Hiking can be a deeply rewarding way to connect with family and friends, get some great exercise and enjoy nature. You don’t have to be near the Grand Canyon or Glacier National Park either - most areas have state parks, preserves, and green belt areas accessible enough to enjoy on a semi-regular basis.
Find Your Hike
To find what hiking opportunities are in your surrounding area, start - like everything else in the world these days - with Google. Simple phrases that include the area you live and the words “hiking” or “hikes” will bring up some good results.
Hiking clubs are also a great resource. Check out HikingAndBackpacking.com for a list of hiking clubs by state.
Get a Gazetteer
Another option for finding a great hike is to purchase a Gazetteer of your state which will give you a detailed map view of smaller sections in the state. These guides also differentiate public land from private land. So if you see a large, roadless, private land area on a map you could contact the owners to request permission to hike on their land. Many land owners are generous with people who ask.
Know Your Environment
To properly prepare for your hike, you must know your environment. Mountain hiking will require different clothing and gear than desert hiking, and on-trail hiking is going to require different gear than off-trail hiking. Winter hiking requirements will be different than summer hiking needs. Some quick pointers are to wear cotton when it’s hot and it’s going to stay hot (cotton holds moisture, which helps the body cool down), wear polyester or wool if it’s cold or it could get cold (it dries quickly preventing hypothermia). Always have plenty of water, and if you’re hiking in hot or dry climates, bring a liter of water for every 50 pounds of body weight. Always have a flashlight, a lighter or matches, and a first-aid kit as well in case of an emergency.
Once out on the trail, if you pay attention you’re going to see so many forms of life it’s staggering. Plants, grasses, lichens, mosses, mushrooms, flowers, bushes, and trees, not to mention insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. It can be great fun and educational to have a guide book with you. Search online or at your local library for guide books. Be sure to get one with plenty of photos, as identifying plants and animals with only sketches can be difficult.
Do your research, make your plans, be sure you’re prepared, and get on out there - you won’t regret it!