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Plan Now, Hike Later

Posted by Anna Roth at Apr 14, 2020 04:33 PM |

Take some time now to daydream about your adventures that await you. Then plan it all out.

For weeks now, hikers have been sticking close to home, reveling in nature found nearby. But we know you (like us) are longing for bigger adventures. It's hard to stay close to home, especially as the weather improves, but we're doing well at keeping each other healthy. Let's keep it up, so we can all hit the trails sooner. 

Staying home now may help us get back out there later this hiking season. Photo by Christie Greiner-Shelton.

But just because you can't go on those adventures doesn't mean you can't plan for them. Besides, many of the summer's biggest adventures are still under a significant layer of snow, so they're inaccessible right now anyway. Plus, WTA has tons of advice on this topic, from big picture inspiration to nitty-gritty details.

So If you've already done our #gearclosetchallenge, trained your dog into a model hiking pup, and need to burn off the energy from your 5th cup of coffee you drank while staring out the window, may we suggest hike planning? Make another cup of coffee and get your ideal outing on the books with these resources. You can go on a walk later to burn off the extra energy.

Doesn't this look great? Someday... Photo by Andrew Koch. 

Big Picture Planning: Start by Getting inspired

Plan your wild adventure: This list of hiking goals (written in 2014 but very much applicable) is an excellent place to start.

5 tips to a successful hiking plan: Our tips for planning a successful outing, Props to you - you're already doing tip 2. 

Craft your own hiking loop: This is one of my favorite ways to plan. Grab a map (or 15), spread 'em on the floor, and stare at the trails. Look for loops, intersections, entrance points, exits and potential places to bail if necessary. Draw your route, calculate miles between camps or rest stops, write down potential can spend tons of time doing this.

Northwest Weekend: It might be a while before it's safe to visit smaller communities. With limited medical resources, it's important not to bring any infection to them. But that doesn't mean you can't rank each of these in order of where you want to go first. 

Browse the Hike Finder Map: Spend some time clicking around the map to find  new-to-you trails. If you usually use the map, head to the Hiking Guide instead and play with the search filters to find your customized hike. 


Recreate planning in the backcountry by using your backpacking utensils. Photo by Hang Nguyen. 

Zooming In: Plan It out

Save your hike ideas, share with friends: Use your My Backpack account to create a hikes-to-do list. You can add notes to each saved hike, then share with friends; perfect for socially-distanced hike planning. Need help getting started? Check our FAQs.

How to choose and plan a backpacking trip: OK, you know you want to go backpacking. That's just the beginning. Find out which permits you might need, whether you have the right gear for your trip, and how much food you'll to bring.

Review your on-trail know-how: This well is deep. We've got tons of how-tos and advice articles here, including how to safely cross water, preventing blisters and where you can pitch your tent so it doesn't damage the environment. 

This aesthetically-pleasingly packed backpack brought to you by...set design. Photo by Emma Cassidy. 

Get Granular: Prep like a pro

Hike planning tips from the Hiking Guide ManagerExactly what it sounds like. A deep dive into how I plan my research trips. 

Review the pass/permit situation: We know it's confusing. This can help. 

Dehydrate everything: You could prep all your backcountry meals in anticipation of outside adventures, or you could just do this as a way to vary your meals. No judgement here. 

Check (or write) trip reports: Most trail maintenance (including WTA's) is on pause right now. When trails reopen, be sure to check trip reports for where you're headed to get an idea of conditions. If you're the first to visit, be sure to write one when you're back. Here's how to write one that land managers can use to determine where to work

Write an itinerary (and give it to someone who is gonna notice if you don't come back): Remember back at the top when you were staring at your map and making calculations? Once trails reopen, pick a hike (and a backup one) and write the deets for both out, including route, camp locations (if you're backpacking), how long you'll be gone, and when you should be back. Give a copy to a friend who cares about you, and keep one for yourself. 

Then (and this is important) stick to that planEspecially since it will have been a while since trails have seen maintenance and some hazards may exist, it's important to go where you say you're headed in case of injury. Lastly, don't forget to check in with that friend once you're back. 


DK Hiker on Plan Now, Hike Later

Thanks so much for this great article. Quick question - the photo by Andrew Koch - where is that? It's gorgeous!

Posted by:

DK Hiker on Apr 16, 2020 02:10 PM

Washington Trails Association on Plan Now, Hike Later

Hi DK Hiker --

Glad to hear the article was helpful. This photo was submitted through our photo contest; the photographer's description puts it in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, near Mount Pugh.

Posted by:

Washington Trails Association on Apr 16, 2020 05:03 PM

birdyp on Plan Now, Hike Later

looks like sloan pk from the top of mt pugh to me

Posted by:

birdyp on Apr 16, 2020 05:52 PM