As our friend Jasmine Johnson of Black Zen says, “Hiking is just walking.” Which means if you can put one foot in front of the other, you too can hike. Of course, like first dates and posting your first TikTok, hiking can feel intimidating if you’re not sure what to expect. Fortunately, the Wild Elements crew is full of hikers—including plenty of beginners—who can share some learnings about how to get started on your (literal) journey.
Find Your Path… Or Let an App Do It For You
If you’re a new hiker, the algorithm is your friend. Google “hiking trails near me” or download AllTrails on a phone or tablet, and you’ll get a fast list of community-approved trails with info on how to get there, how long you’ll probably spend hiking, and what special features (Waterfall? Wildflower field? Historic ruins?) to explore.
Don’t Freak Out About Gear
You do not need a new pair of hiking boots to get started. If you stay on the marked path—and you must—most habitats can be hiked in regular athletic sneakers, including forests, deserts, grasslands, wetlands, and even canyons and swimming holes. Chances are, you also already own a fleece, a tank top, a pair of workout leggings, a baseball hat, some socks, and a backpack. Congrats! You already have the gear!
Very good girls (like Laila!) bring extra water on their hikes. Shot by Heidi Nel at Scott's Run Nature Preserve in McLean, VA.
Do Freak Out About Water and Snacks
For your own safety, water is not optional when it’s time to hike. The general rule is 1 liter of water for every 2 hours of hiking. You can also pack some nutrient-dense snacks like power bars, nuts, and / or fruit, but the most important thing is—all together now—water! If you’re hiking with your dog, make sure you bring snacks and water just for them, too.
It’s Okay to Stop
This is not the season finale of Outer Banks. You are not being chased by Chase Stokes. (That would be fun but alas...) You can and should take your time experiencing the great outdoors. Listen to the birds. Check out the flowers and trees. Look for wildlife that might be crossing your path. Take as many pics as you want. Sit down if you feel like it. This is your time in nature. Enjoy it!
It’s Okay to Turn Back
True story—last summer, I took a trail that my friend Josh said was “so fun and so easy.” In reality, the hike was very steep, and I ended up scooting down the trail on my butt because I was so scared I would fall off a cliff. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d turned back as soon as I realized it wasn't the hike for me, at least not on that day. There’s always an easier trail around the corner. Take it and enjoy.
Yes, you can even find a hike in the middle of a city!
Shot by Faran Krentcil on Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles, CA
Stay on the Path
Paths are really important to preserve biodiversity and protect the plant and wildlife native to the area you’re visiting. (Key word: visiting.)
Block Bugs + the Sun
Yes, you need sunscreen. Yes, having a hat or sunglasses is great for protecting your eyes from strong sun. Also, wearing long socks and / or leggings can help prevent bug bites, as can a natural insect repellant like Herbal Armor.
Leave No Trace
If you bring something on a hike, you also take it back with you. That includes food wrappers, coffee cups, and doggie bags. (You know the ones.)
Hiking has all the benefits of “normal” exercise—strengthening your body and increasing endorphins—plus the wellness boosts you get from spending time in nature, like sounder sleep, more creative thinking, less stress, and better sex. And yes, you can also use it for #content, though if you’re hiking this weekend, we dare you—put down your phone for just 10 minutes, and plug into nature instead.
Want more inspo? See how actress Leah Lewis hikes...