So you were just asked by your hiking/outdoor group to lead a hike in a few weeks. Congratulations! But, I’ve never lead a hike before, your thinking, how do I do this properly? Never fear, Hiking Forward is here.
Leading a hike can be an enjoyable experience for you and for the people you are leading if you simply consider a few things and do some proper pre-hike planning.
Know Your Audience
First, thing is first. Where are we going to hike? Location, location, location is the name of the game for potentially setting up a good hike for your group. Before you fully decide on your hike for your group it is critical to know your hiking audience. What type of hike is the group expecting? Are they wanting to sight see? Take their time? Is the group fit and at a skill level to handle a strenuous hike or are they wanting a short out and back type excursion. Understanding the desires, needs and abilities of your group will go a long way to ensure that your group and soon to be planned hike match.
Know the Area
Now that you know what kind of hike the group wants and have a good sense of their abilities now you can pick the perfect location to hike. Upon picking the hike it’s important to either be familiar with the hike or soon get familiar with the area in which you be hiking. Beyond just knowing where the hike starts and finishes it is also important to learn about the history of the area, information about the trail and maybe who maintains it. Being able to point out landmarks, historical markers or provide background to the group while on trail may impress them and encourage more discussion while on trail.
Get Help to Lead
Choosing another trusted and experienced hiker to assist you in offering sag support at the end of the group is critical to a safe and successful hike for all involved. Typically the leader of a hike is at the head of the group to monitor and adjust the pace of the hike, point out areas of interest and establish needed breaks along the route. Having a helper at the end of the group to monitor how slower, less skilled or potentially older hikers are doing promotes safety for all who wish to enjoy the hike.
Before beginning the hike, providing a short safety informational brief on the hike is a smart idea. During this brief, the leader should highlight the length of the hike, potential inclines, how long the hike should take and discuss sites or items one might be able to witness along the way. Another critical component to advise hikers of is potential animals and the probability for encounters and any poisonous plants that may be prevalent along the trail. During this brief, use the time to assess the group and their gear, footwear and water supplies to make sure the meet the demands of the upcoming hike.
Taking regular breaks to allow the group which may become scattered to bunch back up and rest is very important from time to time. Consuming food and hydrating maybe more critical depending on the weather situation and difficult nature of the hike. As a leader and potential co-leader of the hike, you should use these breaks to assess the condition of your group. Encourage longer rests for those that need it, depending on weather or length of the hike, assess the current levels of water and food for those who need it. Continually checking the map and trail markers and advising the group of your future direction will aid anyone who may find themselves off trail.
Following these simple and easy steps will ensure that you as a hike leader enjoy your experience as well as provide a safe, fun and enjoyable experience for your hiking group as well.
Keep Hiking Forward!
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