People get into hiking for a number of reasons, whether it's just to get some fresh air, to get away from the bustling city, or simply to get some good clean exercise. Whatever the reason, hiking is a fantastic hobby that should be on everyone's agenda.
If you are new to the scene, you might be asking yourself "where are the best places to go hiking near me?", especially if you don't live in a rural location. Luckily for us, though, there is an almost endless supply of ways to find and locate beautiful trails, near to where we live.
Pick up a local map
It should be easy enough to source a local map for your area. These can be a fantastic resource to have, and many local shops should have them for sale. They will provide information on local routes, as well as giving them a brief description. These type of maps will not have as much detail as something like the ordnance survey maps that the UK have (which you should get too, eventually), but they are perfect for getting your feet out onto the ground.
Google local maps: “Hiking Near Me”
Google has become such an invaluable tool in recent years, as it isn't just a basic search engine anymore. Google has its own local search engine algorithm, as well as a separate regional and global one. This means that as long as the trail is a registered place on Google maps already, searching for "hiking near me"will list some of the bigger and more popular trails. These types of trails will be perfect to start on, as they will likely be the most commonly used, as well as being the safest. However, you will definitely not be able to find some of the more reclusive hiking routes that are out there by using this method.
The results should list national parks and nature reserves that are in your local vicinity. From there, you can start to delve deeper and look at some of the specific areas that you may wish to have a look at.
Guided hiking trips
If you are a complete beginner, a good way to start out is to participate in a guided hike. This doesn't necessarily mean it has to be difficult, but a guided hike can let you learn various important skills associated with backpacking and hiking, in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. You will also not have to worry about navigation or any safety concerns.
Most beginner groups will be happy to explain to you what you can expect, as well as what you should and shouldn't bring with you. They can even go as far as to teach you how to pack your gear too. Guides will help to make your wilderness adventure safe and fulfilling as the events are designed to help build self-reliance for every hiker. Groups are usually quite small, which allows you to travel as a team, rather than a rabble of lots of people.
Guides will also help you to identify plants that can be used as medicine, or even food, as well as many other life-saving skills that you may wish to learn. Obviously, these skills will not be put into practice while on these beginner hikes, but depending on how serious you take this hobby, later on, they may be useful to know in the long run.
Websites and apps
A great way to quickly get an overview of the availability and quality of any hiking trails near to where you live is to use any of the numerous hiking-specific websites and phone apps. These sites will give detailed information on the difficulty and terrain of these trails and are usually updated by those who frequently visit these locations. We have listed some of the better options available below, for your convenience.
This website has access to over 50,000 different trail maps, which have been hand curated. Just input your own postcode, and get accurate driving directions with a single click. You can also save your favorite trails if you make an account so that you can keep track of any that you have completed, or any that you wish to do in the future.
Each trail will have user created reviews, photos, as well as detailed maps, contributed by members of the community. All of the trails have geo-tagged waypoints and photos, and if you upgrade to the pro version, you get access to heat maps too.
Alltrails.com has a mobile phone application that is available for iOS and Android users. The app allows you to download trails beforehand, and use them in offline mode, so you will never get lost, regardless of how good the signal is.
Mapmyhike.com has over 70 million different routes to choose from, with the option of creating your own. By using the associated mobile phone app, you can record your activity, as well as importing it from other third-party devices. The added benefit of using this service is that it has a more social side. You can follow your friends who use it too so that you can view and share your hiking routes with them.
When browsing through the list of hiking routes available, you can filter them even further by clicking some of the categories. This will let you view routes that are more suited for hikers, rather than those that are popular with mountain bikers or runners.
What makes this website completely different from Alltrails.com is that all of the routes are user created, and are likely to be sections of much bigger trails.
Meetup.com, like the name suggests, is a free service that lets you meet other enthusiasts in your local area. While the site specifically hasn't been made with hiking inmind, it has almost 9 million hiking participating members.
There are hiking meetups all across the world, from as far west as the USA, all the way east to the corners of New Zealand. The majority of these groups are free to participate in, and you can browse each one in more detail. Each me up has their own individual page, which works very similarly to a Facebook page. It allows the group organizers to post updates, as well as allowing members to get more information about them.
