20 Hiking Tips for Beginners

I’ve rounded up all my hiking tips for beginners to help you feel prepared when you are just getting started with hiking. Exploring the great outdoors is an activity that anyone can enjoy, and you do not need much to get started. However, everyone should be aware of safety and proper trail etiquette. Keep reading for 20 hiking tips for beginners!  

Me standing with my back to the camera looking at the lake for Al Lopez Park

20 Hiking Tips for Beginners 

Below are my 20 best hiking tips for beginners. This includes tips on picking a hike, what research to do, and things to consider while you are hiking! Let’s get started.

1. Choose a beginner friendly, easy hike 

While it is tempting to pick the most extravagant hikes you see on Instagram, if you’ve never hiked before you are better off starting small and building up your skill level, endurance, and stamina. Chose an easy to moderate hike depending on your current level of fitness. I recommend 3 miles or less if you are new to hiking. Keep in mind you can often walk 3 miles faster than you can hike 3 miles because some hikes are technical, and you must watch your footing for exposed roots or other hazards.  

Myself and my dog walking on the trail

2. Research basic information on the park before you go 

Does the park require an entrance fee? Do they accept cash only or can you pay ahead of time online? These are things you will want to know before you arrive at the park so you can be prepared. Many Florida State Parks will have a honor box so having exact change makes it easier. In addition, you will want to check the park hours, parking fees, and any amenities available (i.e., restrooms). 

3. Research the trail before you go  

Utilize apps such as All Trails to review a description of the hike, elevation gain, distance, and reviews from previous hikers. Reading the reviews can really help you to know what to expect on the trail. If I am going to a trail in an unfamiliar area, I like to check for recent reviews so I can get a better idea of what to expect. I will also utilize the reviews to see if I can get any information on current conditions such as if trails are flooded in Florida, especially during rainy season. 

4. Check if a permit or reservation is required 

This goes along with researching the park and trail, but another thing you will want to look out for is if there is a permit required to hike the trail or if a reservation is required to enter the park. An example of a trail in Florida that requires a permit is the Deep Hole hike at Myakka River State Park. Only 30 permits a day are given out, so you need to arrive early to ensure you can get one. 

During the busiest seasons, some national parks require a reservation to enter or access a particular section of the park. For example, a reservation is required for Acadia National Park to drive up Cadillac Mountain which is a popular destination to see the sunrise.  

The sun beginning to rise on Cadillac Mountain
Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in the background with me in the picture

5. Check the weather 

Checking the weather is important to give you a better idea of how you want to dress and what time of day you want to go hiking. It is disappointing when the weather makes us change our plans, but safety is the top priority. If thunderstorms are expected all day, you will need to reschedule your hike. If there is a small chance of light rain, throw a rain jacket in your pack and head to the trail. Mother nature is always unpredictable, but it is best to check the forecast so you can be as prepared as possible.  

Me smiling in front of Bell Rock

6. Dress appropriately 

Everyone is going to have different preferences and the weather may dictate what you want to wear. You do not need to spend a bunch of money on new clothes to go hiking and you can find something in your closet that will work fine! Layers are ideal especially if the weather is at an in between temperature or expected to change drastically while you are on the trail. Moisture wicking shirts made of nylon or polyester are typically preferred over cotton shirts. You also don’t want to wear anything that you are not ok with potentially getting dirty.  Don’t forget sunglasses and a hat!

Me smiling with my backpack on with Bryce Canyon amphitheater in the background
Me smiling in Sedona on the hiking trail with plants and red rocks in the background

7. Wear proper footwear  

Most of the time I would recommend wearing some type of hiking boot, but depending on the trail you may also be able to wear trail runners or sneakers. Again, you will want to do your research to make sure you have proper footwear for the expected terrain. I always recommend some type of closed-toed shoes for hiking, but I have encountered other people walking in sandals, flip flops, or even barefoot! 

8. Carry the 10 essentials 

If you are unfamiliar with the 10 essentials, I recommend reading more about them. These items are considered the bare minimum you should have with you when hiking, backpacking, or camping. This has developed into a systems approach compared to 10 individual items, and most of the time you won’t need these items. However, if something unexpected happens during your hike it is always better to be prepared. You can tailor this list to your specific needs based on the type of hike you are doing. 

