This post was most recently updated on February 13th, 2020
Are you new to hiking or a little out of practice? If so the best hiking trails for you are ones with gentle slopes at least until you are fit enough for more strenuous grades. Places with easy gradients are suitable for taking youngsters on the trip. The following includes trails with easy grades and how to best prepare for a hiking trip.
There are heaps of magnificent places, some are tough going because of high altitude and steep slopes. Some of these are quite long hiking trails. But in choosing hiking trails for beginners, easy gradients are recommended.
The best hiking trails, in this case, means nothing too strenuous or too harsh, and mostly gentle grading.
What This Covers…
- Reasons to go hiking
- How To Prepare For Your Hike
- 8 Easy Trail Examples
- Great Hikes in the US
- — Yosemite Hiking Trails
Why Do It?
6 reasons to go hiking:
- Invigorate Yourself. Improve your mood and nourish your body from sunshine (Vitamin D), fresh air, and breathing in phytoncides (wood essential oils) that invigorate your body and mind.
- Fitness / Staying Young. Walking provides a well-paced exercise. The benefits of walking include firming up glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, shins, and foot muscles. Walking is great for getting oxygen to the brain. Science tells us that walking produces retrograde wave-like pressure pulses from foot impacts that dynamically improve blood circulation ¹ – a type of hydraulic effect that benefits our brain. Improving fitness levels is anti-aging.
- Stress Relief. Space to reflect, and allow intuitive and creative thought. Escape from internal worries and hectic work or home life. Find inner peace and well-being.
- New Friendships. New friends and new perspectives. Belonging to a group of enthusiasts with common interests.
- Cultural Awareness and Sight Seeing. Finding out about new cultures and stimulating places. Let’s face it, walking is the easiest and sometimes the only way to capture the best views of nature. You’ll see sights that are impossible to see from a vehicle by day and dark night skies you would never see within city limits — a lightweight telescope would be good to take.
- Making a Difference. Making a difference through charity walks, e.g. through Coastrek, which is about raising funds for people and places in need
Steps In Preparing For The Trek
If you are planning on doing a trekking trip, hiking expedition, trekking trail, or tramping (other names for hiking) whether it’s short or long, you need to do some preparation.
Check Walking Conditions
Your Hiking Gear List
Make a list of the things you’ll need. Make sure you have the right gear. Your hiking gear list is likely to include hiking boots, backpacks, walking poles, cooking gear, water containers, food, shelter, sunscreen, a hat, a map, a compass, etc.
Make sure your hiking gear is in working order and you know how to use it.
It is also important to have the right fitting hiking boots. I know that from experience. I suffered painful black toenails after a day trek because I didn’t research about the importance of fitting shoes correctly when walking downhill. So make sure you have the best fitting hiking shoes for the conditions.
See my guide on backpacking cookware for some lightweight cooking gear suggestions for hiking trips.
PRACTICE TRAIL WALKING AT A HIKING PLACE NEAR YOU
Apart from making sure you have the right hiking gear, you should also try to focus on improving your walking durability leading up to your adventure.
To prepare for long distance walks, start with something easy and short. Build up the distance each time until you are at the stage where you can last the duration of your intended trek.
It’s a good idea to get into brisk walking to build up endurance and to wear those walking boots in so that you don’t experience blisters or black toenails on your long distance walks when you eventually go trekking overseas or on walking holidays at home.
For these longer duration hiking trips where you will be walking all day, it is a good idea to start with a mile or so and gradually work up a routine of walking 3 miles a day, increasing that to walking 5 a day, and so on.
WALKING TRAILS SUITED TO THOSE NEW TO HIKING
So where to hike as a beginner? If you are looking to travel away, the following are places suited to hiking for beginners. These would also be good hiking trails for kids if you are looking for a family experience.
This list of where to go hiking ranges from England walking trails to tramping in New Zealand to hiking in Canada. There’s even a trek with wild animals in Africa and a coastal hike through fishing villages of Italy.
If you are looking for US easy hiking trails, keep scrolling.
Features: nature trail through sub-tropical forest, crystal-clear lakes, colored sands, and vast sand dunes. The round trip will take 6–8 days walking up to 90 km. There are camping areas for overnight stay.
