New to hiking or maybe just new to Arizona? Either way, I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories of lost hikers and deaths along the many trails all around this wonderful state. I myself have suffered a small case of heat stroke while out on a trail. It was an 11-mile loop that should have been a piece of cake, but two days of very little sleep and not enough water or snacks left me weak and exhausted on the trail with just a mile left to go. Luckily after resting for about 45 minutes (I have to say that trail was THE MOST comfortable trail I have ever slept on!!), I was able to make it out on my own. Since it was only mid-April when we did this hike and the temps were in the low to mid 80’s, I did not think the heat would overpower me, but I was wrong and fortunately I was hiking with friends.
So… even if you THINK you know what you’re doing, take a minute and think. It’s not going to hurt you to pick up an extra bottle of water or a Cliff Bar.
For your first hike, here’s what you want to do:
- Know your trail
There are plenty of books and websites out there that will give you a detailed glance at the trail you want to take. One site that I use a lot is All Trails, which you have to sign up for (free of charge) and it lists elevation, distance, and difficulty along with reviews and maps. They also have an app you can download. If you are on Facebook (believe it or not I’ve met people who do not have a Facebook account) here is a great hiking forum for Arizona, Arizona Hiking Group
- Hike with a friend or tell someone where you are going
With the ease of getting to dozens of hiking trails, it’s easy to forget to let people know if you are hiking alone. Or perhaps it’s apart of your workout routine to go trail running. Either way, it’s a good idea to let someone know where you will be hiking. A quick text to a friend or family member could save your life if the unfortunate happens. If I was hiking alone the day I suffered from heat exhaustion I don’t know what I would have done. No one passed us while I was resting on the trail.
- Invest in a good pair of hiking shoes
Don’t be cheap when it comes to shoes. While hiking an 11-mile loop in McDowell Mountains, the hiking shoes I wore had some miles on them and have since been retired, but not before suffering from ill-fitting shoes due to years of use. I lost two toenails on that hike. and I have to apologize to my close friends for all of the nasty toe pics I sent during that time.
For simple, flat trails with good clean paths like South Mountain, a good pair of walking or running shoes will be fine. I own a pair of Nike Free running shoes that work well on trails with little rock climbing.
Some of the more difficult trails I would suggest a good pair of cross trainers or trail shoes such as Merrell Moab 2 WP. You may not think waterproof when hiking in Arizona, but there are plenty of trails that follow or cross creeks and rivers. Better safe than sorry.
For those who want a real challenge and think two-three day hiking trips are the best thing ever, open up the wallet a little more and go all out of a pair of Lowa Men’s Renegade GTX hiking boots. They are a little more costly but well worth it.
- WATER WATER WATER
I can’t say this enough, BRING PLENTY OF WATER!! Personal experience aside, be that inner boy scout (or girl scout) and be prepared. Fill your Camelbak with water and throw in a couple extra water bottle just in case. I always run into hikers who ran out of water or who just didn’t bring any.
- SNACKS SNACKS SNACKS
Along with the extra water bottle or two, toss in a banana, orange, or energy bar for when you reach the top. Your legs will thank you on the way down for the extra energy and rest.
I hope this little bit of information has been helpful. Enjoy your hiking experience!!