Interested in hiking, but don't know where to begin? This article should get you going in the right direction.
There are tons of reasons to hike including the physical and mental benefits, the ability to meet people of similar interests from all over the world, enjoying quality time with friends and family and just getting outside and unplugging from your phone. But where to start?
#1 - Find trails that suit your ability. If you are new to hiking, look for trails that are rated for beginners and build up. There are many websites and smartphone apps (listed below) that rate various hikes. Your ultimate goal may be to one day climb Mt. Whitney, but doing so requires time and knowing your ability.
Starting on beginner trails has a benefit - low cost. For many beginner trails, you may only need a plain old backpack, tennis shoes, a water bottle, and first aid kit, and some food. You can skip things like the $300 hiking pack, GPS locator, and $200 shoes. A great example of a beginner trail is the Marble Falls Trail located in the Sequoia National Park near the Potwisha Campground. It is low elevation, regularly traveled, and no large obstacles along the way.
Want to look for more trails? Start with a guidebook, or one of the many apps you can get on your phone such as The Hiking Project or Alltrails.
#2 - Pack just the essentials. As a beginner hiker, you don't want to carry so much gear that you're exhausted. Backpack, water, food, good shoes, and a small first aid kit. Leave the emergency stove, sleeping bag, hatchet, fire starter, etc. at home. You should not be going on trails that would require you to carry these items. There is a time and place for these items, but you need to be on more advanced trails before you should have to use them.
#3 - Team up. This is crucial. We don't hike alone, and you shouldn't either. While many of the hikes in the Sequoias are regularly traveled, if something happens like a twisted ankle and you can't walk, you don't want to be sitting there hoping someone will find you. Even then, they may not be able to help you and then of course it takes time to get you back off the trail.
In addition, tell your friends or family that are not going with you what trail you intend to hike and how long you expect it to take just in case. DO NOT EXPECT TO HAVE CELL PHONE RECEPTION.
#4 - If you rely on technology, bring backup. There are great apps for your phone to guide you via GPS to the trail, on the trail, and out of the trail down to about 3 feet accuracy. But none of that can help you if your phone dies, gets wet or damaged, or you forget to charge it. The solution: print out a paper map and throw it in your backpack just in case. There is no cell phone coverage in almost all of the Sequoias.
#5 STAY ON THE TRAIL - As a beginner, you may be tempted to leave the trail to see something interesting. But do yourself and the environment a favor and don't. Staying on trail will prevent you from getting disoriented and also prevents damaging forest habitat.
#6 Do your homework. What does it cost to get into the National Park? What does it cost to get into the National Forest? (There is a big difference.) What are the general trail conditions in each? Are you hiking at an elevation that has snow? (Many higher elevations still have impassible snow into late June.) Use apps and websites to see what people are saying the conditions are. Confirm how long the hike is expected to take.