hiker in a pink jacket stops to look out over a river that rushes through a lush evergreen forest

How to Start Hiking

Reading Time: 4 minutes
When we were younger, our parents used to take my sister and I along on hikes. We’d have to trudge all the way to the top of a mountain, and then at the destination was just a view. We’d groan and roll our eyes when our parents said, “aren’t we lucky to live in a place like this?”

Several years later, I came to agree whole heartedly that we are indeed quite lucky to live in a place like Park City, Utah. And now I very much enjoy hiking.

For those who weren’t so lucky as to have been introduced to hiking at a young and insolent age, here are some tips for how to start hiking.

Dress For (Hiking) Success
Wearing the right clothing can make a world of difference to your comfort, and therefore to your enjoyment of hiking.

Hiking socks. Fitted wool or synthetic hiking socks that breathe well and wick moisture will help keep your feet comfortable and help prevent blisters while hiking. For longer hikes you may want to layer socks for extra blister prevention; this way the two socks rub against each other instead of against your skin.

Hiking shoes. Because of the tricky footing on many hiking trails, it’s helpful to wear hiking shoes or hiking boots with more traction, protection, and support than your typical sneakers. To break them in, wear your hiking boots around the house a bit and for a short walk or hike before going on a longer excursion. If you’re starting out on mild nature walks and are not sure you want to commit to the sport right away, however, wearing sneakers can be fine.

Pants or shorts. Wear pants or shorts that are easy to move in and breathable – not jeans. Blue jeans are a classic look that feels comfortable around the mall, but for the movements and sweating that occur during hiking, they can feel bulky, restrict your range of movement, and chafe your skin.

Shirt. To beat the heat, some hikers prefer minimalistic shirt coverage (tank top), while others favor a lightweight long sleeved shirt to keep the sun off their arms. Either way, breathable, moisture wicking, quick drying material is a good choice to help keep you cool in the heat, and to dry out fast after a rain shower.

An extra layer. Weather can change quickly, especially in the mountains. A rain resistant windbreaker jacket is a great piece to bring along on a hike just in case.

Sunscreen. Even if it’s not clear blue skies, UV rays can burn your skin through clouds. Start hiking on the right foot with good sun protection.

Sunglasses. Straining your eyes against the sun can cause headaches that get in the way of your fun. Polarized lenses reduce glare to help you see more clearly – all the better to enjoy the views..

Pack a Day Pack
Bringing along a day pack is important for keeping water and food close by to help you stay hydrated and fueled. Plus it’s nice to be able to pack an extra layer.

Get A Hiking Buddy
Some people like to hike alone and may even like to use this activity as a sort of meditative time. If you’re going alone, or even if you’re not, telling someone where you’re going and that you’ll check in when you get back can be a good way to avoid a repeat of 127 Hours.

Whether it’s a hiking buddy or a four legged friend, it’s nice to have companionship while hiking. Going with another person is safer, and can be more fun, and more motivating. Grab a buddy or look online to find hiking groups in your area.

Where To Hike
If you are not normally very physically active, you may want to start out on a shorter trail with not too much elevation gain. A casual nature walk, a guided wildflower hike, or a stroll along a paved bike path are good ways to start hiking. From there you can work up to hiking longer distances with greater elevation changes. Research local hiking trails online or a pick up a local guide book to find options in your area.

In Park City, the non-profit Mountain Trails Foundation annually publishes a hiking trail map for the area. Available at Jans, this comprehensive Park City trail map clearly indicates over 400 miles of local trails.

How To Start Hiking
Be prepared for a workout. Even if you already exercise regularly, any new physical activity is going to challenge your body in new ways.

Check in to see how you’re feeling. Are you up for hiking the distance you’ve already gone again, or would you feel good about going further than that? Whenever you feel that you only want to hike what you’ve done so far, turn around and start heading back. No need to be a hero. Remember to enjoy the journey rather than just focusing on getting to a specific destination.

Pace yourself. A good rule of thumb is that you want to be able to carry on a conversation as you hike. Take breaks to breathe, to enjoy a view, to appreciate a wild flower, to have a snack, and definitely take multiple breaks to drink water to stay well hydrated.

At higher altitudes, the air pressure is lower and therefore the oxygen density of the air is lower, and also water evaporates faster. These two things can leave you more dehydrated and less energetic than you may be at sea level, and can lead to altitude sickness for some people. To prevent these issues, make sure you’re breathing deeply and fully, and that you’re drinking plenty of water.

Leave No Trace (LNT). Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Make sure to pack out all your trash, but take no souvenirs such as rocks or flowers. Respectfully minimize your impact on the natural area and help keep it pristine for others to enjoy.

While all of this may seem like a lot to think about to start out a sport a simple as hiking, it’s important to be prepared for the elements whether you’re planning on a one hour walk, an eight hour day hike, or a week long trek.

If you’re interested in exploring the mountains in and around Park City, Utah with a bit more guidance and less logistics to work out, the experts at White Pine Touring offer guided hiking tours that promise to give you an unforgettable experience and to get you back to town in time for dinner.

Kendall Fischer, Content Writer