This guide will help you get ready to try out the trails near you.
family out for a hike with a dog
Credit: Getty Images/Noel Hendrickson

Hiking doesn’t have to mean scaling a mountain– or spending a fortune on special gear and fancy outfits. If you’d like to spend more time outdoors this season, here’s how to find your way.

Start small

“Hiking is basically just walking. And you don’t have to go to Yosemite or climb Mt. Rushmore,” says Sydney Williams, who discovered hiking after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She started hiking by walking around her neighborhood for 30 minutes, working up to 45 minutes, per day. “Once that felt too easy, I decided to try local hiking trails,” she says.

Find a few options

Look for hiking trails through your local parks department. You can also uncover routes near you with apps like REI’s Hiking Project and AllTrails, says Marian Marbury, founder of the adventure travel company Adventures in Good Company. Find beginner-friendly hikes by setting search filters to “easy” to identify flat, obstacle-free trails (some are even paved!).

Focus on nature

Bring your phone but use it to track your hike (or to have in the event of an emergency), not for social media, emails, podcasts, or music. “I found that when I get out and hike, I eliminate distractions and pay attention to the sights and sounds of nature,” says Williams, who also founded the nonprofit Hiking My Feelings. This connection has helped her appreciate what her body can do. “I’ve always struggled with body image,” says Williams. “I realized I don’t judge trees for their size (or what they’re wearing). I began looking at my body like I see trees—with awe and wonder—a shift that lowered my stress, which ultimately helps with diabetes management,” she says.

Dress smart

At first, wear the athletic shoes and clothing you already have. (You can wear the same outfit every time.) Opt for noncotton socks made from technical fibers that wick away moisture, lessening blister risk, suggests Marbury. When you’re ready to invest in hiking shoes, go for a pair of trail runners or hikers, which will stabilize ankles and prevent slips. Lastly, dress in two to four layers, ideally avoiding cotton. “Dress so that you don’t sweat,” says Marbury. Taking off a layer once you heat up will keep you dry and more comfortable, leading to a happier hike. Because having fun is what matters.

Diabetic Living, Fall 2020