My wife and I are Colorado natives and enjoy hiking in the Rockies as often as we can. So after 50+ years of hiking experience we have learned, mostly by trial and error, many things that make our hikes more enjoyable. We want our hikes to be fun and memorable. So, here are some things that we have found to be important to make hiking enjoyable.
How to Make Hiking Enjoyable – 4 Tips
1. Be prepared.
Your hike will be much more enjoyable if you have a good quality footwear and a quality backpack that is well stocked. Think ahead about what you want to take and make a list of things that you will need. Keep that list and add to it or delete unnecessary items from it after your hikes. Over time you will develop a list of items to take that will make your hikes a pleasure rather than a grind.
Here is a list of things that we consider essential.
- A sweatshirt or light jacket
- A dry pair of socks
- Sun Protection, including a good sun screen, lip balm, a hat with a broad brim, and sunglasses
- A map of the area where you will be hiking
- Plenty of water
- Rain protection
- High energy snacks
- Insect repellant
- A first-aid kit
Other less necessary items that help make our hikes more enjoyable are: a compass, binoculars, a camera, field guides for birds, animals, wild flowers, trees, etc., Hiking sticks are good too, especially if you are older. This list isn’t comprehensive but it will start you on an enjoyable hiking experience.
2. Get an early start.
In the Colorado Rockies rainstorms often come up in the afternoon and lightening is a very real danger in the high country. You especially don’t want to get caught in a thunderstorm above timberline. We were up at 4:30 AM for our last hike and were at the trail ready to hike by 7:00 AM. That gave us plenty of time to get in our five miles and get back to the car well before the storms rolled in. Safety needs to be a high priority for your hikes.
Another reason we like to get an early start is the crowds. At popular trailheads parking spaces go quickly, even in the middle of the week. On the weekends, you may have to park some distance away and hike to the trailhead. Be careful to park only where it is allowed.
3. Take your time.
Set a comfortable pace and stop and notice what’s around you as you hike. You are out in nature and you don’t want to miss a thing. We constantly marvel at hikers who are walking fast, talking a mile a minute and watching only the trail. On a recent hike we followed four hikers who were talking about the columbines in their garden while they walked past a beautiful bunch of wild columbines in full bloom not ten feet off the trail, and never saw them. We’ve seen people even walk by moose and deer and other wildlife without even noticing.
We like to notice as much as we can when we hike. I learned this from my dad who loved the out-of-doors and would point out the various plants and animals that we encountered. On our hike the other day we saw literally thousands of wild flowers in bloom, 3 moose, chipmunks, birds of various species, squirrels and more. We marveled at some of the smallest flowers that were in bloom, and saw mushrooms of various sizes and colors. There is so much to see when you are out in nature and it is a shame that many people walk on by in such a hurry to get to their destination that they never see it.
4. Don’t always take the route most traveled.
The more popular trails will have a lot of foot traffic. Sometimes the sheer number of people on the trail take some of the enjoyment out of your hike. Often there will be two or more routes to the same destination so study your map and consider taking the long way around. Trails that take the long way around will have fewer people and sometimes more to see than on the shorter, more heavily traveled trails. Another alternative is to take some of the less popular trails in the area. Sometimes they provide a surprisingly pleasant experience that you don’t find on the popular trails. Fewer people talking loudly and incessantly is one of them.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
How about you? What tips do you have for making hiking more enjoyable?