Hiking is a great outdoor activity option, a way to appreciate the Puget Sound area’s natural beauty and care for our bodies at the same time.
Hiking is a great whole body workout. It strengthens the legs, and if you use poles or carry a backpack, it exercises the arms and back as well.
It’s also a good way to improve balance when you hike where there is uneven terrain or elevation gain.
Additionally, hiking gives your heart and lungs the cardio workout they need (which helps lower the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke), while also building muscle and increasing bone density.
And there’s more. Hiking offers mental and emotional benefits as well.
It can reduce depression, provide a better quality of sleep at night, and help with weight control — another boost to a person’s self-image and emotional and mental health.
The average 150-pound individual burns up 370 calories per hour while hiking.
You should always pack the water you think you need — and then some. People typically need more than they think, particularly if they find themselves lost or disoriented.
And if you’re thirsty on the hike, don't drink any water from streams unless you have a very good filter. The result could make you sick.
Protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen and sunglasses. Sun exposure above the snow line can be even more damaging, potentially causing corneal flash burns that are extraordinarily painful and can limit vision for a couple days.
In addition to those essentials, other smart-to-include items include:
Finding the right footwear is critical to your success on the trail.
According to podiatrist Peter Lallas, DPM, from EvergreenHealth Foot & Ankle Care, hiking experts and novices alike should evaluate boots and shoes to ensure that their footwear provide proper support, particularly in the arch, and that they offer the right flexibility where the foot bends at the toes.
A shoe fit for hiking trails with uneven surfaces should support both your arch and your ankle, Dr. Lallas says.
For beginners, he recommends starting with a new pair of boots. "All too often people pull out their old shoes to start a new regimen," he says. "When you increase activity with shoes that are already worn, it put abnormal biomechanical stress on the foot that can lead to damage to the ligaments, tendons or joints."
Once you're on the trail, pay attention to signs from your body. Discomfort – aches, pains, blisters or chafing, especially in your legs, knees, hips back or feet – are signs that your footwear isn't doing the job.
People of all abilities enjoy trekking across the Puget Sound area. Whether you're navigating a wheelchair, pushing a stroller or have limited mobility for any reason, our area is home to plenty of paths and trails that provide broad opportunities for all levels:
Monroe's Sky River Park – a 1 mile perimeter trail
Redmond Central Connector – a 1 mile trail from Bear Creek Trail to the Sammamish River Trail
Lake Sammamish State Park – 2 miles of paved railroad corridor
Cross Kirkland Corridor – 5.75 miles of paved and gravel sections
Sammamish River Trail – 10 miles from Bothell to Marymoor Park
Burke-Gilman Trail – 27 miles from Seattle to Bothell
These trails are great for family friendly hiking:
Pretzel Tree – near Issaquah, 0.5 miles
Rattlesnake Ridge – North Bend, 1.9 miles
Coal Creek Trail – Bellevue, 2.8 miles
Cougar Mountain – Issaquah Alps, up to 3 miles
Paradise Valley – near Woodinville, up to 5 miles
Dr. Peter Lallas is a board certified podiatrist at EvergreenHealth Foot & Ankle Care in Kirkland, WA.
Visit our Healthiest Best Exercise homepage for more great ideas to work activity into your daily routine.