  • Navigation
  • Light Source
  • Sun Protection
  • First Aid
  • Knife
  • Fire Starter
  • Water
  • Food
  • Extra Clothes

9. Understand basic first aid 

If you have your 10 essentials packed, one of those items includes a first aid kit. Familiarize yourself with what is included in the kit you are carrying and decide if you want to add or remove anything.  

10. Be familiar with your navigation device 

Many people rely on their phones as a navigation device, which is fine if you are prepared ahead of time. Many parks are in remote locations without cell phone service so you may need to download the map ahead of time to ensure you have access. To download maps on All Trails a paid subscription is required. It also never hurts to carry a paper map and compass (if you know how to use it).  

11. Charge your phone 

Speaking of phones, make sure your phone is fully charged! If you are in an area with limited service, consider switching your phone to airplane mode to conserve battery when you do not need to use it. You can also bring a portable charger if you want to ensure your phone battery is not drained, especially if you are relying on your phone as your navigation device and going on a long hike.  

12. Leave no trace 

Another common phrase you will hear in the outdoor community is to “leave no trace”. We want to leave the outdoors exactly how we found it. This phrase has been developed into 7 principles, listed below for safely and responsibly exploring the outdoors. A few of these are more specific to camping but are still good to know.  

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors

13. Stay on the designated trail 

An effortless way to leave no trace is to make sure you stay on the designated trail! Foot traffic off trail can be damaging to the environment and going off trail could increase your chance of going in the wrong direction. One exception to this rule is if you need to relieve yourself while on the trail. It is recommended to move 200 feet off trail. 

Palm trees surrounding the hiking trail with a lot of leaves on the ground

14. Bring bug spray 

Even if you don’t think you will need it, bring it anyway. I’ve been on a trail on a nice day in December where I expected not to run into any bugs and we were getting swarmed. More than one person I was hiking with was thankful I had bug spray in my pack! 

15. Consider inviting a friend or family member 

Invite a friend or family member to hit the trail with you! If you are new to hiking it can be nice to have someone to go with. If you know someone that is more experienced they can help you learn or if they are also beginners, you can learn to enjoy the outdoors together!  

My fiance and I looking at each other surrounded by the walls of antelope canyon

16. Join a local hiking group 

Many people will avoid hiking because they do not want to go by themselves, and their family or friends are not interested in going. Luckily, there are so many ways to find others to go hiking with! Check online for hiking groups on Facebook or meet up. Another place to search for group hikes is events hosted by parks and recreation departments.  

I have found so many amazing groups in Florida including Gals Who Hike Florida, Florida Outdoorsy Woman, and Sarah’s Walking Club. Other organized hikes include the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree where the county organizes group hiking events. Florida State Parks has ranger led group hikes. If this is something you are interested in, start looking online to find a group near you.  

17. Pay attention to the trail  

While you want to enjoy the scenery be sure to keep your eyes on the trail as you hike. Watch out for animals, especially snakes! As well as exposed roots or rocks along the trail to avoid tripping.  

18. Be aware of wildlife 

Most wildlife will leave you alone if you give it space and do not approach it. However, it is always good to do research before hand to know what type of wild life to expect on the trail. For example, you do not want to go hiking in bear country without bear spray. Always observe wildlife from a safe distance.

An alligator at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, one of the Florida National Parks

19. Yield to uphill hikers 

While this is usually not an issue in Florida since many of the trails are flat, it is important to be aware of proper trail etiquette. Typically, the up hill hiker has the right away and the person going down hill should yield to them whenever possible.  

My dog and I at the top of a hill.

20. Designate someone to check in with  

My last tip is to designate someone to check in with after you have completed your hike. This is especially important if you are hiking by yourself. Let the person know where you are hiking, what trail you are doing, how long you estimate it will take you, and when to report you missing if you have not checked in by a designated time and they cannot reach you. Don’t forget to check in with your person once you have safely completed your hike!

Summary of Hiking Tips for Beginners

Hopefully these hiking tips for beginners will make your first hike more enjoyable! Everyone was a beginner at some point and I hope these tips were helpful. Are there any other tips you would add to this list? Comment below and let me know!  To keep up to date with my Florida adventures, sign up for my e-mail list!

If you’re looking for more resources before you go hiking check out my favorite hiking snacks. Another post you might find helpful if you have a dog is tips for hiking with dogs.  

A woman in an open, grassy field with her dog

Ideas for your first hike in Florida

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