Much like a "runner's high", the adventure of hiking is discovering its feel-good effects.
The advantage that hikers have over most urban joggers? The chance to veer off the beaten path and see the world from a different perspective.
Think of those scenic overlooks, out-of-the-blue encounters with birds and wildlife ... and all that fresh air!
In short, one of the best aspects of hiking is seeing the natural world on your own steam - a cheap, easy way to discover the great outdoors in nature walks and hiking opportunities for almost anyone at any age and ability.
New to hiking? You may think that all you need is a map and some good hiking boots. That's fine, but you can easily avoid most of the pitfalls experienced by hiking beginners by simply planning ahead for hiking safety and comfort.
Mainstays usually include include trail maps, compass, and a GPS system or cell phone in case you get lost or have a medical emergency.
Other basic essentials on your hiking gear checklist should also include plenty of water, nutritious snacks, and a backpack to store and carry it all in - plus proper clothing such as hiking boots, hiking socks and rain gear.
It may not be absolutely necessary, but you might also want a camera and/or binoculars (also see tips on nature photography) to record or get up-close views of your first or most recent hiking adventure.
Hiking in the USA and worldwide
Whether you live near the mountains, a scenic river, lake or stream, along the coast or in the desert, there a likely to be well-marked hiking trails nearby. Surf the Web (see below) for a gold mine of resources you can quickly access, or ask a hiking friend for best tips on easy walks in your area.
As you build up experience and talk to other hikers, you can adventure farther afield into wilderness areas, or make special plans to hike more challenging trails that are famous for their spectacular beauty.
Located in the Alps (in either Austria or Switzerland) are European hiking trails that volumes have been written about. In Asia, meanwhile - on legendary Annapurna or even hiking the Great Wall of China - you will find surprisingly easy trails you can boast about on your trip back home. For the ultimate in beach hiking, coastal South Africa is nothing short of mind-blowing.
Recreation.gov - Recreation & Hiking
- Find hiking trails throughout the US in national parks, forests, around reservoirs, and in nature preserves via an extensive database searchable by zip code in all 50 states.
Best Hiking Destinations - Trails.com guide with a star-rated list of the best hiking trails in North America, including related trail statistics and information, photos, maps, and driving directions.
10 Best Hiking Trails in the World - BootsnAll guide with select review of top hiking destinations in the US, , New Zealand, Peru, China, Nepal, and other destinations with brief descriptions and stunning photos.