Plan Your Hike

Planning is homework done before leaving on a hike or backpacking trip.

Hiking up Aasgard Pass

Some trails are more strenuous than others!

  • Evaluate Required Physical Conditioning
  • Acquire Essential Training
  • Obtain the Best Advice and Most Current Information

Evaluate Required Physical Conditioning

Assess your personal and group fitness, considering time constraints and trail difficulty.

Please be realistic here. Choose hiking trails that are at an easier level if unable to meet fitness standards.

Acquire Essential Training

Everyone should take the following courses:

  • Basic First Aid/CPR
  • Map/Compass/GPS Navigation (also known as Orienteering, or Land Navigation)

The Hands-On Requirement

This website’s presentation is no subsitute for dedicated classroom and field (“hands-on”) training.

Instruction sources may include:

Basic First Aid/CPR

  • Local Chapter, American Red Cross
  • Hospital or Community Clinic
  • Community College

Map/Compass/GPS Navigation

  • Outdoor Clubs or Groups
  • Sporting Goods or Outdoor Stores
  • Community Colleges
  • Local Sheriff’s Office or Emergency Services Volunteer Organizations

Obtain the Best Advice and Most Current Information

Information gathering is essential when choosing a new trail. Planning a return trip to a familiar location? Conditions may have changed since your last visit.

Some Trail Information Sources are Better Than Others

Trail information for specific areas is available on web sites, in guide books available at bookstores or libraries, from staff at sporting goods or outdoor stores, and from local outdoor clubs. This is helpful to get a general idea what trails are available, and provides a means to narrow down your choices.

Care must be exercised, however, because web sites are helpful only if their information is authoritative and current. Books may be out of date. Outdoor store information varies by the knowledge and experience of the employees you talk to.

For the best advice and most current information, call or visit the Ranger Station or Park Office that administers your proposed hiking location.

  1. Be up front with your time constraints, current level of fitness, lack of expertise, or other limiting factors. Let them know if you’re a beginner! We all have to start somewhere.
  2. Is the trail well marked, and when was it last maintained? What’s the trail’s level of difficulty?
  3. Ask if there’s a current map available with the necessary features (more on maps here). Is the trail easy to locate on the map?
  4. Ask about the weather! Weather is a major factor in mountainous areas. Good weather at lower elevations is not a reliable indication of what to expect in the mountains. Weather can be very unpredictable throughout the year (even in the summer!), and may change from mild to hazardous within a few hours.
  5. Ask about cell phone coverage, and how to access aid in an emergency.
  6. Is there a registration procedure, and can you leave word where you’re going and plan on coming out?

There may be closures you aren’t aware of. Trails may be closed or restricted due to slides, washouts, fire danger, animal concerns, or other safety issues. It may be dangerous to travel without special training and equipment because of early or late season snow conditions, or extreme route difficulty.

Vehicle Parking and Trailhead Considerations

trailhead– A maintained or prescribed vehicle parking or staging area located at the start or end of a trail or trail system.

Vehicle Broken Into at Trailhead

Vehicle Broken Into at Trailhead

Vehicle access to the trail parking lot or trailhead is a planning consideration. Your vehicle may be unsuitable for area roads or driving conditions.

Trailhead Theft and Vandalism– Is the trailhead parking area subject to theft or vandalism? Theft (items taken from vehicles, or sometimes the entire vehicle) is a chronic problem at some locations.

Inquire at the Ranger Station, Park Office, or local law endforcement agency. Determine if criminal activity at trailheads is a concern in the area, and ask about prevention measures.

The Best Hike is a Safe Hike

You might discover that your initial trail choice may not be the best choice. The Ranger Station or Park Office may suggest alternate trips that are more realistic, safer, and just as enjoyable!