How to easily incorporate hiking into your holiday
Learn how to blend fitness with seeing more of your travel destination
Are you about to go on holiday but from past experience want to avoid the extra kilograms and drop in fitness levels that can accompany your return home? Maybe you’ve tried hotel gyms or doing yoga or Pilates in your room but have found these don’t quite maximise the limited time you have to experience your destination.
One great option for blending fitness with seeing more of your surroundings is to incorporate hiking into your itinerary. As you know, hiking is usually a long vigorous walk, often on trails or footpaths in the countryside. But the truth is, you don’t need to go somewhere remote to hike; there are often plenty of safe, well-marked, semi-urban or suburban trails that allow you to stretch your legs and see a different aspect of your destination, well away from the usual tourist spots. Before we share some resources with you, let’s look at all the ways that hiking can be an easy and beneficial activity to do on holiday.
The benefits of hiking
According to Australian Hiker the benefits of hiking are:
Stress relief (A Stanford University study found hiking may alleviate depression)
Creative problem solving
The US National Park Service reinforces this, saying “Hiking is proven to have many health benefits, ranging from physical exercise you get when out on the trail, to emotional or mental relief that comes from being in nature”.
Why hiking is a great travel activity
The short answer is …because it’s flexible. Holidays are meant to be rejuvenating; to open your mind and body to new places and experiences. They are not meant to be stressful, overly complicated, or involve schlepping around with copious amounts of heavy gear. With that in mind:
The best thing about hiking is that it’s easy to do anywhere. Trails exist on every continent, in every country, and around most major cities in the world, and you can choose a route that’s as easy or challenging as you like
It’s also usually free. Some national parks and outdoor recreation areas may charge entrance fees, but generally speaking, local trails don’t require payment. That can be a significant relief from all the costs that accompany holidaying
Comparatively speaking, it’s also easy to pack for a hike. Unlike sports such as scuba diving or skiing, hiking requires boots, a backpack, snacks, water and a map, all things that might already be on your packing list
Hiking gives you the opportunity to see your destination’s unadulterated surroundings. Museums and art galleries are fantastic for seeing cultural artifacts and learning historical information, but on a hike, you can experience the true nature and climate of your destination. And many places have UNESCO World Heritage-listed walks so you can incorporate the two aspects if you desire
Accordingly, you can also learn about your destination’s biodiversity. Every natural setting has its own unique flora and fauna; some native, some introduced. On a wilderness hike you may see larger or more exotic-to-you animals and plants, but you can also see fascinating creatures and unusual plant life on a hike just outside a city, where urban living meets the natural environment
Depending on how challenging the trail is, you don’t need any prior experience to hike. How great is that? You can even take it up for the first time on holiday. All you need to do is get the lay of the land and get your doctor’s advice on whether your current fitness level can handle the distance and gradient
You can often see the greatest views, minus the crowds, when you’re on a hike. That kind of access and experience is priceless.
How to find a hike on your travels
Many printed, as well as online, guidebooks have a hiking section. This may be a specific chapter on the subject found in the Contents. But it also pays to read about the specific area you’re staying in, as many authors share their knowledge of urban and suburban trails in these sections. The library is also a great place to start researching nature trails by location.
Then there are apps that share short, medium, and longer nature trails in locations around the world. One great option is All Trails, which covers 400,000 trails around the world and can be used offline. It also has user reviews with useful first-hand reports.
How to prepare for a hike when on holiday
Once you’ve done your trail research and know where you want to go, have read all the reviews and useful tips, and are actually at your destination, it’s important to put safety first. After all, you're a stranger in this land. Ask locals about the trail, check if the area has mobile coverage, carry a map if you will be offline, make sure people know where you’re going and when to expect you back, and finally, ensure you know upcoming weather conditions.
How to pack for a hike
For a short hike, the basics include:
A hiking backpack
Weather-appropriate clothing (think moisture-wicking and layers)
Plenty of food
Plenty of water
A first-aid kit.
However, depending on the length of your hike and its location, it’s best to go online and print out a gear and packing list that’s specific to the hike.
So go forth and experience the fitness-enhancing, travel-friendly joys of hiking on holiday. You’ll never regret getting off the beaten track, whether that ’s fully immersing yourself in nature or dipping in for a bit of rejuvenation before the next steps of your journey.
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Sydney-based Vanessa Walker is the former travel editor at Australian House & Garden magazine and a keen purveyor of destinations and cultural experiences. A specialist writer on architecture and design, with a passion for grazing on street food, she likes to combine her loves into eating in fantastic locations around the world, preferably with great views onto streetscapes or natural features.