A Novice’s Guide to Hiking

If you haven’t been reading my blog for very long, you may not realize that we live in the Pacific Northwest.  We’ve lived here for 13 years now and are really just getting to know our state and all it has to offer.  We have, here and there, gone for a hike.  We’ve not been seriously into hiking, but really just did on occasion when the whim struck us.  I think our total was 5 hikes in 12 years.   I know!  People from here will gasp when you say that out loud.

The thing is, there are so many things to do in the PNW that we really didn’t think to add it onto our already full plate.  We are boaters/fishermen and more apt to hop in the boat or grab a pole for some riverside fishing before anything else.  This year, I caught the hiking bug.  As a novice, I thought I’d share my point of view on hiking. There are lots of people out there much more learned than I.  I probably should have read a little more about hiking before venturing forth.


Do a Little Research.  I really didn’t know who or what to read.  Google searches were too overwhelming.  Many sites didn’t give me the information I was looking for at all. Over the last year and talking with a lot of people, these are the two websites I now go to and find out about hikes.

Northwest Healthy Mama:  A fantastic blog written by a local PNW mama who loves the outdoors, adventuring, healthy eating and family.  Angela has fantastic reviews of PNW hikes.  Family friendly to more advanced hiking.  She also reviews local places to go and things to do.  I love her light and refreshing take on life and living in the PNW.  You can go to her blog, nwhealthymama.com, or find her on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!  She is great about answering questions and guiding you to a recommended hike.  I recently joined her Ladies Hiking Group and hiked with her at Ebey Landing!

Washington Trails Association: The WTA website was recommended by a fellow co-worker of mine who used to work for the Washington Forest Department.  It is also a great reference guide for those of us living (or visiting) here.  They have a Hike Finder Map which you can filter by region and by type of hike you are looking for as well.  Check it out here. 


Download an App.  There are many apps out there that will show you places to hike, track your hiking, let you rate and comment on a hike.  We recently downloaded “All Trails“.  Yes, it is $30 for the year.  Why am I recommending it then?

  • First, it covers hikes all around the world.  We travel and we have friends that like exploring.  Why download an app just for Washington when you can use it anywhere?!?
  • Secondly, you can download the map of your hike directly to your phone.  Seriously people, did you think ahead?  Most places you hike will probably not have cell service.  Our most recent hike didn’t have service for the last hour of our drive to the trailhead and obviously then didn’t have service while we were hiking.  That awesome app you download won’t work without the internet people!  Think ahead and check it out for yourself and determine if you like it.

Prepare Well

I’ve just come back from a ‘moderate’ hike.  It was a 12 mile loop.  It was beautiful!  I have now realized that being prepared is key.  Isn’t it with everything?  As I unloaded and put things away the next morning I took photos.  I am totally going to break this down for you!  How cool is that?

Dress Appropriately.  Here in the PNW we dress in layers.  You never know what you are getting yourself into out there.  I will say, I run warm so you may need more layers than me.

Boots. An absolute must is a great pair of hiking boots. I have two pair now, one tall and one short. Depending on the hike and the weather I change them up. Make sure to get boots that fit right. I really recommend watching out for REI‘s boot fitting events. I went to one and really learned a lot. They also have an incredible selection. Please, whatever you do, don’t buy cheap ill-fitting boots. These are your feet and you do not want to come back with large blisters and aching feet. On a recent hike the trail had a lot of larger rocks that you had to navigate. My husbands feet were hurting by the end. He could feel every rock. I’m not talking gravel path or rocks that are flat and easy to step on. Know your trail. Know your foot wear.

Socks. You must have good socks.  I’ve tried a lot of socks in my boots and it wasn’t until I was at REI that I found Smartwool brand. I have a pair for my tall hiking boot and a pair for my short hiking boots.  They are also great for running shoes. They have cushion in those spots that tend to rub and give you blisters and are compression in the middle to keep that blood flowing. I’ve converted several friends over already!  Click here for the link! Smartwool

Clothing.  Jackets, shirts, pants, shorts. Comfortable is key. You are also carrying everything, so don’t take what you really don’t use. Have some clothes and comfortable shoes to change into after the hike in the car just in case.  I’m a tank top and yoga leggings/shorts kind of gal and a light jacket if needed. I am really liking my TEMA Athletics compression leggings.  They have a mid-high waist and are made for high intensity workouts.  They are movable enough for yoga which means they are definitely comfortable for hiking.


