If you’re looking for a fun, active way to spend your time this summer, hiking might be the activity for you. Hiking has many health benefits, especially for adults in retirement. From improving mobility and balance to strengthening muscles and even increasing bone density—Plus, being outside in the sun can ease anxiety and depression. Even if it’s been a few years since you’ve hit the trails, you can still get out and enjoy an afternoon of exercise and scenic views. That said, it helps to do a bit of planning beforehand. Here are a few tips to consider as you prepare for a hike:
Weather can have a big effect on how comfortable and safe you are during a hike, so it’s important to wear clothes that don’t leave you feeling too hot or too cold. While jeans might be your leisurewear of choice, denim doesn’t breathe well and can exacerbate sweating. Instead, opt for light athletic wear that will keep you cool and dry. Try to wear several thin layers so you can add or remove an item to stay comfortable depending on the time of day.
While there is no need to buy an expensive pair of hiking boots for your adventure, you should wear sneakers or other comfortable shoes that won’t hurt your feet or leave blisters at the end of the day. To avoid a sunburn, apply plenty of sunscreen throughout the day and consider wearing a hat for added protection. If you’re going somewhere with mosquitos or other pests, you may want to pack some bug spray as well.
Consider time of day
If you’re already eager to head to the mountains this summer, try to schedule your plans during the coolest time of day—usually the early morning or late afternoon. Just be sure to keep an eye on the time so you aren’t still on the trails when it starts getting dark. It’s always a good idea to check the forecast before you head out and stay alert if any dark clouds start rolling in during your hike. The last thing you want is to get stuck outside during a downpour or thunderstorm!
Bring emergency supplies
It never hurts to have a few extra items on hand in case of an emergency. Make sure you have your cell phone with you so you can call for help in the event that you need it. Don’t forget to pack first aid supplies along with any medications you normally take, especially if you’re planning for an all-day outing. And, no matter the season, it’s always important to stay hydrated and energized, so bring a large water bottle and something to eat.
Research your trail
Don’t just show up at a trail you’ve never hiked before and hope for the best. Hiking trails vary in distance, elevation and difficulty, so do your research beforehand to ensure you’re heading to a trail best suited for you. AllTrails is a great resource that allows you to preview trail maps and photos, read user reviews from fellow hikers and find out how advanced the route is.
Go your own speed
There’s no need to overwork yourself when hiking, so walk at whatever pace is most comfortable and enjoyable for you. If this is your first outing in a while, start with some shorter walks and slowly work your way up to longer treks. Do some light stretching before you get started, and take as many breaks as you need along the way. Although it’s not a necessity, you may want to purchase a walking stick or hiking poles to give you some extra stability—falls are a significant, but preventable risk.
Invite a friend
Hiking is a great way to spend time with loved ones, plus hiking with a friend or family member means there will be someone to help if you encounter an emergency. If you can’t find anyone to accompany you, be sure to tell at least a few friends where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and around what time you expect to return.
Following these six tips will help you have a safe and memorable hiking experience. With so many sunny days still ahead of us in Colorado, there’s no reason not to get out and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful mountain views. And if you’re looking to enjoy nature and get exercise without venturing too far from home, you can always venture out to a local open space. At The Avenues Crofton Park, our residents enjoy walking across the street at Metzger Farms Open Space. Happy trails!