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How to Find Hiking Trails Near You + Expert Tips for Hiking

Regularly heading to a park can be quite the stress reliever! As enjoyable as hiking can be, however, you may not even know how or where to get started. We asked experts for the answers to the question “how to find hiking trails near me?” so you can get the perks for yourself. Below, they share their tips find for finding trails near you and how to choose one. Plus, they offer suggestions on what to bring on your hike and the keys to staying safe for your trek through nature.

How to find hiking trails near you

A hiking trail
Jena Ardell/Getty

If you’re fairly new to hiking or looking to go to an unfamiliar park or city, you may be wondering how to locate places to go. “Navigation apps like AllTrails and GAIA are great resources for finding nearby hiking trails,” says Claire Ramsdell, adventure consultant for Wildland Trekking.

For anyone visiting or living near a national or state park, it’s easy to see a list of recommended hiking trails on their website. “The US Forest Service has an interactive map with hiking trails on it, plus campsite locations and other helpful information,” she adds. “Some trails or regions also have a special dedicated website, like Washington Trails Association, or White Blaze which is a forum for the Appalachian Trail.

Related: 5 Tips for National Park Road Trip

Sometimes, even typing “best hikes near X city” into Google can yield helpful results. You may end up getting some great recommendations from locals!

One word of caution: Not all online sources will be legitimate or share everything you need to know. “Many resources provide incorrect info that can put you in a bad situation, and others leave out key details such as where to park, how difficult the hike is, etc.,” cautions Nadine Gravis, an avid hiker and a travel advisor at the adventure travel booking platform 10 Adventures. “To avoid being led astray, I always recommend printed guide books or reputable online resources, like 10adventuers.com!”

Tips for choosing a trail

A trail sign
Jamie Casper/Getty

Once you’ve figured out where you want to go, there are some things that the pros say  you should keep in mind when deciding on a trail or trails to take. First, consider both the season and the weather of the day you plan to hike. “You don’t want to get stuck on a mountain ridgeline if lightning is in the forecast, and likewise you don’t want to be hiking along the belly of a canyon if heavy rain is expected,” says Gravis.

In summer, especially in hot areas, it’s best to go on your hike very early in the morning and try to pick a trail that provides shade from the sun. Springtime, on the other hand, may still be too snowy at high mountain elevations, adds Ramsdell.

Next, try and do research on current trail conditions when possible. “There may have been recent rock fall that is now obstructing a section, or there may be an ongoing wildfire in the area,” explains Ramsdell. “This information is listed on the website of whichever agency administers the land (Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, etc). You can also read recent trail reports from other hikers on sites like AllTrails.”

Finally, it’s best to consider your own experience and skill level to know if a trail is a good fit. If you’re just getting started, avoid those that are described as being “hard” or involve a lot of tiring elements. “Instead, begin with an easy hike and work your way up, slowly adding elevation or distance with each subsequent hike you take on,” suggests Gravis. “Quick tip: adding elevation is more challenging than adding distance!”

What to wear on a hike

Two women hiking
LordHenriVoton/Getty

For short hikes, comfortable shoes and clothing will be sufficient. But for those on longer trails, you may want to put more focus on your wardrobe—especially if it’s something you plan to regularly do. “Invest in hiking clothes that wick away sweat and dry quickly,” suggests Echo Wang, founder and CEO of Cool Travel Vibes.

Wearing the right socks can also make a different to help keep feet from getting blisters. Ramsdell suggests liner socks or double-layered socks, like wearing a thin inner sock so that a thicker outsider socks rubs the liner instead of your skin. Also smart: “Trim your toenails to avoid pain, especially going downhill,” adds Wang.  

What to bring on a hike

A hiker looking at a paper map
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty

Being prepared on a hike can help make the experience even better! Below, the pros share their favorite items and must-haves to bring along when you hit the trails:

  1. Enough water. “Two liters is a good idea on most hikes,” advises Ramsdell. “You can probably get away with one liter for a lot of day hikes, but two is extra safe.”
  2. A paper map. “Apps are great, but not 100% reliable,” says Alison Watta, creator and editor at Exploration Solo. “If there isn’t a paper map, but there’s a kiosk with a large map, take a photo.”
  3. A quick snack, especially one with a quick hit of glucose or carbs. “You need something that’s easily digestible during intense exercise and heavier foods can make some hikers nauseous,” shares Ramsdell.
  4. Duct tape. “It solves almost any problem with malfunctioning gear,” explains Ramsdell.
  5. A tripod for photos. “It’s always great to be able to look back on hiking memories, and carrying a lightweight tripod means everyone can jump in for the photo op!” suggests Gravis.
  6. Trekking poles. “New hikers also often forego trekking poles, but if hiking becomes a long term hobby, poles are really going to save your knees,” says Ramsdell. (Click through to find out how walking poles can help with weight loss!)
  7. A rain cover for your backpack. “Having a rain tarp for your pack is essential as it will protect any electronics such as a satellite phone or your own smartphone, and will also protect the contents of your pack such as dry clothing and food items,” says Gravis.
  8. A blister kit. “Known as ‘mole skin’, having this item in your first aid kit can make the difference between a very miserable/painful hike, and a great hike,” adds Gravis.

Keys to staying safe on a hike

A hiking trail in the woods
Edwin Remsberg/Getty

It’s no secret that hiking means you get both the feel-good perks of spending time and nature, plus a host of physical benefits. It’s important, however, to stay safe on the trails, regardless of skill level and experience.

The first key? “Tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back,” advises Gravis. This will ensure a friend or loved one has your location even if there’s no cell service.

Next, be prepared for hot weather hikes to avoid heat stroke or exhaustion. Ramsdell encourages you to wear a hat, sunscreen and avoid starting at noon!

Even if you have a lot of daylight to work with, if you think your hike may cut it close to sunset, there’s something you might want to carry in your pack. “Bring a headlamp in case your hike goes long and the sun starts to disappear,” suggests Gravis.

Finally, a bit of pre-hike prep can ensure the experience on the trail is as pleasant and comfortable as possible! A light walk and stretching the day before, along with warming up and stretching on the day of the hike, will also help significantly,” adds Wang.


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