Hiking for Beginners

Hiking for Beginners: Basic Trail Info

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Words I Never Thought I’d Say

As we are approaching summer, I’ve been anxious to get back out on the trails to hike. Those are words that 3 years ago would never have entered my mind.

That got me to thinking about all the things I’ve learned about hiking since moving to Utah. I’m no expert, but I have learned a lot along the way.

The term hiking changed for me when I moved to Utah. Besides a weeklong camping trip to Red River Gorge where we hiked in Daniel Boone National Forest, I had never truly hiked before.

Our Hiking Beginners!  Our First Hike in Utah August 2016First Hike in Utah August 2016

Hiking Beginners! Our First Hike in Utah August 2016

Red Pine Lake Trail August 2016

Red Pine Lake Trail August 2016

Hiking for Beginners

Hiking for Beginners

Hiking soon became our new hobby

Hiking soon became our new hobby

What is Hiking?

I guess it’s the teacher in me that wanted to define hiking. What makes hiking different from walking? The distance? Elevation? I knew it was probably a combination, but never really thought to dive in any further.

In some basic definitions I found the following: Hiking is often referred to as a long, vigorous walk. This usually takes place along some sort of footpath or trail. Hiking trails are found in the countryside and often have changes in altitude and landscape. Hiking can be categorized by the length of time, distance traveled, elevation gained, etc.

Fifth Water Hot Springs September 2016

Fifth Water Hot Springs September 2016

Livingroom Hike September 2016

Livingroom Hike September 2016

Choosing a Hike

Length of Time

When choosing a hike, I start with the mentioned hiking factors. Length of time most often refers to day hike, overnight hike, trekking and thru hiking.

A day hike includes a hike you can complete within a couple hours to the majority of the day.

An overnight hike requires you to camp while on the hike, often called backpacking.

Multi-day hiking can be referred to as trekking and backpacking amongst other terms.

Thru hiking is an end to end trail that usually takes weeks or months to complete. A few of the most common thru hikes are the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and Appalachian Trail (AT).

Hiking May 2017

Hiking May 2017

Hike to Delicate Arch May 2017

Hike to Delicate Arch May 2017

Fry Canyon

Fry Canyon June 2017

Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu Bridge- Natural Bridges National Monument June 2017

Personally, I have only done day hiking.  Keith has done a few overnight hikes and a few multi-day hikes.  

We had planned a 3-day backpacking trip to Havasupai Falls that ended up being canceled due to his knee injury.  Click here to read more about his injury.  

Last summer Keith and I intended to do a couple overnight hikes, but never got around to it.

I do want to add longer hikes to my hobby list, but I am still apprehensive about a few factors; SNAKES, spiders, animals, carrying all the I need on my back, deciding to take Lexi or board her, etc.

***For the information in this post and upcoming posts, I’m referring to day hikes.***  Most of the information can be transferred to longer hikes with some additional factors to be considered.

Keith's 5-Day Backpacking Trip

Keith’s 5-Day Backpacking Trip

Camping setup for backpacking/overnight hiking

Camping setup for backpacking/overnight hiking

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument October 2017

Fairyland Loop at Bryce Canyon National Park October 2017

Fairyland Loop at Bryce Canyon National Park October 2017

Distance with Elevation Gain

After establishing the length of time, day hiking for me.  Then I would look at the approximate time I want to spend hiking and choose a hike based on the distance combined with elevation gain to determine my day. Elevation gain is how steep the hike will be and must be factored in for the time.

I would say the majority of the hikes we do are around 4-6 miles and take 2-3 hours to complete. Most of our hikes are up into the mountains so the time ascending takes much longer than the descent. We also stop for photos and a snack while hiking.

Tibble Fork Loop April 2018

Tibble Fork Loop April 2018

Stewart Falls May 2018

Stewart Falls May 2018

An arch within the hike!

Fiery Furnace Hike July 2018

"Y" Mountain

“Y” Mountain August 2018

How to Find this Information

I typically have a list of hikes I want to do. This list comes from research and word of mouth.  I use Pinterest, park websites and All Trails to cross check several sources of information to obtain all the information we need before heading out.  It’s important to know and check as much information as possible ahead of time to be prepared since you may not have cell service or meet anyone else on the trail.  I also get quite a few recommendations through word of mouth.

Grove Creek Trail September 2018

Grove Creek Trail September 2018

Crossing the water

Silver Lake Hike October 2018

All Trails

We almost always use the All Trails app as our main resource while out on the trail.  You can track your hike and reference that to the GPS trail guide.

The one feature I love about All Trails is that other hikers can comment information on the hike.  Depending on when the last hiker added information, this can be really valuable about trail conditions, inaccuracies, etc.

The pictures below are two screens you can access to give you the following information regarding a hike.

  • trail name (Grove Creek Spring Indian Spring…)
  • location (Uinta-Wasatch-Cashe National Forest)  *you can get directions to the trail head with the directions tab
  • distance (6.3 mi)
  • elevation gain (2,657 ft)
  • out and back trail, meaning you hike in to a point and back out the same way, opposed to a loop trail

All Trails Sample Hike

All Trails Sample Hike

  • topographic map of the trail and surrounding area
  • the lower map shows the distance, elevation and grade at any point along the trail- I chose a point at 2.8 miles in, which is near the turn around point to start descending.  It shows the blue dot along the trail and gives the elevation of the terrain to be 7,441 ft with a grade of 9%

Distance and elevation map out mile by mile

Distance and elevation map out mile by mile

More on Hiking

I’m going to be doing another post or two on hiking for beginners. I have a few topic ideas, but also wanted to ask if anyone has a suggested topic or question that I might be able to answer within those posts. Comment below and let me know!