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Hiking for beginners

Thinking of coming to Northern Idaho in October to see the gorgeous fall foliage? While there are some great scenic drives to take in the scenery, we think hiking is one of the best ways to see the colors and get some amazing photos. If you’re still a beginner hiker, we’ve compiled some tips on hiking basics and etiquette so you can hit the trails like a pro!

Follow the seven principles of The Leave No Trace program

Minimize your impact on the trails and natural ecosystems by following the guidelines of this earth-friendly program. The principles include:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of others

Pick a trail

Find and map out a trail ahead of time so you know what the trail conditions are, how long it’ll probably take, and if there are any concerns with weather or the time of year you’re hiking it.

Hike with a friend or group

Keep your hiking fun, motivating, and social by hiking with a friend, your partner, or a group! It can be tempting to want to hike alone and reconnect with nature but if you’re just starting out we recommend making this a partnered activity.

You should also tell someone that isn’t hiking with you where you are going and what time you should be back. Should an emergency arise, the authorities will have a better idea of where to look by knowing your hiking plan and timeline.


Wear comfortable boots and clothing

Ask for help when picking out hiking boots to ensure a proper fit and style for the hiking you’ll be doing. Then, break in your hiking boots on walks or smaller hikes to see if you need thicker socks or a different pair of boots. For longer hikes, you might also want to pack some moleskin or duct tape for blisters.

For clothing, opt for light layers as air will get trapped between the layers to keep you warm and you can remove layers if it gets too hot. Opt for wool or sweat-wicking, breathable material for your hike. A jacket or windbreaker would also be a good idea for a fall hike.

Take water

Everyone’s water needs are different but a good rule of thumb is a liter for every two hours you’ll be out hiking. It’s better to overestimate your water usage than to underestimate it. You might also want to pack some light snacks, trail mix, fruit, or nuts for an extra boost of energy on your way back to the trailhead.

Sun and bug protection

Apply sunscreen before your adventure and again at the summit. You might also want to bring along a hat or visor and sunglasses – especially if you’re hiking near water where the sun’s glare will be stronger.

With your packed sunscreen, you can also add some basic first aid supplies to your kit. Though, hopefully you won’t need them on a simple day hike.

Apply bug spray before leaving.  There are lots of options to use, from the long used OFF to natural solutions.  There are mosquitos and ticks in the Kaniksu National Forest.  Check yourself and your furry friends for ticks after returning from your trek.

Right of way

Most trails at Priest Lake are mixed-use, meaning you’ll see other hikers, bikers, and sometimes riders on horses. Bikers are supposed to yield to hikers but hikers should always be aware if their trail is shared with bikers and listen for bikers who may be approaching quickly. Sometimes it’s just easier for both parties if the hiker steps out of the way of the mountain biker, but the biker is expected to yield first. Both bikers and hikers must yield to those on horses and they’re slower and can be unpredictable if startled.

Let uphill hikers pass

If you’re heading back down and descending a steep portion and see other hikers coming up the hill, step aside and let them pass. It’s easier for you stop your momentum than for the hikers that are gaining elevation. Sometimes an uphill hiker will stop to catch their breath and wave you on to keep coming down, but it’s their call.

Use airplane mode

There’s nothing worse than being lost on a trail and realizing you’re down to less than 10% on your cell phone’s battery. Switch to airplane mode to conserve your phone’s battery in case of an emergency. You’ll still be able to take those great photos of the trail and views while it’s in airplane mode.

Ready to explore the hiking trails near Priest Lake? Make sure you find the perfect cabin to return to after your trek and a place to rest up for your next day’s hike at Elkins Resort on Priest Lake!