Selecting a hiking trail
One of the first things you need to do when planning a hiking trip, is determine which trail you want to hike.
Selecting a hiking trail will depend on a few factors. To find a trail that is right for you, think about the following:
1. What are your goals?
2. How much time do you have?
3. What is your level of fitness?
4. Trail and season conditions?
1. What are your goals?
Before you proceed to selecting a hiking trail, you might want to write down what you are looking for.
– Is there a minimum or maximum mileage that you want to hike?
– Do you want to have challenging climbs or an easy walk?
– Is your goal to lose weight? Or do you want to increase your fitness levels?
By writing down your goals, you can already pre-select the kind of trail you need to be looking for. To find out if a trail will satisfy your goals, you will still need to do your research of course, but it provides a starting point and a selection criteria.
2. how much time do you have for your hiking trip?
One of the most important questions to ask yourself is how much time you have for your hiking trip.
If you only have 5 days leave or want to do a weekend hike, you will most likely choose a short hiking trail or a section of a longer one. If you have 2 weeks or more, you might want to look at longer hikes and keep the short ones for another time.
Of course, this makes sense. But knowing how much time you have, will make it easier to determine how far you can go and how long your hike can be. An average person walks about 4km per hour or 3mph.
To find out how much time it will take you to hike a track, find out how fast you are walking by calculating the miles or kilometres you walk per hour. That is your walking pace. Then, divide the total kilometres with your walking pace. That will give you the amount of hours you will need to walk to finish the hike.
Next, you can determine how many hours you want to walk per day. Also, think about the elevation gain and difficulty of the terrain. Those things will most likely slow you down.
And as always, don’t overestimate your abilities and leave some room for error. It will make your hike more enjoyable knowing you don’t have to rush things.
Note: some hiking trails offer backcountry huts as an accommodation option. You might want to stay in them and calculate your time on the trail by planning a hut to hut hike. For more info about staying at backcountry huts, check out this video.
3. what is your fitness level?
One of the most important things to consider before selecting a hiking trail, is your current level of fitness. The reason it is important to make an honest assessment of your current fitness level is because if you overestimate it, it might cause a lot of suffering, injuries and pain.
If you are hiking in a group, it is important to consider the fitness level of the weakest person in the group.
Depending on your fitness level you might think about the following when selecting a hiking trail:
2. Terrain difficulty
3. Rough weather conditions
4. How far do you want to go
5. Quality of the track
There are hikes for every level of fitness. This will require some additional research, but try selecting a hiking trail that is a bit easier to make your hike more enjoyable. Also, think about the weakest link in the group. If they are able to keep up, it will make it a better experience for everyone.
Again, this is something unique for everyone. For example, if you love hiking but you have a bad knee, you might want to consider hiking shorter days. Or you might want to train for an event, giving you a lot more room for kilometres.
If you find you are a little out of shape, and want to get fit for hiking, consider specific training exercises for hiking.
Tip: When out on a hike, let the slowest person walk in front to determine the pace of the group.
4. trail conditions
When you are looking at the trail conditions, think about the following:
5. Quality of the trail
All these things will have an impact on your hiking adventure. If you are aware of the conditions of the trail before you set off on your hike, you can prepare accordingly.
Research on the trail conditions will also help you determine which trail you want to hike. You might have time off in Summer, but don’t want to go somewhere with too high temperatures. Or you might want to hike a mountain range, then you need to be mindful of snowfall. Snow can still be present in the shoulder seasons.
For a list of long distance hiking trails around the world check out this Wikipedia page. It has an overview of most long distance hiking trails listed per country.