Hiking 101- Hiking for Beginners
So you want to start hiking! That’s awesome! Welcome to an activity, a sport, a lifestyle, that can change you positively in a variety of ways.
Many people begin hiking to maintain or increase their fitness level, and this is a great goal. In fact, the cardiovascular conditioning offered by hiking is excellent, especially because when hiking one typically elevates and maintains an increased heart rate. In addition, hiking typically produces less stress on joints and is a more low impact cardiovascular activity, and as such is an activity one can continue indefinitely as we age.
However, there are additional – and often greater and more profound – benefits to hiking in addition to the obvious physical component. These are not always obvious, especially when we are new to hiking and adjusting to the rigors of the trail. Please read our Hiking Philosophy for an exposition on hiking as a synergism of the physical, psychological, and spiritual planes of human existence.
Assuming now that you have confirmed your fitness level and are ready, a logical question is – where do I start? As in any fitness activity, you will want to start slow and build to more challenging levels. If you are a true beginner you may want to start training in some parks and tackle some small hills first. Our Southern California Beginner Hikes list offers a number of relatively easy trails – note that these are still mountain and wilderness trails and as such you need to take reasonable precautions.
The most critical requirement is to keep yourself and your companions safe. Make sure to review the Hiking Safety page for important information regarding this crucial element of your new activity. In particular, be careful not to overextend yourself physically on your first few hikes, and always go hiking with a companion. Never go hiking alone as a beginner.
You will also want to obtain knowledge of all the proper gear associated with hiking. You can review our Hiking Gear page for lots of information about this vital element. It’s important as well to do your own research. You should visit outdoor gear stores, read books and magazines, review maps, and stay abreast of events in your hiking area.
Now it’s all up to you. The beauty and wonder of our natural world is only a short journey away. You can look at photos and dream forever, or you can get out there on the trail, and experience the incomparable magic of hiking.
Part of hiking 101 – hiking for beginners is to make sure to consult a physician and to have a complete physical before embarking on any strenuous exercise program. You are responsible for your own safety and knowing your physical condition is one aspect of that responsibility. The hikes covered on this site, even the beginner hikes, are still in mountains and wilderness areas and as such only you can determine if you are capable – or not – of safely negotiating any specific hike.