Sometimes there is a misconception that hiking is only for those with supreme stamina, those who wake up at the crack of dawn and wear hiking boots with high socks. Truth is, everyone can enjoy hiking regardless of sock length preference!
Now that you’re motivated to go hiking, how do you pick the best hike for your group? Ask yourselves these questions:
How many people are in my group?
One to four hikers of similar ability level travel well together. Larger groups can be a bit slower because of individual abilities, stops, and various preferences. So, if you’re a larger group, choose an easier trail. If everything turns out to be smooth sailing (or hiking!) you can always add on a side loop.
What is the age range?
- Babies: Bring infants along in a baby carrier. Babies have been travelling like this for thousands of years – it’s a great way for you to get some exercise and keep your baby snuggled close to you.
- Toddlers: They may be limited by their size and agility on more challenging trails with steep inclines or longer than a few kilometers. However, they really like exploring and “experiencing” (read: wearing, eating, smelling, and touching) nature. Choose flat, small loops of one or two kilometers with plenty of opportunities to stop.
- Children: Active children have pretty good stamina. They can do most hikes. When I was a kid, a cool thing I liked to do was a scavenger hunt. I’d write a list of things I wanted to find or see and cross them off as I went. Remember to stay on the trail as to not disturb the surrounding ecosystems – take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.
- Teens: Active teenagers have no distance limits, but keep in mind their level of interest and engagement. What made hiking interesting for me as a teenager was having a role in the planning. For example, map reading, creating the lunch menu or making sure our group had the 10 essentials.
- Older adults: Many active older adults hike late into their 70’s and 80’s. Older adults who are not regularly active can choose a flatter trail of a few kilometers that is in good condition. Walking poles can also be really handy for those with joint pain or arthritis.
Does anyone in my group have mobility or other limitations?
It is my personal philosophy to take the “dis” out of disability. For most folks a few modifications or considerations are all that’s needed to get hiking.
- Hikers in wheelchairs or people using a walker can use wheelchair accessible hikes. They are usually paved and don’t have stairs and large elevation gains.
- Hikers with a learning disability can often join a group or go with a friend or family member.
- Hikers with a chronic health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure could actually benefit from the outing. A few simple precautions (in the hyperlinks above) are worth considering, and getting clearance from a Qualified Exercise Professional can help determine a safe hike intensity and duration.
- Hikers with a vision impairment are able to hike trails that fit within their ability level and experience. Going out with a guide or friend is encouraged.
It’s always a good idea to hike with another person or in a group. Before you go, inform a non-accompanying adult of your trail and estimated return time.
How much time do we need?
Calculate how much time you think your hike will take to avoid hiking into the darkness or other hazards. Reasonably fit hikers can cover 4-5 kilometers per hour, again keep terrain type in mind (going up-hill vs. flat). It’s also worth considering when the sun will set. In the summer that might be 9-10 pm but in the winter that might be as early as 4 pm.
Where can I find hiking trails near me?
There are many online tools you can use to find hikes, here are a few of my favourites:
- WalkBC: For a list of hikes and walks around towns and cities in BC.
- BC Parks: Check out the hiking opportunity page to find a trail in a nearby provincial park.
- Washington Trail Association: If you’d like to visit our neighbours down south this non-profit page has a great list of trails.
See you at the trail head!
Parks Canada: Find a Location