By Siobhan Ward, Rover Scout, Scouts Canada
Nothing beats a stunning view from a lookout during a peaceful hike in the woods. If you’re new to hiking, uphill adventures can seem intimidating. The terrain, route, difficulty and uncertainty of being outside can be overwhelming. But it can be done! From small kids to seniors and beginners to experts, explorers of all levels should learn and review these simple tips and tricks for future hiking adventures.
As every Scout knows, the key to being outside is to be prepared. Prepare for a hike by having the right supplies, knowing your route and planning for any contingencies. Before getting too far into your planning, you’ll need to know where you’re going! Hiking is a great family or solo activity, and by choosing a trail that aligns with your experience, fitness level and capabilities, you’re setting yourself up for success.
When we think of hiking, big trails like the Pacific Crest Trail (BC), Bruce Trail (ON) or Cabot Trail (NS) may spring to mind. While these trails offer beautiful and challenging experiences, you can also have a great (and challenging!) hike anywhere in Canada.
For a day hike with your family or beginner hikers, local trails maintained by conservation authorities or trail groups are a good way to start your adventure. Many conservation areas are crisscrossed by trails waiting to be explored. These trails are generally close to towns and cities, meant to be accessible to the general public and are usually well-marked and maintained. Easy terrain without too much elevation gain offers simple but unique hikes. These are a great way to dip your toe into the world of hiking before taking on bigger challenges.
Quick Tips and Tricks:
- Be prepared, plan ahead: although leaving your route plan and anticipated return time with someone at home or an online form and checking the weather reports before you leave may seem like overkill for an afternoon hike, it’s best to expect the unexpected. A clear day may turn stormy or something out of your control could change plans suddenly. Advance planning will help to keep you safe and ready for anything. Research your hike ahead of time so that you can bring the right gear and make sure that you’re physically ready.
- Water, water everywhere: It may seem like overkill to bring water on a short hike, but you won’t regret it! Carry a full (reusable) water bottle with on every hike. You can get dehydrated on even the shortest hike, or you may be gone longer than expected, so why not carry water with you just in case?
- Snacks, snacks, snacks: hiking is hard work and it’s very easy to get hungry while hiking. Bringing snacks helps to ensure that you have the energy you need, and that no one gets ‘hangry’! Trail mix is a great snack that will fill you up with nutrients you need. Trail mix is also an easy way to get your kids involved with preparation. Let them help pick what goes in the trail mix and let them help you combine the ingredients. Customize it to your preferences and allergies—rather than nuts, why not try dried chickpeas or sunflower seeds?
- Wear the right gear: while spontaneous hikes can be fun, it’s always more fun and safer to be ready for your hike. Make sure you’re wearing the right clothing for the weather (nothing worse than being cold or getting absolutely soaked by the rain), dress in layers so that you can add or remove them as needed and wear the right shoes! You don’t need hiking boots for every trail, but you’ll need something with enough support for your feet that can handle the terrain.
- Have a rain plan: Rain doesn’t have to mean cancelling your hike, but it may mean adjusting your plans. Depending on where you are hiking, you may have to modify your route in case water levels rise or parts of the trail wash out. You should also carry some sort of rain cover (tarp, raincoat, umbrella) in case a shower starts while you’re hiking. Hiking in the rain can still be fun, and quite peaceful, but only if you’re ready for it!
Siobhan Ward, Rover Scout, Scouts Canada
- Grassi Lakes, Kananaski Country (Alberta): This area, less than an hour from Calgary, offers great beginner hikes with rolling trails and incredible views.
- Rondeau Provincial Park (Ontario): This provincial park in Southern Ontario offers multiple hiking trails at the beginner level, from short hikes to full-day experiences. Looking for a quick hike? The Spice Bush Trail is a 1.5-kilometre loop perfect for birdwatching and seeing local flowers and trees.
- Elk Island National Park (Alberta): This park, less than an hour’s drive from Edmonton, offers hikes in varying lengths and levels of difficulty. In particular, the 12-kilometre long Hayburger Trail features scenic views and the chance to see wildlife. The distance of this hike offers a challenge, while the steady elevation helps to keep this hike in the intermediate category.
- Gatineau Park (Quebec): Located near Ottawa, Gatineau Park is an incredible experience for hikers of any level. It offers simple hikes with beautiful views as well as more difficult hikes for those who are up for the challenge. The Luskville Falls Trail is a 4-kilomere loop with 300 metres of elevation gain. Take in the view from the fire tower and experience the beauty of the Gatineau Hills!
- Cape Split Provincial Park (Nova Scotia): Looking for incredible views and a bit of a challenge? Look no further than Cape Split Provincial Park in Nova Scotia. The Cape Split Trail takes hikers on a 13-kilometre round-trip adventure to see beautiful views of the Bay of Fundy.
- Cup & Saucer Trail (Ontario): Ontario has stunning views—this hike is no exception. Located on Manitoulin Island, the Cup & Saucer trail is great for experienced hikers looking for a new challenge. Choose the hike that’s right for you, as the trails offer experiences of varying lengths, with the longest being a challenging hike approximately four hours in duration.
- Fundy Footpath (New Brunswick): Within the Fundy Trail Parkway, there are several hikes of different lengths and challenge levels. The Fundy Footpath is a multi-night challenge for experienced hikers looking to take their adventure to the next level. This 61-kilometre hike takes four to five days to complete—get ready for an incredible adventure!
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