Want to know how to find good hiking trails? Researching and discovering new beautiful spots might just be one of my favorite aspects of adventuring. There’s something so fun and inspiring about the planning process and nerding out on research and resources. If you are newer to the outdoor space and wanting to learn to do this for yourself, this blog article will point you in the right direction for getting started. These are a few of my go-to methods when looking for places to go and I hope they help get you outside and into the outdoors!
1. NATIONAL + STATE PARKS
Let’s kick it off with one of my favorite methods and one that is near and dear to my heart - National Parks & State Parks! I fell in love with National Parks after my first trip to Zion NP and have been hooked ever since. While there are many amazing trails outside of the parks system as well, there is just something about these designated places that puts you in an entirely different sense of “awe”. State parks are also a lesser sought after, but still incredibly useful place to start looking for beautiful places to get the boots dusty! A few ways you can access information for these are my National Parks blog series, and the U.S. National Parks Service website where you can search national parks, monuments, and preserves by state. To find specific state parks, a quick Google search for “Colorado Parks and Wildlife” for instance will take you right to their website that is jam-packed with resources and information! Every state has their own website. For a full run down on one of my favorite Colorado state parks, be sure to check out my blog on Eldorado Canyon State Park! Both national and state parks require passes, and sometimes permits, so be sure to reference their sites to make sure you are prepared. Wherever your parks hiking journey takes you, remember to recreate responsibly and leave the trails better than you found them!
Let’s take it off the beaten path next and dive into maps! With virtually unlimited mapping resources today, we have access to an incredibly vast amount of hiking and adventuring options. One of my favorite things to do is sit down with maps and “explore” terrain that catches my eye and that I’d like to go see in person. A few of my favorite mapping companies and apps are Adventure Maps Inc., USFS Forest Service Maps, Google Earth, Gaia GPS, and oddly enough - Apple Maps on your iPhone and other Apple devices! Google Earth, in my opinion, is great for showcasing 3D visuals of the area you are interested in exploring. Gaia GPS is great for trail navigation and is incredibly user-friendly when looking at things like elevation profiles and mileage on trails. And Apple Maps is great for finding pockets of labeled geographical landforms. We all know of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. However, on Apple maps if you zoom in just enough to see the labels of the sub-mountain regions and the foothills to the bigger ranges, you can narrow your search substantially and find trails more specific to the area you will be in! Whether it be old fashioned paper maps or high tech map app interfaces, I think any hiker would agree that exploring maps will get you curious about the trails and excited to get out and adventure!
While speaking of apps, I think an all-time hiker go-to that always deserves a mention is AllTrails! This trail app is filled with awesome hikes that are searchable by area. I won’t even begin to try to count the amount of hours I’ve spent exploring this app and saving trails to specific lists I want to conquer someday. One of my favorite features of AllTrails is the “reviews” section. Anyone who hikes the trail can leave a review and give other hikers updates and information on trail conditions, things to take note of or prepare for, trail closures, wildlife spottings, and overall thoughts of the hike in general. This can be especially helpful in shoulder season months if you are curious about things like snow and water levels. Lastly, something to point out with this app is that the navigation is not always correct, so be sure to cross-reference your research for the trail with the mapping options listed above!
4. HIKING BOOKS
Next let’s get nerdy with it and dive into good old fashioned books! I’ll keep this one short and sweet since there are too many books to list, but they’re in every outdoor store, visitor center, and gift shop for a reason - they’re PACKED with information! Oftentimes even more information than online resources, so don’t brush over the invaluable asset that books can be. One of my favorite brands that I know will have quality information is Falcon Guides, although there are many options by many different authors and companies!
5. SOCIAL MEDIA
Lastly, we’ll touch on a sometimes controversial but truly helpful resource - social media. I’ve seen first hand how opinionated people can be on sharing adventures over platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Pinterest, and I’ll keep it short and sweet with my own. We all have the right to enjoy the outdoors. Point blank. While some only choose to see the “negative” aspects of sharing hikes, there are plenty of positives as well. For instance, many remote towns are able to thrive because of recreational tourism. Without adventure seekers, many businesses’ would shut down. With that being said, as stated above PLEASE recreate responsibly and leave the trails better than you found them. The 7 Leave No Trace Principles are incredibly important and always worth brushing up on, even for the seasoned adventurer. With all that being said, I love connecting online with other hiker pals and sharing places, stories, adventures, and education. Searching hashtags, locations, videos, and posts is a great way to get insight, trail condition updates, and information on hikes you’d like to do! One of my favorite aspects of this method is the community aspect - let’s make social media social! Reach out, share, comment, and DM others. It’s so much more fun to interact with each other on our shared passion. If you are new to the outdoor space and want an online hiker buddy be sure to follow along on my Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest at @ponytail_onatrail!
Wherever and however our paths cross again, I’m glad you are in this adventurous corner of the internet right alongside me and hope that you have a better idea on where to start in planning your hikes! If you are starting from ground zero and would like to feel strong on the trails check out my Free Week Of Workouts!
Happy + Healthy Trails,