Those who are passionate about exploring the outdoors and de-stressing through exercise are likely also passionate about hiking. Hiking combines the adventure of new terrains while walking one’s way to better health and makes a great outdoor group activity. Texas is a terrific state to hike through because of its assorted environments from forests to wetlands to mountains. But the activity doesn’t have to be strenuous or take great effort to plan ahead. Hiking can be adapted for anyone’s health needs and nearby environments or parks. With some basic knowledge, hiking can become an enjoyable addition to a healthy, active lifestyle. Here are five ways to prepare for hiking in Texas:
- Hike for your experience level
- Find the perfect route
- Pack the right gear
- Prepare for hiking in Texas weather
- Staying safe and prepared
Hike for your experience level
Especially if you are starting to hike for exercise or enjoyment, it’s essential to start simple. Being overly ambitious when hiking can put stress on your plans or your body. Think about your health status beforehand like fitness levels or if walking long distances interferes with a prior condition like asthma. Being in great shape isn’t necessary for enjoying hiking when plenty of hiking trails are made for all experience levels. Although being in great shape definitely helps!
Before your hike, some things to consider are the distance, elevation, and time a trail takes to complete. Hilly and mountainous areas might not be the best for beginners if you aren’t accustomed to walking long distances up and down steep landscapes. Hikes can be various lengths from beginner’s trails being a couple of miles or less to the Lone Star Hiking Trail which is a total of 96 miles long! After completing some easy trails that are short, moderately smooth, and in mellow weather you’ll get the hang of the types of trails you like most. Along with adding distance onto each hike completed, there are training exercises you can do to build endurance for longer and more difficult trails.
Find the perfect route
From grand landscapes to short, local walking trails Texas has a lot to offer hikers. National and Texas state parks are suggested spots for beginner and experienced hikers. We’ll touch on a few of the most popular and beloved trails that you should visit if you haven’t already.
- Big Bend: This national park is known for its breathtaking views from the mountain tops located in the Chihuahuan Desert. It holds a variety of trails ranging from beginner to expert levels.
- Barton Creek Greenbelt: Located in Austin, this trail has something to offer for those who like to climb, swim, and bike. It includes multiple access points, two natural swimming holes, and beautiful limestone cliff sides.
- Palo Duro Canyon: In the panhandle region is what’s known as the “Grand Canyon of Texas”. The state park’s signature Lighthouse trail is recommended for experienced hikers that love wide-open, desert views.
Pack the right gear
Choosing a hiking route can determine what to pack and bring along as you go. No successful hiking trip is without a well-prepared hiking backpack. A travel packing list should include supplies to keep you safe outdoors and fit the needs of your trip. Many hikers follow the “ten essentials” guidelines as a foundation for what to prepare. Most of these essentials are self-explanatory like bringing navigation (not just relying on a phone), a first aid kit, layers of clothing, and repair tools. Having extras or backups of an essential item is a must when hiking in Texas because trails can be unpredictable. After collecting the right supplies, load up a durable bag or backpack in smart layers. Putting what you need least often at the bottom and middle like a cooler for food and extra water and topping it with flashlights and toiletries.
Prepare for hiking in Texas weather
Native Texans can attest that the Lone Star state can have some extreme weather. But don’t let that deter you from hiking in Texas. Being proactive beforehand by checking out multiple weather forecasts can save you from hiking in less than ideal conditions. Summer is a popular month for tourists to visit national and state parks, but Texas’ summer temperatures can be higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s why spring and fall are great seasons to hike through Texas in for its milder conditions.
The weather you choose to hike in will determine the best way to dress. Like we previously mentioned, packing layers of clothing prevents being unprepared for unexpected rain or temperatures. Hikers typically go for synthetic fabrics that breathe well and dry quickly. Hiking in Texas calls for clothing that’s made for function over fashion. And regardless of temperature, hiking footwear is crucial for not injuring yourself on a trail. Although some experienced hikers rely solely on hiking boots, some running shoes can be suitable for low-impact terrains.
Staying safe and prepared
Lastly, there are some practical pieces of advice to keep in mind as you hike. Hiking isn’t made to be competitive or wear yourself out. So make sure you are pacing yourself, drinking water, and packing light enough to travel reasonable distances. When you are traveling an unfamiliar trail, it’s advisable to take a hiking buddy or group with you. Not only can you rely on them for help, but they’re there to make the trip less daunting and keep you company. Regardless, do your research on the trail like specific rules and warnings to watch out for. And be aware of your surroundings to watch for markings, changes in terrain, and possibly dangerous wildlife. For more information on how to keep yourself and others safe at a Texas state park, watch this video made by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department:
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