This website also has a mobile phone app associated with it, to aid in organizing and browsing.
Facebook groups are a fantastic way for finding local and enthusiastic hikers in your area. In the search bar, typing "state/county/region/city + hiking" should give you all the results that you could ever need. This can be a great way for you to find small group events that you can participate in, as well as seeing user submitted photos of local trails that may not be listed or publicized on larger websites.
Local government websites will often have resources for hikers, and other adventurous folks, like cyclists and cross-country runners. They can give tips and advice for where some of the prime locations are, as well as providing you with hike-specific maps. These government websites are an excellent thing to check out, especially if you are new to the area. They will provide a good amount of local information, and you will often be able to find some hidden gems.
Other Pages on Our Site
We are compiling some of the best places to go hiking around the states, below you will find links to each local section for you to discover.
Hiking tips and suggestions
If you're ready to go hiking, there are a few things that you need to make sure that you do, especially if you are new to the hobby. Of course, some of these are only applicable for trails and routes that are out of the way, rather than just the trail that's next to the park, but all of them are important.
- Before you set off, it's important that you decide exactly where you are going to go. There are a lot of important decisions that must be made when selecting the correct place for your hike. This will vary on ability and experience, but distance and access should be applicable to your ability. The amount of time it takes to get to a location, as well as the amount of time it takes to complete the whole route, should be calculated. If you are planning on doing a long hike, but have started it too late, you don't want to be caught out in the dark, especially if you do not have adequate light sources with you.
- Route difficulty also needs to be factored in. Of course, all trails look the same to someone who is unable to read a map accurately, but what may seem like a pleasant hike through a forest, may, in fact, turn into an incredibly steep and slippery hill, only suitable for advanced hikers. Checking reviews for specific trails is a great way to help you decide if you are adequately experienced, or you are adequately geared for the trail ahead.
- Buy a map, and study it. Before you set off on your adventure, it's important that you take the time to recce the route with your map. While it's quite easy to have a map present on an electrical device, you should always have a hard copy of the map that you need, on your person at all times.
- If you're new to hiking, traveling in a group is an excellent way to get to grips with the hobby. Hiking can be a fantastic social activity, and there is, of course, the added benefit of safety numbers. So either try and convince some of your friends to come along with you, or join one of the local hiking groups in your area.
- Always check the weather forecast. Even though the day can start off sunny and without a cloud in the sky, there could always be the danger of a storm brewing that could be closing in. If after checking the weather forecast you know that there is a 0% chance of there being any inclement weather, you should still pack some sort of rainproof jacket, for emergencies.
- This isn't as much of a chore as it used to be, but you should have at least one cell phone in your group, with a backup battery if possible. Not only can this phone be used as a GPS device, but most hiking trails will have at least one bar of reception if any emergency services need to be called.
- Wearing appropriate clothes is a very important thing when on a hike. Walking or hiking boots are a very useful investment, but you have to make sure that they fit properly, and are a little worn in beforehand. If you don't wear them in, you may find that you end up getting unwanted blisters. Also, if you tighten your laces too tight then you will cut off blood circulation to your feet, which will make your feet very painful; if your laces are too loose, then you will run the risk of twisting your ankle.
- Pack an emergency bag which includes a first aid kit, bug repellent, suncream, emergency signals or flares, a firestarter, and something edible. This will hopefully never get used, but it's crucial to have available. Items will deteriorate over time and should be renewed accordingly.
- Always tell somebody when you are going off on a hike. Let them know your route, be sure to have their phone number in whatever cell phone you take with you. Let them know your estimated route duration time, to the best of your ability, and that they should contact the local authorities if you do not check in with them after a certain time. This will keep you safe, as it means that people will be on the way to help you a lot sooner if you are unable to call for help.
- Always respect the trail. The only thing you should be leaving behind are your footprints, and the only thing you should be taking away are your memories. If you see any litter on the floor, be sure to pick it up, and of course, don't leave any of your own.