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Hiking 101: Choose Your Hike

If you're new to hiking, start small.

Sawtooth Wilderness by Raechel Youngberg.jpg
A fall hike in the Sawtooth Wilderness. Photo by Raechel Youngberg.

Hiking is a wonderful way to get outside, move your body and connect with the natural world. Whether you want a quick stroll in your local greenspace or a longer trek in the woods, we have some tips for getting started and researching the right trail for your needs.

Determine your fitness level

Be honest with yourself. Some questions to consider are:

  • Can I comfortably travel a mile?
  • Am I prone to any ankle or joint pain?
  • Do I have asthma, allergies or heart problems?

It's always best to start slow and consider talking to your doctor if you have any special concerns.

Find a hiking companion

Hiking with company can make starting out both safer and more enjoyable. Recruiting friends and family works well, but you can also meet other beginning hikers through social groups, The Mountaineers, or in classes at REI.

Take a walk in the park

If you live in the city, try a short, easy hike on the well-maintained trails of your local park. Check out your city's parks department for information about trails nearby.

Once you're comfortable in city park, hit the trails at a nearby state or county park. Find a spot near you in our Family Outings Resource Guide or by using our online Hiking Guide with full descriptions for more than 900 hikes. As you build fitness and confidence, try more difficult hikes, but make sure to bring appropriate equipment and practice safe hiking.

Try out some Short hikes on your own

In Washington, you don’t need to be an expert hiker to experience beautiful trails. We’ve collected some of our favorites for every season on our seasonal hikes pages. Winter and spring hikes and "kids" hikes tend to be good first choices for hikes due to more gentle terrain.

Head out with an experienced group

Before you try more difficult hikes (intermediate and up) on your own, go out with experienced hikers, either on an organized hike or with an informal meet-up.