Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.
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A couple years ago, hiking became my happy place; I’ve fallen in love with the peace, clarity, and mind-body connection it brings.
Hiking alone is the next step for me. I’m looking forward to shedding some of the norms I’ve become accustomed to as a woman about what I “can” or “should” do by myself. I’m also excited about letting the silence of the outdoors teach me things I know I won’t learn from other people!
Ready to join me (on your own solo hike, of course)? Here’s how I’m preparing to have an empowering solo hiking experience!
1. I’m Not Counting Myself Out
I used to think hiking was only for certain “fit” body types, but that’s not the case. Hiking is NOT just for certain people! The truth is, every body (and color!) is an outdoors body.
I love following Instagram accounts like @unlikelyhikers, @indigenouswomenhike, and @latinooutdoors. These great accounts educate me about things like hiking, body issues, and imposter syndrome, and they help me celebrate who I am while also celebrating the other incredible people doing amazing things outdoors with their own bodies!
2. I’m Getting My Research On
Solo hiking or not, I’ve found it’s important to research the trails and terrain I’ll be following, and make sure I pay attention to the weather and am aware of historic highs and lows for that time of year. You need to make sure you have the right gear (jacket, first aid kit, etc.), have packed enough water, and are prepared to encounter local wildlife.
The AllTrails app and website is a really great resource for hikers. I discover local places to hike with lots of great reviews (you can look for things like dog-friendly trails, beginner trails, etc.). You can also download maps ahead of time if you’re worried about losing cell service.
You can also find community forums on places like Facebook where you’ll hear from other women hikers (like this Women Who Hike Facebook page).
Finally, don’t forget to let a reliable friend or family member know where you’ll be, and when you expect to return.
3. I’m Embracing the Wild
Solo hiking is not just about getting from point A to point B; it’s about the journey, connecting with nature, and learning more about who you are when you’re not surrounded by other people. To help me really get into the spirit of things, I love to use fun apps when I’m hiking to help me identify the nature around me.
The Seek app by iNaturalist can help you identify bugs, plants, and animals as you hike, while the Audubon Bird Guide App is like having a field guide to birds and their calls right in your pocket!
4. I’m Choosing Reverence and Gratefulness
One of the things I’m learning to do as a hiker is to learn who first tended the land I’m hiking. Whose ancestral or tribal land am I on? Who worked and tended this area before current political maps were drawn? Where are they today?
This process takes research, but it’s research I find deeply humbling. I am grateful for the people who have tended this earth long before I arrived, and I am more determined than ever to support the Native Americans who are still here.
5. I’m Starting Small, Trusting My Gut, & Embracing the Journey
Listen, I love Lorelai Gilmore as much as the next fan, but going from never hiking to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone may not be the best way to start your solo adventures!
And while I’ve certainly planned romantic thru hikes on the Appalachian Trail, most of the women I’m hearing from who regularly hike alone suggest that I start “under my paygrade,” meaning I should start with a hike that’s easy for me. This gives me a chance to get to know myself as a solo hiker.
Are you excited to try solo hiking for the first time? I can’t wait! When you go out for your first adventure, don’t forget to be gentle and kind to yourself, and treat hiking alone as a journey and learning experience.