To reduce your chances of getting blisters on the trail, test your new hiking footwear on a casual walk near home so you can break them in, suggests Daneri. “I start off by wearing them while walking my dog,” she says.
In terms of what clothing to wear while hiking, select an exercise-friendly outfit that fits the weather forecast for your outing. Consider moisture-wicking fabrics, as those will keep you cool if you sweat, as well as garb that will shield you from strong rays on sunny excursions. Pack an extra layer or two in case the temps drop or the wind or rain blows in. Check out these suggestions for quality clothes and other hiking gear, including backpacks, water bottles, and safety tools.
6. Scope the weather.
The forecast for a hike, especially if it’s in a remote area, can be substantially different than the forecast for a town close by, Trimble says. So try to get as specific as possible when you’re checking out the conditions, which you can do through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s point forecast tool. This is a virtual map that allows you to zoom in on a specific location and then receive a precise forecast. Additionally, land managers will often post these point weather forecasts at visitor centers and sometimes at campgrounds and popular trailheads, Trimble says.
Depending on where you’re at, some trails aren’t suited for wintertime (maybe they get super icy or snowy) and some trails aren’t suited for summertime (perhaps they’re extremely buggy or way too exposed to the sun), says Trimble. Tapping a local expert for advice—whether at a visitor center, outdoor retailer, or land manager—can help you determine what trails are best for different times of the year.
7. Obey trail closures.
When you get to a trail, pay attention to posted signs. If a trail, or sections of it, are closed, then it’s for good reason.
“A lot of times trail closures are established to protect visitors, wildlife, different ecosystems, and the environment,” says Trimble. For instance, a trail may be closed if it needs repairs, or if it’s part of a wildlife habitat that can be dangerous to people at certain times, says Trimble. For instance, at Yellowstone National Park, grizzly bears come out of hibernation in the spring, so certain trails are closed then to help minimize encounters between people and bears.
Trails can also be shuttered due to weather hazards, such as flash flooding or recent fires, the latter of which can increase the risk of falling trees, says Daneri. Certain trail conditions, including excessive mud, are another possible culprit, since walking on a muddy trail is not only unpleasant, but could also potentially damage the trail and increase your risk of getting injured, says Daneri. What’s more, “the same conditions that lead to trail closures also make it more difficult for search and rescue or park staff to reach you in case of an emergency,” she adds.
8. Prep for wildlife, and observe what you see from afar.
Respecting wildlife is just one part of the Leave No Trace principles—something all hikers should keep in mind when they enter nature.