Have the Right Gear.   Once you are dressed you are far from ready to go hiking.  The next step is having the right gear.

Hydration Backpack. Huge! Simply huge deal. No, you don’t have to spend a ton of money, we got our packs at Walmart. Keeping hydrated can make or break you. We fill ours with ice and then finish with water. We still had cool water at the end of our last hike.  Walmart also carries replacement hydration bags if yours gets grotty.  Make sure to make use of the waist and shoulder straps so your back doesn’t hurt later. Link

Hiking Poles. Again, you don’t have to go costly. Walmart to the rescue again! Being a photo-geek, how cool is it that my pole will hold my iPhone.  You can also stick the pole in the ground to get in the photo yourself! If you have a regular camera there is also a place to screw it onto the pole like a regular tripod. Link

Extra Phone Charger. Life safer for me. I didn’t worry about taking too many photos or video. How sad if I ran out of juice to get that amazing shot of my sweetie at the end of this blog?

Walkie-Talkies: Though these guys aren’t in the picture, they are a must have when hiking in a large group. One for the front and one for the back. Cell phones don’t work. I only wish we remembered on our last hike to grab them out of the car!

Parking Passes. Research people! If you know the hike you are going on, make sure you can park at the trailhead without getting a ticket. A day pass is like $10 while my annual pass is $30. What better incentive to get out more than to buy the annual pass for a great price! Just don’t forget the pass at home.


Pack the Right Essentials. Yep, just use my photo for a guide, right? Made it easy for you. You’re welcome.  Seriously, there is a reason for it all. Hair accessories and hair brush,  sunscreen, band aids, first aid kit, ibuprofen, hand wipes, Chapstick, lens wipes and anti-itch cream are all self-explanatory. Here is the down-low on the other stuff.

  • Molefoam: should any blisters appear.
  • Peppermint Essential Oil: for keeping those mosquitoes away.  This is actually my friends Cindy’s bottle that got left in my pack. It works amazingly! We all came back from the hike bite free in any area we rubbed this on! The only bites were on areas not covered. You don’t pour it on you. Just a little in your palm and rub it in everywhere those pesky mosquitoes will find.
  • AfterBite: should mosquitoes get through your oil/chemical barrier.
  • Spork: it’s not for what you think. I wish I had remembered on our last hike that it was in my pack. It’s for digging an impromptu latrine if someone has to go #2 in the woods.
  • Kleenex: great for noses and well, other things.
  • Cooling Towel: this thing is awesome, so totally worth the $5 at Walmart. Keep cool technology once you wet it. For those warm weather hikes. Dip it in a river or creek then ring it out and drape it around your neck to insta-cool. Link
  • Skittles? I know, you are thing blood sugar or something like that. We actually use them when we get an allergy sneezing attack. Stops those sneezes instantly. The sour ones are better.

Sustenance is the Key to Survival.  Portable snack or sandwich sized bags of healthy lunch stuff. Grapes and oranges are great because they hydrate you and are small and easy to eat while hiking.  I like satsuma/mandarin/tangerines as I can grab one, peel it and eat it. Who doesn’t like baby carrot sticks?  I also need protein. I fill a snack bag with pre-cooked slices of chicken breast. I actually toss them in the freezer the night before. They thaw as you hike and are nice and yummy. Here is how I make them:

Seasoned Chicken Breast Slices

3-4 Chicken Boneless Chicken Breast, whole or butterflied

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset Salt-Free Italian Style Seasoning

Penzey’s California Seasoned Pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour olive oil over chicken breasts, season with your favorite seasonings.

Bake 20-30 minutes depending on thickness.

Cool completely. Slice into 1/4″ slices or dice into chunks. Place in snack size bags. Freeze or refrigerate.

Add Portable Snacks Too! These are all my new favorites!


  • Homemade Trail Mix: we mix together what we like and keep a big bucket in the pantry for easy snacking. Then we just fill snack or sandwich sized bags depending on what we are doing.
  • Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookies: 16 grams of protein in a yummy cookie? What’s not to like? They are also vegan, dairy, egg and soy free, non GMO and a bunch of other cool stuff.  I figure I had you after the word cookie.
  • Welch’s Dried Apples: lightweight and yummy snack. Even better, these are just apple. No added sugar!
  • Pressed by Kind: I’m in love with these! Only fruit and Chia. That’s it! Dairy free, vegan, non GMO, gluten-free. Seriously. The ingredient list on the strawberry bar is: apples, strawberries, cherry, chia seeds. They are moist and yummy!
  • Gatorade Prime Energy Chews: carry these instead of the bottle of Gatorade. They work for that quick fix like the liquid stuff. Just don’t read the label. They are everything the above bars are not. I’m just saying.  They do the trick though.
  • Gum: Yep, I am a gum chewer. I chew gum when I exercise. It’s what I do. Live with it.

Have Fun

My philosophy in life is to enjoy it. You are only going to keep doing things if they are fun too. Hike with like-minded people. Are you competitive and have to hike up and back and not stop every two feet for people wanting to take a ton of photos or do yoga poses? Then don’t hike with those kinds of people. Or know that going in and discuss it. There is nothing worse than doing something where every one is miserable because of miscommunication.

Me? I like to talk to the people I am with while hiking at a decent pace. I also like to stop for photos and the occasional yoga pose, but I am quick about it. Or at least I try to be.  I love hanging out with adventurous spirits that make me laugh and can make me think too.

Looking for people to hike with? Instagram and Facebook are great places to find groups/clubs in your area.  Me? I belong to a gym. We naturally gravitate to other peeps and then we get to talking and someone mentions hiking and ta-da we have a group!

That’s my fifteen cents from a novice on hiking! I’d love to hear from you!

Like, Comment, Email Me! Follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

PS. I was not given any of the products I’ve listed in today’s blog.  They were all things I purchased for the purpose of being an active healthy 52-year-old mama of twins!  I mention them and provide links because I like them.


  1. You are the sweetest! So glad you’re enjoying hiking! Happy trails!

  2. Great article! I’m am also a hiker and empty nester (1 of 6 still living at home) Your gear photos look like my kitchen table all summer long as I return, dump, and repack! I also, like you, adore Angela of NWHealthymama. : )


    1. Thanks! I am loving this new stage. Next week our twin are both home for a week and I will still cry when they leave. But I will do it while hiking!

  3. So much information here that I never knew about! ESPECIALLY the Skittles!!

    Great read!

    1. Thanks! Who knew Skittles could be for something other than a sugar high, right?

  4. I’m hoping to give Machu Picchu soon so this is so perfect! Thanks for posting!

    1. I’m still a novice, but I am glad it was helpful! I had a friend do Machu Picchu a few months ago.

  5. Love a good hike! So relaxing! Hope you keep enjoying your adventures 🙂

  6. I’m slightly biased, but we live in one of the greatest places in the world to hike! Great introduction to hiking.

  7. I am biased, but I think we live in one of the best places to hike in the world! Great post on Hiking 101.

    1. Having lived in four other states, I couldn’t agree more!

  8. What an amazing resource! I love how you organized everything–this is so helpful!

    1. Thank you so much! I am hyper-organized type of peep!

  9. […]  We used our regular hiking backpacks with water in bottles rather than the usual bladder as we were concerned that the water would freeze in the line. Inside we had the usual munchies and what not we use for hiking. If you are curious, head over to my blog post, “A Novice’s Guide to Hiking.” […]

  10. […] stuffs and all the other stuff you need. If you are looking to start hiking check out my post, A Novice’s Guide to Hiking, for some tips and tricks. Ok. There is my PSA now onto the […]

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