2. HADRIAN’S WALL PATH IN THE UK
This is one of Walkopedia’s favorite walks.
Features: villages, Roman temples, ‘Robin Hood Tree’, and more. There are 5 day to 11 day hikes covering 44 – 137 km. You can also join a tour for these easy hikes. There are Bed and Breakfast lodgings (B&Bs) and Inns for overnight stays.
Features: walking safari style, the raw wilderness of Kruger National Park. Check availability for 3 – 4 days guided hiking trips of around 42 km. Overnight stays in a camp/hut accommodation
Features: golden sand beaches, Cleopatra’s Pool, a beautiful inlet to Falls River, and a 47-m suspension bridge + fur seals/kekeno. This easy hike of 3 – 5 days covers up to 60 km. Overnight stays include 4 huts and 19 campsites.
Features: diverse landscapes, vegetation, and wildlife, captivating stories of the original Māori and early pioneers. One of NZ’s good hiking trails for beautiful mountain views. Take a 3 day guided walk of 44 km. Overnight stay in lodge accommodation.
Features: historical, cultural, landscape and environmental of these islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Choose between 2 – 35 miles of easy walking – self-guided over 1 – 8 days. Overnight stay in hotels and guest houses.
Features: Burgess Shale fossil beds – Trilobites, the stilt-walking Hallucigenia, lake trail, falls, rock formations. Walks of 1 – 2 days up to 55 km (about 34 miles). Overnight stay in rooms at Tea House, private camping, guest houses, or luxury lodges.
Features: centuries-old seaside villages, vineyards, sanctuaries, sweeping sea vistas. Choose hikes of one to several days, with the stretch from Manarola to Corniglia (2 km) the easiest to hike. The path network is up to 120 km with varying degrees of ease. You can choose just an easy day walk or a multiple day hike. Overnight stay in village accommodation.
GREAT HIKES IN THE US
The Website Live Once Live Wild provides Complete Guides on the National Parks of Northern America with a list of trails and natural sights to see. It offers information on “off the beaten path backpacking trips, to hidden waterfalls that no one knows about, part of the wonder of exploring our national parks is finding places and treasures that are uniquely your own.”
Yosemite National Park in Maripos County would have to be one of the most spectacular places in the world to visit if you are looking for easy hiking trails. There are plenty of easy walks to choose from at Yosemite, USA.
The scenery is stunning and you get to choose hikes with waterfalls, glass-like lakes, huge trees, or wildflowers. Some trails are best taken in spring. Some are pet-friendly (where pets on leases are allowed).
These are part-day walks from half a mile to up to 8 miles with hikes taking between 20 mins to up to 5 hours.
Lodging is available. You can camp or check into cabins or lodges, bed and breakfast options or hotels and motels.
MORE GREAT WALKS
Julia Bradbury and Barry Stone generously illustrate and feature 1,001 scenic walks throughout the world in both natural and urban settings in this huge reference, which includes walks that you can do at your own pace so as to savor local sights.
There is an increasing number of trails converted from former canal towpaths and railway lines, like New York’s High Line, into mixed-use walkways.
There are numerous routes from coastal to historic trails to those of natural charm, including California’s John Muir Trail, the Miami Beach Art Deco walk, Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke paths in England, the Italian lakes.
The range of walks varies from easy jaunts to more rugged hikes. Each entry provides essential details, including start and finish points, overall distance, difficulty rating, maps, and likely duration.
The Joy of Hiking: Hiking the Trailmaster Way by John McKinney, 2005, by Wilderness Press. Available at Amazon — See details.
- Experimental Biology 2017. “How walking benefits the brain: Researchers show that foot’s impact helps control, increase the amount of blood sent to the brain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 April 2017.
Dwyer T, Pezic A, Sun C, Cochrane J, Venn A, Srikanth V, et al. (2015) Objectively Measured Daily Steps and Subsequent Long Term All-Cause Mortality: The Tasped Prospective Cohort Study. PLoS ONE 10(11): e0141274. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141274
Amy A. Hakim, et. al. “Effects of Walking on Mortality among Nonsmoking Retired Men.” New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 338:94-99, January 8, 1998, Number 2.