Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Take a Hike!

A great way to stay active on a weekend or on vacation is by embarking on a hike!  Even better: hiking isn't just fun, it's good for you, too.  

Personally, I never really hiked growing up, except a few times while away at camp.  Then, in Israel, I learned how fun hiking can be!  I loved the rocks, the risk, and the reward.

Discovering how fun hiking can be

Since then, I've enjoyed hiking in other settings and even planned a whole trip around it!  Check out my old post on hiking the Sedona Red Rocks to see the awesome views that Arizona hiking can provide.

So let's get to it:

Health Benefits of Hikes: Hiking is a fun way to explore a new area, but it still comes with all the benefits of regular physical activity!
"We came from up there!"
  • Improved cardio-respiratory fitness
  • Improved muscular fitness and muscle tone (hiking engages many muscle groups) 
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Stress relief  
  • Reduced depression
  • Better quality sleep
  • Weight loss and maintenance
  • Healthy bone structure/reduced chance of osteoporosis
  • Increased levels of vitamin D 

Risks: Of course, all these benefits must be weighed against the risks.  Please make sure you are at the proper fitness level for the hike you plan on doing, wear appropriate shoes and attire, and know what to expect from this hike.  Do your research to know if there will be steep cliffs, dangerous animals, or other situations you might need to prepare or receive training for.   See safety tips below!! 

My reasons Hikes are Awesome: 
    Fake Reason #1: Great photo ops
  • Excitement: It can be exciting to take a little risk, to walk on the edge, to look down!  Just, you know... don't fall.
  • Beautiful views. 
  • Social exercise: Hiking is a fun group activity!!  It can be romantic if done with one partner, or a hilarious adventure with a group of friends. 
Hi ho, Hi ho... It's on a hike we go!
  • Reward: Nothing like reaching the top and taking in a breathtaking view.  You may be seeing a whole new place, or perhaps just getting a new perspective on your own home town.  Either way, the reward is great. 
Peace and Quiet
  • Animals: If you're lucky, you can discover some animals (not bugs. yuck) in their natural habitats!
  • Variety: No two trails are the same!  The path, the climb, the ambiance, the sounds (or lack thereof), the views, the nature... by doing hikes, you'll get an idea of what you like: flat or steep? rocks or woods? wet or dry?  Go on out and find your happy hike!
 <-- So many options! -->
  • Challenge: Each hike has its own challenges, but whatever your fitness level or hiking experience, you can find a hike to meet your needs and give you a real yet attainable challenge.  A hike can be flat and leisurely, or a hike can require careful stepping/climbing and cardio endurance.  One man's easy is another's challenge, and there's a hike out there for every mood and level.
    Weeeee are the Champions!

A few extra words on that last point: The diversity of difficulty! This is one of the best things about hiking as an outdoor activity.  Whether you're a pro or a beginner, there's a hike for you.

This past 4th of July, my friends and I hiked near a lake, and it was just about a 2-mile hike that kept mostly flat.  I wouldn't have known everyone's fitness levels or hiking experience, because it was a nice leisurely hike through nature.  Even near my family's suburban town, there are hikes through reservations and ponds to explore.  They may not heart-pumping cliff climbs, but they can be a beautiful, fun way to get active on a weekend.  So hey, why not?

Discovering the lake throughout our hike

Earlier this month, I visited Lake George, NY, which was, for the most part, a relaxing time away.  Eric and I stayed active by hiking up Prospect Mountain.  The hike was woodsier than I'd like (I prefer the rocks of Sedona to the woods--spiders! Ah!), but it was a fairly vigorous uphill climb (2,050 ft) to the peak, where we were rewarded with a 100-mile view of the trees and mountains.

