January is the best time to take a break on the feet and plan out your list of hiking trips in 2016. By sketching out the plans early before weddings, reunions, and work commitments fill up the calendar you’re committing to yourself that 2016 will be your best year on the trail yet. Schedule these 20 must-do goals for more miles and more fun.
20 ‘Must do’ Hikes in 2016
Goal 1: 100 miles for the 100th Celebration.
There’s no better way to mark the 100th anniversary of the park system than with 100 miles of hiking. It may sound like a lofty goal, but with an 8.5 mile hike each month (or two smaller 4 milers) you’ll be on your way to packing on some serious trail time this year.
Goal 2: Plan a winter hike.
Strap on your snowshoes or throw on an extra set of wool socks. It’s time to brave the woods when most people are still at home. Winter hiking and spending time in the snowy elements not only keeps you moving in the off-season, it also can provide the year’s best solace on the trail. Hike one of your favorite summertime trails and observe the difference when it’s covered in a blanket of white.
Goal 3: Hike around a new NPS site.
2016 marks the perfect year to explore a brand new site in the National Park Service that you’ve never been. Many people head off to the big National Parks for their hiking trips, but some of the country’s best day and overnight hiking is hidden in some of the smaller spots in the system. Check out hikes in a new National Monument or a National Historic Site in your area this year.
Goal 4: Increase your highest altitude by 1,500 feet or more.
Push yourself to new heights, literally. Calculate the toughest climb you’ve ever done and then add at least 1500 feet of elevation to that hike. Did you do a hike to 8,000 feet a few years back? Make 2016 the year you challenge yourself to reach a new altitude.
Goal 5: Hike with someone new to the trail.
Some of the best times on the trail are spent with fellow hikers. Share your love of the trail with that not-so-outdoorsy friend, hold your next business deal on the trail instead of the golf course, or volunteer your book club to discuss “A Walk in the Woods” after your own jaunt.
Goal 6: Hike on a National Scenic or Historic Trail (or do the entire thing!)
So many stories have shown up in recent years of people setting aside their crazy corporate lives for a multi-month journey on one of our country’s epic hiking trails. While 2016 may not be the year to trade in your career for a 2-man tent, it is a good time to spend some time on these gorgeous hikes. Pick a single day or a multi-day trip and experience your own mini-escape.
Goal 7: Attend a ranger-led hike.
Experienced hikers may hear ranger-led hike and think “slow. boring. lots of stopping and starting. not my thing.” In recent years however, the park service has tried hard to provide a better variety of ranger-led activities, including challenging hikes to remote areas of the parks. Ranger-led hikes are also a chance to spend time with someone who intimately knows the park and can help you connect with the history, geology, and wildlife of a park in new ways.
Goal 8: Hike a shoreline.
Shoreline hikes often get overlooked because they may be lower altitudes and shorter distances. There’s something to be said though for logging miles while gazing out over the ocean or setting up camp in a spot where quiet waves roll in all night long.
Goal 9: Hike with kids.
Kids on the trail can change everything about a hike. It’s a chance to slow down, take your time investigating the details, and seeing nature from a new perspective. We always talk about protecting scenic areas for future generations, make 2016 the year you show those generations what we are working hard for.
Goal 10: Picnic at a hidden lake.
Make this your plan for a relaxing Saturday this year: Pack up sandwiches, snacks, and a few cold beverages. Set out early and get the best parking spot at the trailhead. Hike and hike and hike until you reach that magic spot where the trail widens out and you reach a quiet mountain lake. Open up your pack and find a comfy rock or log to enjoy your lunch on the banks of your own private hidden lake.
Goal 11: Try an urban trail.
2016 should be the year that nothing keeps you off the trail. Stuck on a business trip or conference in a downtown metro? No time for a vacation to the mountains? Only have a Saturday afternoon to put on your miles? Try an urban trail. Many of America’s biggest cities are working hard to create wild spaces within and near urban areas. Use the National Park Service website to find a trail wherever you are.
Goal 12: Leave your favorite gear at home and hike with only water and a camera.
This is tougher than it sounds. No cell phone. No backpack full of snacks, gadgets, and three layers of your latest and greatest gear purchases. So much of the time we get caught up in the “stuff” of hiking, and forget what’s important is to spend time on the trail. Save time on packing and just go.
Goal 13: Hike to a canyon bottom and back up again.
Canyon and caldera hikes are some of the Parkchasers’ favorites. It’s the same every time: the excitement of switchbacking down into an adventure on fresh legs, followed by those flat miles of pure nature across the bottom, and ending with tired but accomplished legs from the steep, hike up the other side.
Goal 14: Hike in the footsteps of the famous.
Spend a day walking with John Muir. Overlook the spot where Lewis and Clark first saw the Rockies rise up on the horizon. Cross the sites where Civil War soldiers marched toward battle. The park service trials offer the chance to spend time with history’s most famous hikers.
Goal 15: Try spelunking or a hike underground.
A few quick searches can land you on miles and miles of trails in the park system below ground. In some parks like Wind Cave National Park, rangers and teams of volunteers are still mapping passages and exploring new caves. Choose spelunking and spend an afternoon with your boots on a whole new landscape.
Goal 16: Hike with a club or meet-up.
Just like getting on the trail with a friend new to hiking can lend a new perspective, so can hiking with total strangers. Check out hiking clubs with your local REI or outdoor supply store, the Department of Natural Resources, or through social media. Find a hiking event and make some new friends.
Goal 17: Hike sunrise to sunset.
Seeing the sunrise and sunset in the same day is a feat on its own. Find a quiet place on the trail to pull over and watch the sun come up before you set out for full day’s walk, only to end the day putting that same sun to bed. Re-set your internal clock and know you’ve wisely used every minute of the day.
Goal 18: Hike the same trail once in each season.
Watch the first green shoots pop in the spring. Feel the shady coolness on a hot summer day. Hear the leaves crunch underfoot on a crisp fall morning. Smell a fresh blanket of snow in mid-winter. Hiking the same trail each season is a treat for the senses.
Goal 19: Hike on a glacier.
Climate change continues to change our landscape and there’s no clearer example than our shrinking glaciers. Planning a glacier hike in 2016 is just as much about adventure as it is about necessity. Get out to experience one of these massive ice floes before they are gone.
Goal 20: Hike solo.
Many of us treat hiking as just as much about getting outdoors as it is spending time with family and friends. Planning a solo hike this year turns that idea on its head and can push the comfort zone for many. Set out on a day hike or plan a multi-day solo trip this year to experience what it’s like to rely only on yourself in the outdoors.