So. You are thinking of doing it alone. You want to see what it would be like to rely on yourself entirely.
You also want something that is in short supply. Alone time.
Time in which you are not constantly bombarded with every type of media possible. Just space and time to breathe peacefully in this crowded world.
And you can do it. You are capable. You just need to do what you would do for any project with which you have no experience.
Plan and practice. Practice and plan. And know that it will be worth it.
Solo Hiking Tips
One of the biggest things you need before you take off on a solo trip is common sense. But common sense is not all that common.
You might want this trip for time to think, but the best time to think is before you go.
Here are some tips to make your trip the first of many.
#1 Take Baby Steps
Remember the movie “What about Bob?” Baby steps, take baby steps.
Start out taking small hikes or walks that get your experience and strength up.
Go with others at first and ask for tips from those that are more seasoned.
#2 Start With the Familiar
Know the area. One of the worst things to do would be to go to an unfamiliar trail by yourself the first time. Start with the familiar.
#3 Let Someone Know
Common sense (that phrase again!) says to let someone know where you are going and how long you plan on being gone.
It might seem like that defeats the purpose, but it is not. The objective is to go solo and safely make it back so that you can do it again another day.
#4 Know the Area
Get familiar with where you are going. Know what time the sun rises and sets where you are hiking.
And hiking poles save your knees. They can help to take the pressure off your knees and make the hike much more pleasant. Especially when you are a beginner.
#5 Know Your Limits
You may be wanting to test yourself, but be realistic.
You don’t want to sabotage yourself by biting off more than you can chew and then never wanting to go again.
Solo Hammock Camping Tips
Hammock camping is the best! It truly is. You have a lightweight house that you can carry with you and set up in minutes.
There is nothing as peaceful and restorative as swaying gently in a soft night breeze. It is so worth-it experience that it should not be on a bucket list, but on every chance, you get the list.
Here are a few things to help enhance that experience:
#1 Test setting up a hammock
Set that baby up in the park or backyard before heading off.
You wouldn't want your doctor to pause in the middle of an examination and say, "Give me a minute while I read the instruction manual."
While that is an over-the-top example, it illustrates that you don't want to wait until dark to learn how to complete the operation of setting up your hammock.
Setting up a hammock is an easy proposition, but it needs to be second nature when you are in the great outdoors.
#2 Look up!
When hanging your hammock, make sure that there are not any dead branches above that might come down and give you a headache in more ways than one.
Use a sturdy tree that is at least six inches in diameter.
If you can fit your hands around the trunk of the tree, it is too small to bear your weight. Choose another.
#3 Don't get too high
Don't hang your hammock higher than you want to fall. Not that you will, cause you will have practiced how to hang a hammock at home safely.
Look at the area. It may be beautiful near the cliff, and you may think that babbling brook would be good to suspend over, but reign in that impulse and go for the safer bet.
A nice, flat area free of rocks and debris.
#4 Sleep in the right position
To get a good sleep in a hammock, raise your foot end higher than the head and sleep at an angle.
Your instinct is to lay in a hammock in a straight line. That will put you in a cocoon when the sides fold around you.
Laying at a 30-degree angle will help you achieve a flat lay.
#5 Use a mosquito net
Don't skip the mosquito netting, and rain fly! You might not need them, and the weather might be beautiful and balmy.
However, it is better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it.
Solo Hiking Safety Considerations
Just like with any new venture, there are times when what you don’t know can hurt you. You want to avoid that scenario as much as possible.
Skill and knowledge will come with experience. In the meantime, here are some tips:
#1 Take a trail that is busier and stick to the path
The first thing you want to do on a solo trip is to choose a trail that is busier and stick to the path. Okay, that is two things, but they are both important tips.
That will ensure that if you need help, you will have someone to help, and you won't get lost by straying off the beaten path.
The road less traveled is not the one for beginners.
#2 Stay connected
You have already told someone that you are on a hike.
Send a quick text when you head off on the trail. Send another courtesy text when you have ended your hike.
That will ensure that if you need someone to rely on, you will have it. Peace of mind for all concerned!
#3 Check the weather forecast
The prevailing joke is that being a weather forecaster is the only job in which you can be wrong 80% of the time and still be employed.
But forecasts are all that you've got, and they are an important tool.
If it is raining when you walk out of your front door, you might get a bit wet before you deploy your umbrella.
Out in Mother Nature, rain can mean a flash flood or mudslide.
Prepare yourself as much as possible, and give yourself every advantage you can.
#4 Bring enough food and water to stay energized and hydrated
Gatorade makes handy single chew gummies that provide 24 grams of carbs per serving.
Nuts, trail mix, and protein bars will be easy for eating along the trail to keep your energy up.
If you see that you underestimated what you needed and doubt you will make it there and back, turn around and head back.
The point is not to prove you can solo hike under any conditions; the point is to prove you are smart enough to hike safely.
#5 Be prepared with a first aid kit, a headlamp, and extra clothes. Know what animals might be in the area you are hiking in
Remember, you will be on THEIR territory, and civil rules won't apply.
Relating to that same point, you might be tempted to listen to the latest podcast on the trail, but leave the headphones at home.
You need to be aware of your surroundings. You won't be in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Keep your wits about you so you can hear the distant thunder or the call of the wild.
Solo Hiking Shoes and Boots
The type of footwear to use on a solo hike will depend on what kind of terrain you will hike and how long you will be on the trail.
You probably know this, but I am going to say it anyway. In capital letters.
DON'T HIKE IN NEW FOOTWEAR.
A guaranteed recipe for disaster, not to mention blisters and a resolve never to go again.
Tennis shoes or sneakers
Everyone has their favorite pair that fit like gloves and never give trouble. But sneakers are made for the courts and the streets, not the trails.
