5 Steps to Plan A Hiking Trip

woman in a red swimsuit in a lake in the mountains in fall
woman in a red swimsuit in a lake in the mountains in fall

Planning a hiking trip can be overwhelming, but it’s also part of the fun! You dive deep into researching the location so you know what you’re getting yourself into before you even set foot on the trail.

Thankfully, planning trips is an actual hobby of mine, so you’re in good hands. Here are five basic steps to help you plan out your next adventure.


1. Figure out where you want to go

If you have your destination in mind, great! If not, there are so many resources out there to help.

Look on this blog, on Pinterest, on Instagram, on Facebook, or even in Facebook Groups.

Perhaps you want to visit a specific state, look at the national parks there, wilderness areas and the different trails there. Pinterest is a great resource for this too! You can look up something like “The Prettiest Hikes in X” and see the lists that come up. This will give you a good starting point.

Buy a map of that specific place. This is one of my favorite ways of planning a trip. Once I’ve figured out where I want to go, I buy a National Geographic or Tom Harrison map. It gives me a good overview of what hikes are in the area, what hikes are nearby the several specific things I want to see, and what else is out there that’s less popular. There are a lot of rad alpine lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, summits, and more that you can find on these maps. You can also use Google Maps to search further and see what else is out there.

2. Research the destination and figure out the details

Now that you’ve figured out where you want to go, it’s time to research the destination and figure out the details.

Where you want to camp every night? How many miles can you cover per day? Are permits required? Will you be day hiking or backpacking?

If it’s not local, figure out what airport you’ll need to fly into, will you be camping or booking a hotel or both? Figure out the logistics for those options, where can you camp? What hotels are nearby? Do you need to rent a car, if so from where?

What will the weather be like when you’re there and are you prepared for those conditions?

These are a couple of questions to get you started.


3. Book everything and apply for needed permits

This one pretty much speaks for itself. Once you figure out all the details, then book everything and if you need permits to hike, then apply for those too. Permits are different everywhere. Some places like Half Dome and Mt. Whitney have a different permit system than something like the John Muir Trail or even Havasupai. Every national park has its own system, national forests and state parks have their own systems, even Native American reservations have their own systems. So make sure you really research this.


4. Get your gear together

Depending on the type of trip you’re taking and the conditions there will determine what gear you need. If you’re going on a casual trip to national parks, you might not need more than some basic day hiking gear. If you’re going on a harder day hike, you’ll need to make sure you’re prepared for it. If you’re going on a backpacking trip, you’ll need to make sure you have all the gear you need for that.

To get you started, here is my blog with my day hiking packing list and here is my blog with my backpacking pack list.


5. Go!

Have a blast, take lots of photos, follow Leave No Trace principles, remember to take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints (on dirt, not flowers and plants).

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