Guide to Outdoor Activities for Beginners
That feeling of breathing in the air of the high mountains. Or panting your way up the mountainside in the heat of the morning. Or gliding across crystal blue water in a jaunty red canoe, with nothing but the sound of your paddle splashing into the lake. Or how about mountain biking down beautifully sculpted trails on the hillsides behind your town.
Going outdoors has a special draw. It evokes all of your senses and can bring you to a place of inner calm. And of course, everything sounds so idyllic but perhaps you, like many others, just don't know where to begin! Well, it's easier than you think. Here are some small and simple outdoor activities that can help you build confidence for even bigger adventures down the road!
A day hike is a trail that is typically under ten miles round trip (one that you can comfortably hike within a day). People who are just starting hiking may want to consider something in the two to six-mile range. As you get stronger, choose hikes with greater elevation gain as well as longer distances.
To find hikes in your area Google “(your area) hiking trails”. For example, in Washington state, we have the WTA Trail Finder Map. It is a website that shows nearly every single hike-able trail in Washington. It is an awesome resource to have and most states have some version of their own.
Last but not least, try the old fashioned route and take a visit to your local library or bookstore. There is always a wealth of guide books and hiking guides that go into great detail of what to expect on the hike.
Pro tip: For some super sweet adventures that are a little bit more advanced, look for hiking books published before the 1980s. Think places like your Dad’s bookshelf, thrift stores, etc. Oftentimes you can find really neat places that have been long forgotten. Be wary though… a lot of these adventures usually involve bushwhacking and mandatory navigation skills!
VISIT STATE AND NATIONAL PARKS
Here in the United States, our public land is an absolute blessing. For a small entrance fee and parking pass, you can often explore hundreds of miles of pure landscape. There aren't many places left where there are old-growth trees, first people burial grounds, a lack of barbed wire fences, and free-roaming wild animals. These places are sacred and must be treated with respect, and it is a joy to be able to visit them.
When you visit State and National Parks you can often do many different activities from hiking to kayaking to float trips. Oftentimes the visitor centers have free tours, films, and nature walks in the area. I love taking part in all things offered by visitor centers because they are fun, informative, and free! Plus their gift shops are on point...awesome local field guides and guide books, as well as patches, t-shirts, and anything else an outdoor tourist could love.
Besides all of the hiking and sightseeing you can do at these parks, camping is one of the best ways to experience them. There is nothing like waking up in an old-growth forest to the smell of campfires and morning mist in the air. Or perhaps surrounded by rock faces and the best stars you've ever seen in your life, deep in the desert. Most State and National Parks have very basic but beautiful campgrounds. Usually, they're reasonably affordable as well, around $10 to $25 per night. Some are tent and RV, while others are exclusively tent campgrounds. Check on the park’s website for campsite availability, make reservations, and see the requirements for camping.
If you are a total newbie to camping, bringing along a basic tent is completely fine, even if it is a Walmart special. Just don’t forget a waterproof cover or tarp in case of rain. You will need a camp stove to cook your food, some blankets or sleeping bags, a cooler, and lots of water because often times there are not potable drinking sources in more remote campgrounds. Other than that bring some fun activities like games and Pudgy pie makers, and you have yourself equipped for an awesome weekend.
TAKE A PADDLE
Nearly every park with a lake, river or beach has a rental shop to try out various water sports. From stand up paddleboards to canoes and kayaks, there is something for everyone. Prices are generally between $5 to $25 per hour and include brief instruction, flotation devices, and your watercraft of choice.
Community boating centers and college boathouses are other places to check, and they may offer even more types of rentals such as sailboats, windsurfers, and outriggers in addition to the standard rentals. Oftentimes these types of rentals require more instruction to start but they are certainly doable for a beginner.
GO FOR A BIKE RIDE
For a tame weekend activity, try taking a bike out and exploring the back roads of your town. Often there are networks of gravel paths throughout your city that take you to places such as different parks and points of interest. A really fun day or evening after work can be as simple as just letting yourself get lost and exploring all of these secret trails. Oftentimes if you hop on your city's website or your State's Department of Transportation site you can find a map of all of the pedestrian and bicycle access trails that weave through the city!
For those of you in Washington State:
Local Bike Trails (WSDOT)
For an even more exciting day try out mountain biking! Your local bike shop can give you tips on where the best trails are to ride and set you up with some trail-worthy bikes to rent for the day. If you have a mountain bike of your own, check out Trailforks, a website that is dedicated to logging just about every mountain bike trail in existence. I'm sure you can find something near you!
Article By Callie Waldschmidt
Callie is a mountain-obsessed skier and mountain biker based in Bellingham, Wa. She’s the founder of Wild Grit, teaching online courses and creating videos for outdoorsy-minded adventure lovers everywhere.
Follow her on Instagram, here!