Hiking for Beginners – Planning & Preparing for a Hike

Hiking is an enjoyable way to experience the great outdoors with friends and family while also getting a low-impact workout. You get to explore roads that can’t be reached any other way, making it easy to leave your worries behind for a few hours. If you’re new to hiking, you might be intimidated by the idea of packing the right supplies, wearing the right gear, and finding the right trail. With this guide, you’ll have everything you need to plan and prepare for a successful day hike.

What to Pack for a Hike

Pack a sturdy, comfortable hiking backpack with the following supplies:

  • Navigation tools, such as a paper map, compass, or offline trail map on your phone
  • Two water bottles—one frozen and one thawed—to keep your body cool and hydrated
  • Snacks (more on that below)
  • Rain protection, including a windbreaker, poncho, and extra socks
  • First-aid and emergency supplies, including a blister kit, adhesive bandages, ace wraps, gauze pads and tape, antibiotic ointment, bug bite cream, multipurpose tool, whistle, and flashlight
  • Toiletries, such as hand sanitizer, wipes, napkins or toilet paper, and trash bags
  • Sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection rated SPF 15 or higher (remember to reapply every two hours)
  • Insect repellent with DEET for maximum bug protection

What to Wear on a Hike

The wrong clothes can leave you feeling miserable on the hike and sore for days after. Here’s what to wear for the most comfortable hiking experience:

  • Hiking shoes and socks: Old tennis shoes might be good enough for an easy hike, but you may want to invest in legitimate hiking boots for more rugged trails. To reduce the risk of blisters, be sure to break in new shoes before taking a long hike. And opt for synthetic socks to improve moisture wicking.
  • Non-chafing bottoms: It’s best to avoid denim when hiking. Instead, choose lightweight pants, capris, or shorts that aren’t prone to chafing.
  • Layers: Dressing in layers ensures comfort in a range of weather conditions. Choose lightweight, light-colored clothes to help you stay cool, and avoid cotton shirts because this material holds in moisture.

What to Eat on a Hike

About two hours before your hike, start drinking more water than usual and eat energizing complex carbs, fruits, and vegetables. Then, bring these snacks along for a pick-me-up on the trail:

  • Granola bars
  • Dried fruit or vegetables
  • Trail mix
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole-grain crackers or pretzels
  • Cereal

Where to Go on a Hike

Your bag is packed, your hiking shoes are on, and your body is energized. The last step is to choose exactly where to hike. We recommend checking out the Maryland Mountain trail system. Follow these tips to help you narrow down your options:

  • Time: Decide how much time you want to spend on the trail, keeping in mind that the average hiker walks about 2 to 3 miles per hour. When estimating your timeframe, remember to add one hour for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
  • Distance: You can also gauge the length of your hike by distance alone. If you know you can comfortably walk a few miles around town, you should be able to do so on a mountain trail as well. Of course, you can always choose a short hike your first time around and go up from there.
  • Fitness level: When researching hikes, you may see them labeled “easy,” “moderate,” or “hard.” The difficulty level is based on distance, elevation gain, terrain, and other factors. As a first-time hiker, it’s definitely wise to choose an easy hike.
  • Characteristics of the trail: Is the hike a loop or out-and-back? Are there paved areas, or is it all dirt? Are dogs, horses, and bikes allowed? Knowing these features can help you choose the right trail for your needs.

How to Stay Safe on a Hike

  • Check the weather forecast so you can dress appropriately.
  • Stretch for five minutes before a hike to loosen up.
  • Leave at a time that won’t require you to hike after dark.
  • Stay on the designated trail.
  • Hike with at least one companion, and tell someone else where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • Most importantly, relax, have fun, and enjoy the great outdoors at your own pace. When you’re in nature, there’s no need to hurry.

Spend the Weekend in Black Hawk

A day hike is fun, but a weekend getaway in Black Hawk is even better! Spend your days on the trails, and then head back to Main Street in the evenings. Stay in a luxurious hotel for access to casual and fine dining, rooftop pools, spa treatments, and over a dozen casinos. Come see for yourself why Black Hawk is one of Colorado’s top destinations!