How To Hiking Guide
Choosing Your Routes
Posted at 09:00 - 25th March - Sarah Booth
Your gear is packed, your rucksack's full of food, and you're raring to get out there…but where to? In this month’s instalment of our How To Hiking Guide, we look at how to launch your hiking career on the right track.
As with most things in life, you may be keen to dive in and set the bar high, after all it’s just a walk right? Whilst many hiking trails are easy, well surfaced and clearly marked, others can throw up unexpected obstacles such as boulders, knarly tree roots and slippery scree. It’s therefore important to choose a trail that fits both your fitness level and your skills and experience. If you are brand new to hiking, choose a trail that is relatively easy so you can focus on having fun and building up your confidence.
How Hike-Fit Are You?
Before you plan your route, be aware of your current fitness level. This applies at the very basic level of making sure you can walk comfortably and aren’t struggling with any joint or muscle pain, but also if you are fit in other disciplines. For example you may be a super strong at yoga or be able to swim really well. Whilst fitness in both of these areas will stand you in great stead, it won’t necessarily translate to you being able to do a 15-mile walk with no previous experience.
At the risk of sounding boring, be sensible! If you can comfortably run for 3 miles then choose a 5-mile hike. Hiking should always be enjoyable, so choose a route that suits your current hiking fitness rather than pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion and putting yourself off completely!
Where Do I Start?
"Most popular walking routes are graded, way-marked and have downloadable route maps providing all the information you need to be properly informed and prepared for your hike."
- Ramblers -
Another consideration when choosing your route is the area and landscape it’s situated in. If you are brand new to hiking, we recommend choosing a popular route that is well known. Not only will this avoid any surprises in terrain, changing weather conditions and unmarked paths, but it also means there will be other people around to help if you get stuck. Most popular walking routes are graded, way-marked and have downloadable route maps providing all the information you need to be properly informed and prepared for your hike.
The grading of routes differs depending on where you are and who has marked the route. However, most will tend to range from 'Easy' to 'Moderate', going up to 'Hard' then 'Strenuous/Technical'. The grading takes into account the terrain type, elevation climbed and the total distance, with the hardest routes being long, steep and with big rocks, roots, slides and debris!
Anything ranging from 'Hard' to 'Technical' should not be attempted without previous hiking and navigation skills.
If in doubt, as mentioned above, go for the easy option. Most mountain leaders will testify that the biggest cause of people getting into difficulty is poor preparation and knowledge of the route. This can be avoided by taking the time to research your route, the area you are going to and also telling someone where you will be and what time you expect to get back.
Hiking should be fun. It’s a great way to explore, spend time in nature, connect with friends and improve your fitness. Most people who now scale the dizzy heights of mountains and Munro’s started by throwing on their jackets and going for a walk in a country park. Take your time, progress with care, and your hiking adventures will eventually take you safely to wherever you want to go.
Websites that we recommend to help get you started with some great routes are: