Mark Mederios - POST
By ,
Senior Manager of Community Engagement

There’s no better way to experience the beauty of nature than on your own feet. But if you don’t hike often, or have never tried, it can be a little intimidating to figure out what to bring, where to go and what to expect. More and more people are becoming interested in hiking and, for some, it’s hard to know where to start. So, if you feel this way, you’re not alone.

Getting outside to enjoy the beauty of our local landscapes is part of the reason we work so hard to protect them. It’s good to remember that a hike is basically just a walk, except instead of your neighborhood or a park in the city you’ll be out in nature. A hike can be one mile or 10, on flat ground or all the way up to the top of a mountain, it’s totally up to you!

We want you to feel confident on your next (or first) hike so that you can enjoy our open spaces as much as we do. So, what are you waiting for? POST has taken thousands of people out on hikes over the years, and we’ve learned a few things about helping beginners. Below you’ll find all the information you need for a world-class Bay Area hike. There’s a lot to learn — but we’re here to help.

Happy trails!

What to Bring On Your Next Hike

You don’t need a fancy pair of hiking boots or an expensive backpack to enjoy a walk in the woods. A comfortable pair of shoes with good tread and a simple backpack to carry water and a few other essentials will suffice. But there are things to keep in mind if you’re heading out in winter weather, and items you’ll want to have on hand for longer hikes. We have some tips for you below.

Choosing The Right Shoes

Your shoes will have a big impact on your comfort level. The main thing to remember is that you want a sturdy shoe that has good tread — or at least isn’t smooth on the bottom. Having shoes that can grip the ground will help you maintain good footing, for example if you’re hiking up hill on a dirt trail.

Flip flops or sandals are usually a bad idea unless they’re specifically made for walking long distances. There are all sorts of shoes and boots out there made for hiking, and if you plan to make hiking a regular part of your life you might want to invest in a hiking boot or a more light-weight trail running shoe. Also, keep in mind that hiking often means walking on dirt trails — you can expect your shoes to get a dusty, or a little muddy if it’s been raining out.

how to hike - POST

How to Pack (Like A Pro) for Hiking

Scarred from discomfort on a previous hike? Being comfortable on the trail makes a huge difference. And packing your pack so that you aren’t dealing with things sticking into your back or throwing you off balance makes the experience much more enjoyable. It’s also important to keep your essentials (snacks and water) easy to access! Watch the video below and learn how to pack like a total pro:

Go Hiking with a Group

For many people, hiking is more fun with company. Making it a shared experience can also help you feel more comfortable on the trails. And guess what? You never need to hike alone! We have regularly scheduled community hikes for you, your friends and family. Our Facebook group is also a great place to put the word out if you’re looking for a hiking buddy. Join us to meet new people and explore new territory!

Things to Know Before You Go Hiking

Do you know what poison oak looks like? Or how to avoid ticks? These are important things to familiarize yourself with before you hit the trail. Take a minute to read the stories below and bring yourself up to speed (then spread the word).

Where to Go Hiking

We’re surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful mountains with thousands of miles of trails throughout the Peninsula and South Bay. The trick is knowing where to go and when so you have the best hiking experience. With our latest Hiking Calendar, you’ll know just where to go for every month of the year. Sign up and download yours!

Can't see the form? Please click here for a simplified version.

Understanding Hike Distance and Elevation

When you’re choosing a trail, you need to think about how far you want to hike and what your comfort level is with hiking up and downhill. Most trail maps will provide this information, and guides like the one above will too. While it can be rewarding to push yourself, choose hikes that are a shorter distance until you have a good understanding of your physical fitness and ability, and then progress from there.

Elevation refers to how high up you will be climbing, or how far down you will be descending during your hike. Read your trail map or guide carefully so you know how much elevation is involved in a hike. A flight of stairs is roughly 12 feet, so a hike with 120 feet of elevation gain means you’ll be climbing the equivalent of 12 flights of stairs over the hike. If the hike is long, that gradual climb might not feel like much. But if the hike is short, that means the trail will be steep! I recommend starting off with flatter trails until you get used to what it feels like hiking up and down hills and know your limits.

About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 79,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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