Are you new to hiking? Here are tips and trails to get you started.

tips for new hikersFall has finally found its way to Tucson. As we welcome the cooler weather, Laurie Ledford, part of the TMC Wellness Department suggests that it is time to toss out the old “It’s too hot to exercise” excuse, lace up our shoes and get outside.

If running isn’t your style, or if you find walking too boring, you are in luck – Tucson is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails imaginable. Here are Laurie’s suggestions for new hikers:

Before the hike

  • Dress properly. Layered clothing on the upper body is the way to go. This allows you to peel off outer layers as you warm up. If you want to wear shorts, be aware that you risk scrapes from cacti and rocks, so be careful! If you opt for long pants, choose something that allows you to move easily – in other words, not jeans.
  • Wear comfortable hiking boots or trail shoes with good tread. You want footwear that will keep your feet on the trail while keeping out little rocks and blisters.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Cover any exposed skin with sunscreen, preferably a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, ears and neck. Shield your eyes with UVA- and UVB-blocking sunglasses.
  • Bring water and a snack. The weather might have cooled down, but exercise can still be dehydrating. A high-carbohydrate snack will prevent hypoglycemia. Even if you think you won’t be gone long enough to get hungry, you never know when you could get lost or delayed.
The view from Blacketts Ridge, Arizona

The view from Blacketts Ridge, Arizona

During the hike

  • Stay on the trail. This is safer for you and the environment in which you are hiking; you are less likely to run into a cactus or twist an ankle, and you won’t contribute to erosion.
  • Yield the right of way to anyone bearing a burden. If you meet another hiker on a narrow trail, who has the right of way? If the other hiker is heading uphill (and needs to maintain momentum) appears to be struggling or is carrying a heavy pack, be courteous and step aside.
  • Be aware of any faster hikers behind you. Please pull over and let them pass.
  • Respect your own limitations. Be mindful of the distance or time you have hiked and how much is still ahead of you. You don’t want to reach complete exhaustion before the end of the hike.
  • Before you head up a hill, think about how you’ll make it back down (or vice versa). If your legs get too tired, you could fall. If your knees are not in great shape, they are going to scream at you all the way down the mountain. Hikers with bad joints may want to stick to flat trails or use trekking poles for additional stability and support.
  • Leave no trace. If you bring something in, take it out with you. But don’t take out more than you brought – i.e., leave bird nests, flowers and saguaro ribs where you find them

After the hike

  • It is better to enjoy happy memories of your hike the next day than to suffer aching muscles. If you are new to hiking, you will likely feel sore afterwards, no matter what. Remember to go easy on yourself during and after a hike, and your fitness level will improve over time.
  • Re-hydrate, rest and refuel as you plan your next hiking adventure.
Tucson Medical Center employees enjoy a winter hike on Douglas Spring Trail

Tucson Medical Center employees enjoy a winter hike on Douglas Spring Trail

Hikes for the new-to-town

You may hear seasoned hikers talking about some of their favorite trails: Blackett’s Ridge, Finger Rock and Agua Caliente Hill among them. However, for those who are new to hiking, it is a good idea to start with something a bit easier.

  • Nature Trail at Catalina State Park is a one-mile, relatively flat, loop trail. Once you’ve tackled that, you can take on some of the park’s more difficult trails, such as Canyon Loop Trail (2.2 miles) and Romero Canyon Trail (5.9 miles round-trip, if you go all the way to the pools).
  • Garwood Trail, on the east side of town, takes you 3.4 miles, out and back. There is a fun and interesting network of trails to explore here, including Wildhorse Trail (3.2 miles) and Douglas Spring Trail (17.2 miles, if you do the whole thing). Bring a compass, map and a good sense of direction with you, it can be easy to turn down the wrong trail.
  • Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is home to many trails of varying levels of difficulty. By walking the tram road, you can enjoy canyon views without ever leaving a paved road. As you start feeling more adventurous, branch off to try sections of Esperero Trail, Phoneline Trail, or take Bear Canyon Trail to Seven Falls (8.2 miles).

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Laurie Ledford is a registered dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She now works as a registered dietitian  in the Tucson Medical Center Wellness Department. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) as well as hiking and cycling.

Comments

  1. Hi Laurie,
    It is very helpful for the beginner hiker like me. Now I am influenced to go for more hiking trip. Thanks for sharing this great content to us.

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