Day Hiking For Beginners (Complete Guide)

Day hiking for beginners can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before, right?

Let’s go over everything you need to bring and what you can expect from the day hiking experience.

Day hiking essentials list

  1. Adequate clothing – layers if necessary for rain or cold weather
  2. Water – enough to last you for your trip. Need help figuring that out? Check out this article I wrote on how much water to bring on a hike.
  3. Snacks – carb heavy snacks are great for energy. Granola bars or protein bars work great, as well as nuts like almonds.
  4. Proper footwear – while you can hike in anything, if conditions are muddy or slippery a good hiking boot goes a long way.

As far as day hiking essentials for beginners go, I would say the above is really all you need to bring. It really doesn’t require you bring anything special that you don’t already have at the house.

Day hiking tips


Find your trail ahead of timeFamily day hiking at Enchanted Rock

Pick your trail ahead of time. If you’re fortunate to live in an area with a lot of hiking destinations, you can really optimize your trip for what you’re looking for. Whether you are looking for a workout, a relaxing time, or a sightseeing trip for a hidden waterfall – you can probably find it.

My preferred way of finding places to visit is just by using Google to search for “city name hiking trails”. From there, you’re off to the races and can start comparing what different trails have to offer. Most have a website with plentiful details and maps to show you what they offer and if they are open or closed.

Another fantastic resource for locating trails is – you can start here or use it to confirm what you’ve already found. It even has photos that people have taken as well as trail length and time to complete it so you don’t over-do it.

I’ve done the “let’s go in blind” approach and have done much longer hikes than anticipated, which can detract from the experience when you’re exhausted. Just because a trail says it’s two miles, hiking miles are different from walking on a treadmill and can vary wildly in difficulty.

Follow hiking etiquette

If you’ve never gone hiking before, you definitely may be missing some simple but important knowledge to follow. Don’t worry, it’s pretty straightforward:

  • Hiking right of way varies, but is always given to hikers coming uphill. If you’re descending a path and run into people, step to the side.
  • Anyone on a bicycle has to let hikers have the right of way – however hikers yield to horses.
  • Don’t wander off the trail – this is to preserve nature and not damage plants/animals environment.
  • Be kind to others – a simple hi or head nod goes a long way to creating a friendly environment on the trail.
  • Don’t leave your trash – self explanatory isn’t it? Take out whatever you bring with you.

Also, to elaborate a bit more on right of way on trails: you may run into a large group of hikers. In this instance, you would step aside and allow them to pass. Just keep to the right much like you would if you were on the road driving.

If you’re bringing along a dog, make sure that they are on a leash and it’s a dog-friendly trail. Pick up after them too, it’s the right thing to do!

Hiking etiquette really isn’t difficult to follow and makes for a better experience for everyone!

Be aware of your limitations

It’s easy to underestimate how slippery muddy areas can be or how dangerous icy concrete stairs are. While most trails aren’t too dangerous, the potential for things going wrong is always there.

There’s no shame in turning around if you don’t feel comfortable with the conditions you’re in. It’s better than getting injured or just flat out annoyed trudging through a football field length of thick mud. (Ask me how I know..)

It can also be tricky determining how far can a beginner hike in a day. If you’re new and want to start hiking alone, I recommend starting out easy on purpose. Shoot for a trail that has a round trip time of 45 minutes to an hour at the most. If you’re wondering how long a day hike is, it doesn’t have to fill up your whole day. The term applies to any hiking that takes a day or less!

Once you have a few trips under your belt, you can better assess your capabilities and how long is a long hike for you personally. Some folks take to it really fast and others, not so much. And that’s perfectly fine! Hiking isn’t meant to be a competition, it’s a way to enjoy nature and spending time with each other.

Hiking trail in the woods

Final thoughts

Now that you know these day hiking tips, you should be well on your way to enjoying the trails! Getting into hiking can seem daunting if you aren’t the most nature oriented person, but is one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. (It can also hurt your wallet if you get deep into it..)

Day hiking for beginners isn’t overly complicated as outlined above. We’re very lucky in this day and age that so many resources are available online for us to research trails instead of just going to one and hoping for the best. Just don’t get stuck over analyzing them, just pick one that feels right for you.

It’s great when you’re just getting started, because you don’t really need to buy anything to get into it. No fancy equipment, just the right clothing with some food and water and you’re off to the trails. It’s only once you start getting more advanced into multiple day hiking that you will probably need some gear.

And before you know it, these day hike basics will be second nature to you and you probably won’t even think about them. At that point, you can start using your knowledge to bring your friends on the trails and introduce day hiking to them.



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