Hiking and Walking Tips
Hiking and walking nature trails should always be a fun, pleasant experience. To that end, keep these tips in mind to make sure each outing is a good one:
- If you are new to exercise schedule a doctor check-up before starting any fitness regimen.
- Know your physical condition and plan hikes in terms of length and level of difficulty that you can enjoy without straining.
- Know the latest weather forecast so you can dress and plan accordingly.
- Estimate your hiking time and know when the sun will set so you do not end up in the dark.
- Dress properly — bring layers that you can shed or add. Hike in sturdy, comfortable, over-the-ankle footwear or walk in supportive shoes. Some trails may be muddy after rains and require rubber or waterproof hiking boots.
- Bring food and water — Carry a daypack stocked with energy bars, fruit, and/or nut mix for snacking and plenty of water (a pint an hour under 90 degrees; a quart an hour over 90 degrees).
- Take or bring allergy medication if you have allergies or may experience them unexpectedly.
- If park rules are posted, read them and adhere to them. If you are asked to sign a “roster of visitors” at the trail entrance, do so for your safety.
- Communicate your plan – inform family or friends where you are hiking and when you will return and carry identification.
- Observe hunting signs. Hunting may be in progress throughout the year on hiking trails, wildlife management areas, and private property with public access trails. As such it is always a good idea to wear brightly colored clothing or hats when out on the trail. Some trails may be closed for hunting, in which case signs will be posted.
- Carry your cell phone — it not only comes in handy for emergency calls but also can usually find your location on a map if you happen to get lost.
- Use appropriate walking form and stretch before and after hikes.
- If walking vigorously, warm up and cool down by walking slowly for 5 minutes at the beginning and end of your walk to avoid injury.
- Keep dogs on a leash for many reasons: It’s the law, they could get lost, and many people are wary of dogs especially if young children are in their party. Other hikers may have leashed dogs that don’t get along with other dogs, and loose dogs can degrade environmentally sensitive areas.
- Use hiking poles or walking sticks. Some people prefer to use two, others just one. They serve a wide variety of purposes: as a support when going uphill, as a brake when going downhill, and as a balance point when crossing streams or uneven terrain. They also come in handy for pushing aside vegetation that may obscure parts of the trail.
In New Jersey, walking along or through fields and woodlands presents the potential for exposure to deer ticks. The best way to dress when walking outdoors is to wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, and long pants tucked into socks. Insect repellent is helpful and some varieties may offer some protection against ticks. Check throughout the day to see that you and your walking partners are free of ticks. Brush off clothing, socks, and shoes when exiting the woods or fields. If you find a tick on your skin, remove immediately by using tweezers and grasp from the top or head to remove the entire tick. Shower upon returning home. For more information on deer ticks, please visit the CDC Lyme Disease page.
When walking trails and through parks, one should also be aware of poison ivy. Some helpful websites for identifying and avoiding poison ivy are:
Other Resources for Hiking
Guided/Docent Led Walks & Activities
- Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT)
- Friends for the Marsh
- New Jersey Audubon Society
- New Jersey Conservation Foundation
- New Jersey Sierra Club
- Stony Brook – Millstone Watershed Association
- Crossroads of the American Revolution
- Washington Crossing Audubon Society
- Friends of Monmouth Battlefield
- Kingston Greenways Association