New to the backcountry? Don’t sweat it. These Hiking 101 tutorials and guides provide a beginner-friendly introduction to the backcountry skills you’ll need. Learn about everything from packing a daypack to surviving a winter camping trip. With these preparedness guides and a little practice, you’ll be on your way to feeling comfortable in Vermont’s forests in no time!
Hiking 101 in Vermont
Vermont is beautiful year-round for an outdoor excursion, but “Hiking Season” is generally considered to be between Memorial Day (May) and Indigenous People’s Day (October).
Before you head out, consider seasonal conditions and weather, safety concerns, gear, navigation, and group size, among other things.
Trail conditions. When picking a trail, do your research on the conditions, elevation, and mileage. Be realistic about your ability levels to keep yourself and others safe. It’s always better to turn around early than to risk pushing your limit to reach a summit or other pre-conceived “destination.” A search-and-rescue mission not only requires a lot of resources, but it can be dangerous for first responders. It’s crucial that you avoid dangerous situations and know how to get yourself back out of the forest.
Trail conditions will vary with the seasons, weather, varying levels of daylight, and wildlife activity. You don’t want to cross an open summit in a thunderstorm, slosh through wet trails during Mud Season, or be caught in the dark without a headlamp. Here are some general conditions to consider for a hike during each season; click each image to enlarge:
Safety. Before heading out, make sure you leave your plans with someone you trust. It’s equally important to know when to turn back as weather, fatigue, and unexpected conditions affect your hike.
- Familiarize yourself with the HikeSafe Hiker Responsibility Code
- Check trail updates ahead of your trip
Gear. Planning ahead will help you prevent future emergencies. Your gear should always reflect what sort of trip you’re planning and include emergency supplies. This includes insulation, a headlamp, a first aid kit, and tools. View the 10 Essentials before you head out.
Timing. A hike can span anywhere from a few hours to a few months. Be realistic about the time it requires for you to complete a hike. Generally, plan to hike 1-3 miles per hour; harsh weather, steeper terrain, and possible injuries will slow your pace. Trail guides generally include time estimates but know that every ability level is different, which is okay too. Knowing your skill level will help you plan accordingly for your safety and that of a group.
- Trail Guides: browse guides at the GMC store, TrailFinder, Avenza, Guthook
- Video: Hiking the Long Trail, Side-to-Side
- Video: Hiking the Long Trail, End-to-End
Have fun. Vermont’s Green Mountains, Northeast Kingdom trails, and Appalachian Trail section are great for adventure and exploration. These special places are also great for sharing: bring your family, your dog, and join a group. Just do so responsibly.
Keep scrolling for videos and articles to build your backcountry skillset.
- Video: Leave No Trace
- Video Playlist: Map & Compass
- Video: 10 Essentials of Safe Hiking
- Everything You Need to Know About Bear Safety
- Video: How to Hang a Bear Bag
- Everything You Need to Know About Mud Season
- Everything You Need to Know About Winter Hiking
- Video: Intro to Winter Hiking
- Video: Winter Camping 101
- Winter Camping Do’s & Don’ts
- How to Enjoy the Last of Winter Hiking Season
- Video: Leave No Trace in Winter
Introduction to Family Fun
- Video: Adventuring with Babies, Toddlers, & Preschoolers
- Video: Hiking with Kids
- Video Playlist: Hiking with Dogs
- Video: Hiking Guidelines
Introduction to Backpacking
- Video: Backpacking 101
- Thru-Hiking Guide
- Backpacking Advice from End-to-End Hikers
- Backcountry Campsites & Water Sources
- Hygiene in the Backcountry
Find a Hiking Community, Online or IRL
- Vermont’s Hiking Community: Long Trail Hiking on Facebook
- Green Mountain Club Outings: find your nearest section volunteers or browse the outings calendar.
Hiking Communities We Love
- Black People Who Hike
- Disabled Hikers
- Get Out and Trek
- HBCUs Outside
- Indigenous Women Hike
- LatinX Hikers
- Melanin Base Camp
- Native Women’s Wilderness
- Outdoor Afro
- Outdoor Asian
- QPOC Hikers
- Queer Nature
- She Explores
- Univ. of Vermont’s People of Color Outdoors (POCO) Club
- Unlikely Hikers
- The Venture Out Project
- Wild Wanderer
- Women Who Hike