A relaxing hike is one of the most popular outdoor pastimes, no matter where you go. Whether you’re hiking through mountains or woods, sometimes, the best picture you get of a state is through nature hikes in its famous parks.
But while it’s easy to head off on an adventurous hike without much planning, many beginner mistakes could lead to an uncomfortable experience for everyone involved. Before you pack your bag, learn these beginner hiking mistakes and how to avoid them so that you can have an exciting, fulfilling hike wherever you go.
Overpacking or Under Packing
Packing a backpack for a hiking excursion is a task that many beginner hikers get stuck on before they even leave. Your pack shouldn’t be so heavy that it feels like a workout just to get out the front door, but it should include everything you might need for any issues that arise during your hike. Make sure to pack enough water to hydrate you throughout the hike and enough snacks to keep your energy up.
As for other supplies, bring a waterproof jacket and a change of clothes, just in case. Always have a way to contact someone during an emergency—preferably your cell phone. If you’re concerned about its battery life, bring a spare portable charger.
Picking Too Difficult of a Trail
When you arrive at a nature preserve or hiking trail, you may have several options that present various hiking difficulties. If you’re a beginner, start at the average level just to be safe. The difficulty level may not be in the trail itself but the length. Especially when planning a family hike, be sure to consider the different options and whether each member of your party can handle them.
Disrespecting Local Wildlife
Nobody goes on a hike with the expressed intent to disrupt the local fauna—generally speaking, it’s always accidental when beginner hikers disrespect wildlife. The final and most important thing to consider when thinking about beginner hiking mistakes and how to avoid them is how you treat the animals and plants around you during the hike.
As a general rule while hiking, never:
- Feed wildlife.
- Pick up wildlife.
- Take plants home.
- Eat plants or animals.
- Disrupt nests.
- Write on plants, rocks, or tree trunks.
If the trail sits on a lake, local regulations may allow you to take a fish home if you catch it. While most fishing holes are catch-and-release, if the trail meets an area where it’s OK to take your catch with you, then you should feel free to do so. Always assume that you can’t take catches home if there’s no signage telling you one way or the other.
It’s fine to watch wildlife, but don’t get too close—especially to predators. Always read the rules on park signs before you start your hike and follow them even if no one is watching.