Tips for New Hikers:
Snacking on a Questbar
  • Start with an "easy" or "beginner" hike.  Don't try to rush into climbing a mountain.  Find a flat, local hike you can begin with and gradually work your way up from there.  
  • Start early in the morning.  The earlier, the cooler, and the cooler, the better!  It'll be bright enough and you'll have all day, but won't have to deal with afternoon heat or the sun beating down on you. 
  • Drink water before, during, and after your hike. Hydration is key!
  • Pack wisely: Bring water, rain gear, a map/compass, GPS (your phone may do), sunscreen, and snacks as needed.
  • Use hills and/or uneven terrain to boost the intensity of your workout.  Get that heart rate up! 
  • Use poles: This one I haven't tried yet, but I read that propelling yourself forward can engage your upper body muscles and give a stronger cardio workout. 
  • Add weight: For extra burn, pack a backpack with some extra weight.  
  • Be careful!
    • As I said above, know what you're getting into.  Google the hike you plan on doing and see what other hikers--beginners and experts--have to say about it.  Know the map and terrain. 
    • Be sure you're properly conditioned for the physical demands of this hike. 
    • Dress appropriately. For some hikes this will mean layers, for others you'll be hot.  Some hikes may require you to keep your legs and arms covered to avoid certain plants or animals/ticks. Do your research to know what to wear.
    • Check the weather forecast, not only for rain, but also for extreme heat
    • Be aware of altitude changes, as these can cause lightheadedness, fatigue, and nausea if you live in an area at a very different altitude than your hike. 
    • Bring a friend or two!  Don't go it alone.  Always make sure someone knows where you're going and when you should be expected back. 

Hikes are better with friends :)

Where can you find a good hike near you?  The easiest way is to simply Google: "Hikes near..." your location, but you can also head over to...'s trail finder, for hikes near US Metropolitan areas, and for outdoor hiking, biking, and backpacking trails.  You can also track your hikes at to track your routes, hikes, activity, and food, as well as to find great hikes and to connect with other hikers.

What are you waiting for?  Dare you to round up a group of friends and plan a hike!  Summer may too soon be on its way out, but fall weather is perfect for a hike.  Get planning!

I want to know:
Do you enjoy hiking?  
What is your favorite type of hike? 
If you're a veteran hiker, what tips would you share with newbies?


  1. I usually tend to run from point A to point B, but I love to slow down every now and then for a hike. I've taken some beautiful hikes in Hawaii, Lake Tahoe, Sedona, and just a couple weeks ago, Big Bear. You really se a lot more when you slow down and take the time to see the sights.

    1. Yes, you're so right! That's just it -- slowing down and appreciating a beautiful landscape. Sedona I can agree had beautiful, unique hikes. Hiking in Hawaii sounds like a dream :)

  2. We hiked a lot when we lived in Hawaii but now that I've had baby #4 it's hard to take everyone with us. My husband just took our 7 yr old on an overnight backpacking trip. Makes me want to go on a hike again! Great pics :)

    1. Oh my, Hawaii must have some beautiful hikes and trails. I'd imagine it's tough hiking with youngsters, but when they've grown a bit, you'll all make a great team!

  3. I love hiking! We are just starting to get my kids into it. It's so exciting to see the excitement in their faces from scrambling over rocks and trees. It makes it seem new again!

    1. What a great way to get kids excited about nature and physical activity. So much fun!

  4. I love hiking... on my own and with my family. My daughter particularly loves it when a trail gives her chances for rock scrambling or climbing trees.

    1. How nice! Yes, scrambling up rocks always makes me feel like a kid again :) Great fun!

  5. I'm a newbie but I enjoy it. I do it more when I travel but I need to enjoy the beautiful trails in my own back yard more.

    1. Same here. I'm great at seeking out hikes on trips but haven't done one in my own neighborhood. It's on my list for fun fall activities!

  6. i love hiking! wish there were more places in st louis to hike!

    1. Ah, yes... It'd be nice to have mountains and lakes right next door, wouldn't it? Thanks for stopping by :)

  7. Hikes are easily my second favorite activity to running. They are great for families, too, and are often the way we spend our vacations. Beautiful pictures!

    1. Yes, I see so many families when I hike on vacation! A great way to bond and get fit.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I used to hike a lot as a kid and teen, but due to my husband's disability we don't do it very much now.

    1. Ah, opposite from me, who never hiked until young adulthood! It's a shame you two can't hike much, but I'm always pleased to see many hikes have a drive up the back so all can appreciate the views.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Great tips and love all your amazing photos! Chris and I love hiking in upstate NY on Bear Mountain. We also recently hiked up near Lake Tahoe, NV and that was pretty amazing!

    1. Thanks! Lake Tahoe hiking sounds amaaazing! Any view of water makes me happy :)

  10. cool, I want to go hiking. Not only exercise, but also be able to enjoy a lot of beautiful scenery.(

  11. Thanks for the great and informative hiking article! I'm an avid hiker and really enjoyed your photos and text.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! Happy hiking.


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