Hiking is one of the best outdoor adventures you can enjoy in our region, but that also means taking a few simple steps to be prepared for the trails.
Do your research before heading out on a trail. Familiarize yourself with the length and amount of time required for a hike and, if possible, get a printed map that you can refer to while on the trail.
It's also wise to have a compass or GPS that can serve as a guide.
It's important to stay hydrated and energized during any hike, particularly during warmer weather. Water is the best option for staying hydrated, but if you're planning on pushing yourself, consider also taking a sports drink to help replenish electrolytes. Remember to drink even when you're not thirsty.
High-calorie energy bars and nuts are also good options for snacks.
Remember the rule of "leaves of three, let it be." Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are found in Virginia's Blue Ridge, so keep an eye out for it when on the trails. Even if you think you're immune to the poison, the oils can have a cumulative effect on a person's skin.
Try to check the weather close to when you plan on beginning your hike. Spring and summer are popular times to hit the trails in Virginia's Blue Ridge, but those are also the time of year when an afternoon thunderstorm has the greatest chance of popping up.
Keep on eye on the forecast to make sure you don't get caught in a downpour.
Please be aware of your surroundings and be respectful of the wildlife you may encounter on a trail in Virginia's Blue Ridge. Do not feed or try to get close to animals and avoid making quick movements that could scare them and force them to flee. Adhere to Leave No Trace principles and do not leave any trash on the trails, which can cause serious damage to native habitats. The George Washington & Jefferson National Forests website is a good resource for tips regarding Bear Safety.
Don't rely on having your phone with you in case you need to contact someone while on the trail. Whether you're hiking solo or with a group, let someone else know where you're going and what time you expect to return.
While night hikes can be fun, it's not particularly enjoyable when it's unexpected and you don't have a flashlight. Account for the distance of a trail and be generous with the amount of time you think it will take at a comfortable pace, including giving yourself extra time to get back.
Don't be "that guy" who thinks it's a good idea to hike eight miles in flip flops. Make sure you have a good pair of hiking boots or trail shoes that can handle the terrain. If your feet blister easily, have some petroleum jelly with you and consider putting it in your socks and shoes around sensitive areas before beginning the hike.
It's also smart to wear tall socks and tuck pants into shoes to keep bugs, especially ticks, away from your legs.
Wear sunscreen! Even if you think most of the trail will be covered by trees or it doesn't seem overly sunny, put on sunscreen before the hike and re-apply if perspiration is an issue. The changes in elevation can make UV rays stronger as you reach higher points of certain trails.
Ready to go? Have fun on our amazing hiking trails!
Need to get the proper gear before beginning your hike? Check out the awesome outdoor retailers in Virginia's Blue Ridge.