The soles on tennis shoes are not made to grip the surfaces that you will encounter on the trail.
They don't provide the same ankle support that you will need on a trail when you are traversing uneven terrain while carrying a backpack.
Ha! I just threw that in here to see if you were still reading.
A light hiking shoe would be great for day hikes when you have a lightweight backpack on a relatively easy trail.
The soles of hiking shoes are designed to grip and are made to be flexible.
These boots give additional ankle support. Hiking boots are typically used on multi-day trips and carrying a light pack.
If you are taking a trip that is longer than a day and you are carrying a heavy backpack over a variety of terrains, you will want a backpacking boot.
These boots are the serious, no-nonsense kind. They are durable, supportive, and most heavy-duty of footwear.
They are designed for heavy loads and can accommodate crampons that are used in glacier travel.
So maybe not the choice for solo beginning hiking. Baby steps, remember? Baby steps.
Best Solo Hikes in The United States
There are all kinds of trails and places to hike in the United States.
It could pretty much be a fantastic full-time job if you could find someone to hire you to do it.
We have compiled a list of places that a beginner solo hiker could go.
They will give you a taste and appreciation for what is in store when you take up hiking.
Located just 90 minutes from the Big Apple, the Bear Mountain Loop Train is almost four miles long.
You will pass many panoramic views, and there will be a few rock scramblings. The loop uses both the Appalachian and Major Welch Trail.
So you can impress your friends and tell them you hiked the Appalachian!
On the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe, the Rubicon hiking trail contours the shoreline of Emerald Bay.
This is not the Rubicon 4X4 trail that has claimed many vehicles, but the one that you will traverse on foot.
A total of 11 miles out and back and an elevation gain of 1400 feet. You will have packed dirt, granite steps, steep drop-offs, and a bit of asphalt.
You will also have beautiful panoramic views of Lake Tahoe.
This 7.2 miles round trip hike goes from Logan Pass to Haystack Pass. This is a very popular hike.
There is an area of about 3/10 of a mile on the hike that is along a very narrow cliff, at only about four to six feet wide.
If you are afraid of heights, you need to consider this before heading out.
Panoramic views include big horned sheep and mountain goats.
If you would like to experience a more strenuous hike, you can continue down the Highline Trail to the Loop trailhead, which is a total of 11.8 miles.
Wissahickon Creek is surrounded by parks on an almost 9-mile system of multi-use trails.
The paved trail is a treat and is one of the best amateur hike sites in America.
Some of the paths are uneven, but nothing too strenuous.
The trail passes along the quiet creek in Fort Washington State Park.
Jordan Pond Nature Trail, Maine
An impressive view of Jordan Pond is located in Acadia National Park.
The trail is a 3.2-mile loop along the water's edge.
The hike gives you many opportunities to take in the surrounding beauty, some of the most beautiful scenery in Acadia National Park.
It is a level walk along the south shore through fragrant spruce and balsam woods.
A great resource for you as you develop your skills is trail associations.
The people who run these associations protect, maintain, and advocate for various trail systems through the United States.
They feel that they have a responsibility to champion and steward the trails' resources for the benefit of all, including future generations.
The associations want to make these trails the place where people can enjoy and embrace the unique natural landscape that each trail has to offer while finding physical and mental renewal in a peaceful setting and establish an enduring spiritual connection to the land.
It may sound like a tall order, but guess what?
You could be part of the process as associations are always in need of volunteers.
How great would that be? You can make a positive difference for yourself and the land.
Listed below are just a few of the many associations. They would be able to give you information about hiking, tips, and trips and generally help you on your journey.
And who knows? One day you might be the person who is guiding others on the same path.
Solo Hiking Quotes
“And into the forest, I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” John Muir
Known as the Father of the National Parks, Muir was an influential Scottish-American naturalist and an early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States.
"Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein
Einstein had many discoveries but is best known for his theory of relativity. He was considered a genius, and his quote attests to that.
“The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” Henry David Thoreau
An American essayist, poet, and philosopher, Thoreau was known for his efforts to live a spiritually meaningful life in nature.
“You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” Dr. Seuss
Theodor Seuss Geisel was an American author who, through his stories, imparted lessons to children that he wished he had learned at their age.
“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.” Anonymous
Try it sometime. Try going off hiking by yourself and see if you can discover a little more about who you are.
It may sound trite, but it is true. Be you; no one else can do it better.
Solo Hiking Movies
Free on YouTube:
Although this movie is not strictly solo hiking, you do get the individual thoughts of each hiker. It is an inspiring documentary well worth watching about hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Okay, this movie is not about solo hiking either, but it is a well-done documentary that details a trek from Mexico to Canada.
There is much more to this story. It is about two guys who separately started after their dream, only to contemplate quitting three days in.
It is a story about what happens when you stop dreaming about adventure and go find it.
Hum. Well. This is not a solo hiking movie either. It is the story of the 2668 mile thru-hike on America's premier long-distance footpath, the Pacific Crest Trail.
To Purchase or Rent:
A group (yep! Not a solo hike) of artists leave their daily lives to hike and record California's historic John Muir Trail.
The 219-mile stretch goes from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney. This documentary affirms that it is about the journey, not the destination.
Yay! Here you go! This is a 10th Anniversary Edition of the original movie about one woman’s long-distance hike on America’s legendary Appalachian Trail.
In this true story, the hikers leave their jobs behind to spend five months walking the Pacific Trail. They love the comforts of home, but something pulls them to nature.
Final Thoughts on Solo Hiking for Beginners
This article was about solo hiking for beginners, and hopefully, you have gained some valuable advice.
The best advice of all is to start. Make a move; take the first step. Learn as you go and trust your instincts.
We leave you with one final quote from Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Go live.