The colder Northwest days are numbered, which means that, despite some late-season skiing opportunities, it’s about time to swap the skis for the hiking boots.
But if you’ve not been out on the trail in a while — or ever — it’s wise to ease into it and think ahead. Here are a few tips for starting off the spring hiking season on the right foot.
Join the club
One of the best ways to get inspired for hiking season is by hooking up with an outdoors-minded group. Not only will it help motivate you, but you’ll also meet some new people and learn a whole lot, too.
In Portland, the Mazamas offer more than 700 hikes and 350 climbs annually; in Salem, the Chemeketans are the go-to group, and in Eugene, it’s the Obsidians, who lead several outings — hikes, climbs, cross-country skis and more — each month.
Many groups in Washington help people hit the trails, including The Mountaineers, which has multiple branches in cities like Seattle, Bellingham and Everett; The Cascadians in Yakima; and The Wanderers in Olympia.
The online networking site Meetup also features numerous hiking groups across the entire Northwest region.
As with any activity, it’s best not to just hop into hiking if it’s not part of your usual routine. If you’re just starting out, incorporate some neighborhood or park walking into your days. Work your way up to some easy hikes — short and flat are great for beginners — and slowly ramp up to longer, more strenuous ones.
You can also get yourself trail-ready through your normal exercise routine. If you’re a gym person, hit the stair-stepper or elliptical trainer. You can build up your cardio by swimming, and you’ll work that and strengthen your legs with running and cycling.
Map it out
Always wanted to see the renowned wildflowers of Dog Mountain? Heard about the incredible waterfall that rewards hikers who trek to Mount Hood’s Ramona Falls? Ever want to gaze into the crater of Mount St. Helens?
The Northwest offers tons of bucket list hikes that, with the right planning, effort and commitment, are attainable to just about anyone. But don’t shoot straight for the summit of St. Helens or the grand view of Mount Hood from atop Mount Defiance — a challenging slog that covers 10 miles roundtrip and nearly 5,000 feet of elevation.
Instead, if you’ve got a dream hike in mind, plan it out and make it happen. Focus on your fitness early in the season. Plot out progressively more difficult hikes for the best conditioning. Then go for it.
Looking for some early season trails to try? Check out these hikes around Washington and Oregon.
Tags: outdoor adventures