How to Pick a Hiking Trail

You’ve searched Google for a hiking trail near you. You’re looking for something you can do in one day. Depending on where you live, you may come across a few city parks or maybe some mountain trails.

New York is interesting. When most people think of it, they may picture tall buildings, a boisterous city and crowds. I recently got a map of East Hudon Highlands and was blown away by how large it was. I’ve been hiking in that area for a couple of months. If you consider day-long walks in a local park, I’ve been hiking for years. New York has a lot of green spaces, even in the city.

When faced with many hiking trails, how can you decide which one is best for you? Everyone is different. I’ll use myself as a guide. I’ve always enjoyed walking. Before COVID, Oreo and I hiked for miles through Prospect Park. For me, walking 5+ miles through my local park or through a city was nothing. If you’re someone how enjoys walking or who’s never done it for long distances, how can you pick the right trail?

What Does Experienced Mean?

Because I walk a lot, I thought I was experienced. I thought hiking 5 miles up a moderate trail would be simple. Walking 5 miles through a city park or on a paved path and hiking 5 miles up a mountain are two different things. I wasn’t used to steep rocky paths. I didn’t make it halfway on my first “real” hiking trip.

On top of that, when you’re in the city, you have the comfort of knowing help/civilization is not too far away. Mountain trailheads can be a mile from the nearest city. If you’re injured in the middle of the trail, it may take someone a long time to reach you. Often, on some of these mountains, your phone loses signal.

At one point, I’d gotten turned around on the trail and tried using Google Maps to find my location. But, I had no signal. Fortunately, I also had the app Glympe which sends my locations to another person and lets them track me for about 15 minutes. I texted my location to an experienced hiker and they guided me in the right direction.

Experience walker does not mean experienced hiker.

Use All Trails

If you want to get into hiking, I highly recommend All Trails. The app lists all the trails near you or a specific location. I usually search for trails near Cold Spring or Beacon, NY. They grade them from Easy to Moderate and Hard. If you’re a walker, you may be able to tackle short (less than 5 miles) Moderate trails. Read the reviews for those trails to see why they have that grade. Usually, it means the trail has a few steep areas.

Since I’ve started hiking Hudson Highlands State Park, I’ve watched a lot of newbies trek up Breakneck Ridge. It is a Hard trail. Even All Trails says it’s only for experienced hikers. It’s steep and rocky all the way to the summit. And, you have to do some rock climbing at the end. But it’s popular because it’s accessible by train and it’s only 1 mile. I, honestly, would not recommend new hikers try a Hard trail. That’s a fast route to an injury.

If You’re Not a Walker Yet

Even though I was new to hiking, I still stuck with Moderate trails. I like walking and an Easy trail wouldn’t be a workout. If you’re not a walker (or a jogger) stick to Easy trails. Get a feel for the number of miles you can comfortably walk. Easy trails have good views. I found this at the end of an Easy Trail.

More Tips

Picking the Best Hiking Trail for Your Abilities (Easy, Moderate and Strenuous)

Hiking for Beginners

How to Choose the Right Hike


2 Comments

Lydia · November 23, 2020 at 12:43 pm

This is good advice. I haven’t been hiking in so long! That needs to change in 2021.

Barbara Radisavljevi · November 23, 2020 at 12:55 pm

That was a concise bit of information written clearly. I’m going to make use of it next time I want a new place to walk. I’m also sharing it.

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