The prospect of mountain hiking fills adventurous people with visions of towering peaks, lush pine forests and rocky sculptures of cliff and scree.

Pristine mountain lakes, delicate flowering plants and wildlife also lure hikers to higher altitudes. Mountain hiking offers beauty and adventure, but the difficult terrain means greater risk.

Mountain Hiking Tips and Considerations

Whether you stick to mapped and marked trails or intend to forge into the wilderness, careful planning and forethought are essential.

Things to Consider

Prior to starting up the mountain trail, get a map and other pertinent information from the Forest Rangers office, information booth or the internet. Bookshops and outdoor sporting goods stores can also carry a line of hiking guides.

If you seek out recommendations from other people, make sure their general physical condition and hiking experience is similar to yours. An experienced backpacker may consider a trail very easy, but it would be too much for you.

Mountain hiking involves a lot of going up and down. Would you rather spend most of your time on an uphill slope or a downhill slope?

Besides trail conditions, always check the local weather report before starting out. The weather is usually more stable in the morning. If there is a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, schedule an early hike.

If you begin your adventure at a resort, park or other controlled facility, some of the trails may be reserved for hikers, mountain bikers or even cross-country skiers.

Being able to recognize which is which and choosing the right one can improve the quality of your experience.

No matter what your hiking experience or capabilities are, heading out on the trails or into the wilderness alone can mean disaster. At the very least, tell a family member or friend precisely where you are going, which trails you will be on and what time you leave.

Do not deviate from your plan so you can be found easily in case of injury or other problems.

Mountain Hiking Gear

As you walk the trail uphill into the high country, the temperature can very quickly change from a hot summer day to a distinctly chilly one. It can get quite cold on taller mountains, such as the Rockies, and even snow year-round.

Check out our Cold Weather Hiking Guide on Wear and Dress

Wearing and bringing multiple layers is the best way to make sure you are comfortable and safe in any weather conditions. You may begin the hike in a T-shirt, but something with long sleeves, a fleece pullover and extra socks and a hat should always be part of your hiking kit.

A waterproof hat or poncho is lightweight and can be a lifesaver if it rains.

Proper footwear should always be worn on hiking trails. Hiking boots with ankle support are ideal. The soles should be rugged, thick so sharp rocks cannot get into your boots, and have a good grip on the loose dirt and gravel of many hiking trails.

Hiking with a lot of changes in elevation can be made easier, especially for people with knee or hip problems, with a good hiking pole. While a sturdy branch picked up on the side of the trail can help somewhat, its weight could quickly get tiresome.

Sporting goods stores sell lightweight versions that are just as strong and easier to move up and down.

Other must-have items of kit include:

Low-tech supplies are practical options in the wilderness, especially when is signal is difficult to pick up on a Smartphone.

Pack enough food and water

A hiker can easily get dehydrated at a high altitude, so make sure to pack a lot of water. Plus, keep the energy up with a healthy supple of energy bars to make it possible to keep hiking.

Be mindful of wild animals

While in the wilderness you are living in the habitat of wild animals (a bear, deer, elk, or even a mountain lion) so take extra care.

Check out our Cold Weather Hiking Guide on Wear and Dress