19 Tips for Researching your Hike or Walk Using Social Media
Whenever I travel, I always seek out walks or hikes to round out my experience in a local place. In addition, I avoid taxis and transit in favor of a good urban hike in order to really get to know a town. So how do I research where I’ll hike or walk? Let’s look at different scenarios.
Walks in New Places
Unlike a hike, a walk doesn’t necessarily require extra gear, a trailhead, or special shoes. Generally, the comfortable shoes you have on your feet are all you need to go out for a walk. Grab a water bottle and a hat, and you’re probably ready to go. Finding a safe place to walk or other people to walk with can be fairly easy.
Tips to Find People to Walk with in Safe Locations
Where to find safe places to walk or people to walk with?
- Look for parks, paved river paths and central communing areas like markets.
- The Welcome Center often has maps and ideas about where to walk. The friendly locals at these centers often can help with safe places and suggestions for any areas to avoid.
- Look for where others are walking. If there are people walking about, it’s a good sign the sidewalks and paths are well-built and the area is relatively safe.
- When the weather is crummy, find an indoor mall to walk. Malls often have organized groups that walk in the morning after the mall is opened but before the shops open.
- Use google for these terms:
- “where to walk”
- “walking groups”
- “walking meetups”
You’ll always get back good results that lead you to either groups to walk with or places where you’ll feel safe walking.
To ensure a safer walk, especially if you’re walking in a new location and/or by yourself, leave your headphones at home, keep your wits about you, and look to your phone only when absolutely necessary.
Urban Hikes in New Locations
Unlike walks, urban hikes take on a bit more adventure (watch this video), and they attempt to make fun and adventure out of the built environment. Urban hikers love to seek out stairs, bridges, and benches to climb, jump, or hop over. Some cities are better for urban hiking than others. You’ll want to look for good sidewalks, well-marked street crossings, public restrooms and open spaces. With urban hiking, you may want to throw on a good pair of urban hikers like either closed-toe Chacos or good walking Tevas, belt on your water bottle, and stash a snack in your pack.
Tips to Find Good Urban Hikes
There are some tried and true ways to find good urban hikes.
- Start in the city’s big park, then radiate out from the park in a pattern of left and rights.
- Use google’s walking man feature so that you can pre-plan the streets and their crossings. (Here’s a short video of how I do this.)
- Avoid major intersections, large multi-laned streets, and areas that don’t have crosswalks.
- Attempt to get lost (while heeding any particular safety info from the locals) and eventually make your way to transit.
- At the end of an urban hike, jump on either the bus or the subway to take you back to your starting point.
Urban hikes are fabulous for stumbling upon great coffee shops, unique boutiques, and fun places to eat. Many websites devote their content to urban hikes; just google “urban hikes” in the city where you’re visiting. And get out there!
Hikes in New Locations
Whereas walks and urban hikes don’t take much planning and don’t require much gear, hiking is a whole new beast. You can make it as complicated and expensive as you’d like by how much gear you buy and bring with you.
In the context of our life, when we travel, we seek out moderate hikes that accommodate the shoes we have with us. If we only have our walking shoes, we’ll look for a 3-mile easy hike. If we have our boots with us, we’ll seek out longer hikes with more advanced terrain.
Not only do our shoes dictate our hikes, but our packs do as well. If we only have our water belts with us, we usually only have our walking shoes. More durable shoes and bigger packs go hand-in-hand. In our nomad life, we carry a day pack and lightweight boots. If we do come across hikes that require longer distances and more gear, we just rent it.
Tips to Find Good, Safe Hikes
To find good, moderate loops from 5-7 miles, follow these tips.
- Google “hikes near me.” This will generate a hodgepodge of good information which you can triangulate to other places.
- Open up google maps and look for green spaces.
- Ask google to mark the trailheads near your location.
- Change the view to the terrain view so you can see how flat or steep it might be. (Here’s a quick video of how I do that.)
Additional Tips for Hikes in State or National Parks/Forests
If you’ve picked a hike in a state or national park, there’s additional steps you should do before heading out.
- Go to that park’s or forest’s website and get better and more accurate information. Hikes in local parks can often have sketchy information that sometimes gets better when you get to the trailhead.
- Read various blogs that have personal experiences with the hikes and narrate their adventure. These posts are invaluable for getting local knowledge about a hike, its markings, and its viewpoints.
- Use AllTrails (and some states have their own trail apps, like Colorado’s COTREX). AllTrails is not great; but it does give general information about length of trail and trailhead info. Since it’s not curated very well, the information can be inaccurate and contradictory.
- Check Twitter for trail conditions. Often the park’s rangers post the day’s conditions, or you might find a local enthusiast who posts trail reports.
- Check the weather for conditions and any changes that are predicted for the next 5-8 hours. If you’re up in the mountains, plan to be off the mountain by noon.
Once you’ve picked our hike, load up your daypack with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, carrots, almonds, a small piece of chocolate, and a granola bar of some kind. (I love these.) Bring more water than you’ll need, generally 2-3 liters, a hat, sunscreen, and outerwear even if you don’t think you’ll need it. If you think the hike might be remote or not busy, you’ll want to additionally bring your Ten Essentials.
Walks, Urban Hikes, Hikes
When you’re traveling, how do you incorporate seeing your location by foot? I know that if I’m getting lost in a city like Paris or Athens, I can walk a good 8-10 miles and not even blink. What’s your favorite city to get lost in or trail to explore? Let’s share some of our favorites….and if you have other suggestions for how to find good places to explore by foot, comment with your successful (or unsuccessful!) ideas.
See you on the trail