Recovery Tips for the Day After a Monster Hike

You’ve made it to the waterfall, stood atop the summit or linked the loop around your favorite mountain, and now you’re back at the trailhead.

Time to shift into recovery mode.

No matter the trail you’ve tread, having a hiking recovery plan can help ensure that you avoid soreness, stiffness and exhaustion. Recover well so you’re ready for whatever hike comes next.

Stretch it out —Stretching out before you hit the trail is a great idea. Stretching out after your hike may be even better. Spend five minutes back at the trailhead stretching out the muscles that have just taken you out into the wild and back. Show the hamstrings, calves and quadriceps (thighs) some care. If you’ve been carrying a heavy pack, shed it and do some simple back, shoulder and hip stretches to relax your muscles. Stretching or doing yoga the next morning can also help ensure you transition smoothly back into the everyday world.

Drink it in — It’s important to stay hydrated while you’re hiking, but doing so afterward can also help you recover comfortably. Even if you’ve been drinking water on the trail, your body still needs to replenish fluids after a hike. Drink extra water at the end of your hike; also consider sipping on a sports drink to replenish electrolytes. Several studies show that chocolate milk can be a solid recovery drink after a hard workout. The mix of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, electrolytes and vitamins nourish the body. Continue to hydrate the day after a hike to allow for a complete recovery.

Eat it up — Trail mix and jerky are great on the trail, but your body might need more to replenish the calories burnt. The after-hike beer and burger will help, but it’s important to eat a balanced array of food. Protein will help repair muscles. Carbohydrates help fuel muscles. Fruits and vegetables restock vitamins and minerals. Two specific suggestions: 

  • Bananas, which are rich in potassium and vitamin B6 and can help prevent muscle cramps.
  • Berries, broccoli, and grapes pack antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory qualities to aid recovery.

Kick back (kind of) — A tough hike deserves some relaxation at the end of the day. Kick off your hiking boots at trail’s end and get into a comfortable pair of sandals or sneakers to relax your feet and increase blood flow. Get a good night’s sleep and plan to take it somewhat easy the next day. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get moving, though: Staying active with a light walk, bike ride or swim can ease your body back into its normal routine.

Treat yourself — Feeling a little more worked over than you expected? Consider a massage. A trip to the spa can be beneficial in relaxing muscles. For serious soreness, find a therapist experienced in deep-tissue massage.

Jon Bell

Jon Bell writes about the outdoors, fitness, health, and a range of other topics from his home in Lake Oswego, OR. He is also the author of "On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak."