Just about any day is a great day for a hike, but on November 17th, get out on the hiking trails and celebrate National Take a Hike Day! That’s right, an entire day dedicated to hiking. And why not, hiking is an amazing, budget-friendly activity accessible to almost everyone. I’m sure there is a nearby hike that is just calling your name or a trail that you’ve been wanting to tackle but just haven’t had a good reason to give it a go. So lace up your boots, grab your water bottle, and get outside to enjoy nature.
History of Take a Hike Day
Take a Hike Day was established by the American Hiking Society to encourage groups of families and friends to get out into the wild and really get a taste of what it means to be away from it all again.
Since the 1800s, hiking has steadily grown into the hobby that it is today. In 1819 one of the first, major manicured hiking trails was created to lead up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. In 1876, a small group of people had banded together to form the Appalachian Mountain Club, which had a goal to protect and preserve all hiking trails along the historic mountain range, as well as develop new ones.
Then a young man named John Muir walked his way through the Sierra Nevada’s in California and realized that hiking should be accessible to every American resident. He demanded that the country should actively preserve natural areas of pristine ecology and beauty. So in 1890, he petitioned for the creation of the National Park System and we were endowed with Yosemite and Sequoia National Park.
In the early to mid-1900s, technological innovations allowed us to push ourselves farther and accomplish more in the fields of mountaineering and hiking than previously thought. In 1913, a group of climbers reached the summit of Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. In 1968, the National Trails System Act was amended, calling for the establishment of trails in both urban and rural settings for people of all ages, interests, skills, and physical abilities. The system includes national scenic trails, national historic trails, and national recreation trails.
Why is hiking important?
Hiking is something that really helps to rebuild our connection with nature, and helps to maintain healthy hearts and bodies as well. But, not only is hiking good for our bodies, it’s good for our moods, our minds, and our personal relationships, as well.
The experience of hiking is unique to the individual, yet the benefits are common to us all. Hiking oxygenates our hearts, helps us to sharpen our minds, provides us with a sense of calm, sparks our creativity, and when hiking with a partner, it can strengthen our relationships.
Perhaps most importantly, hiking benefits our planet indirectly, because it increases our connection with nature. Once we build that personal connection with nature, we are more likely to want to protect it, thus making us more committed to conservation efforts.
How do I observe National Take a Hike Day?
The most obvious–Take a Hike! Get out and explore the great outdoors. Check for local, state, or national parks in your area, or download the AllTrails app, which has hand-curated trail guides for over 100,000 hiking trails. Whether you take a short hike on your lunch break or go for an all-day excursion, you are sure to have a fun time.
Another great way to observe National Take a Hike Day is to “give some back” by volunteering with a local trail club. Many local parks organize trail clean up days and are always looking for volunteers to lend a helping hand. Consider joining on a Volunteer Vacation with the American Hiking Society, where you can help build and maintain trails in exciting and diverse locations across the country.
Lastly, get the word out! Take photos and share your hiking experiences on social media. Add hashtags like #NationalTrailsDay and #TakeAHike to inspire others to go out in the great outdoors.
Staying safe on the trail
Before you escape to the great outdoors, let’s review the essentials to bring along with you when hitting the trails.
- Map: Remember, your smartphone may not have a reception at every trailhead. So print out a map of the area and know the important junctions on the trail.
- Water: The amount depends on the climate where you are hiking, but a good rule of thumb is 1 liter (32 ounces) for every two hours of activity.
- Snacks: Always bring a snack, just in case your hike goes longer than planned. Trail mix, granola bars, dried fruit. Keep it nutritious.
- Sun Protection: Apply a layer of sunscreen on your skin before heading out for a hike, even if it’s a cloudy day. Consider wearing a hat or sunglasses to minimize exposure to the sun. You can wear SPF protective clothing as well.
- Headlamp: Whether for an overnight or day hike, bringing along a headlamp is a safety must-have. These are small, lightweight devices that fit easily into any bag. You never know when you might need it, and if you do, you’ll be happy that you packed one.
- Rain gear: Ultralight rain jackets pack down small and can easily fit into your bag. Rainstorms can pop out of nowhere and it’s best to be dry when out in nature.
- First aid kit: Your first aid kit doesn’t need to be big. But make sure you have the basics: bandaids, alcohol wipes, waterproof matches, moleskin, burn treatment, and duct tape.
National Take a Hike Day is your chance to reconnect with nature, have fun while exercising, and improve your overall health. If you are looking for a hiking partner, maybe you can join up with a cool, like-minded community in your area, even if your daily responsibilities do not allow you to enjoy a hike on November 17, make a plan to go on a hiking and camping trip when you do have the time.