e. how hilly is the route & how much altitude will you gain)
• Difficulty
• Time needed
Ideally, pick a route close to home, which is easily within your fitness level and not too technical. It’s important to pay attention to elevation gain. Keep in mind that a short hiking trail can still be hard if it includes lots of uphill or difficult terrain.

Where to find hiking routes

Now that you have established which kind of hike you want to go on it’s time to look for the trail. Make sure to think about the details listed above. Also make sure that you know about amenities for food, water, shelter etc. along the route.

These are just some of the places you can find great hiking inspiration:

‘Hikes near me’ platforms
These use online interactive maps to find hikes close to you – All Trails, MapMyWalk, Outdoor Active (this also shows other outdoor activities) are all great sources to use for inspiration.

Local hiking information or national park websites
If you know a certain area, national park or even country you want to find hiking trails in then try a Google search for the area name + hiking e.g ‘Exmoor National Park hiking’ or ‘French Alps hiking’. You could also search for ‘hiking near me’ or ‘beginner hiking trails near me’ if you’re looking for something close to home.

The National Trails website is a great source of inspiration. You can enter a number of criteria and it will list the hiking trails available. It also allows you to create your own trip, based on what you want to see.

Online communities
You’ll find a wealth of information on different social platforms and forums. Facebook has some excellent hiking groups – Hiking UK is really useful, but you’ll find plenty more by searching for different locations + hiking in the Facebook groups section.

Topographic maps and walking guidebooks
Topographic maps will show larger hiking trails and walking guidebooks generally have lots of useful hiking information for specific areas or routes. It can be difficult to estimate route details just from a topographic map so approach these with caution if it’s your first time using them.

We hope that we have given you lots of ideas and inspiration and that you’re excited about planning your first hike and exploring some of our beautiful countryside. We will be covering the gear that you need to consider as well as hiking etiquette and do’s and don’ts in upcoming articles, so make sure you look out for these.