How To Outline Your Backcountry Itinerary for an Extended Hike
Outlining your backcountry itinerary for an extended hike takes a lot more than just looking at a map. While some people may be able to hike from one campsite to another in just a few hours, it could take another person well more than a day to do the same.
Everyone has the equal opportunity to take on a long trail, whether it be a thru-hike or a difficult trail to a hot spring you’ve always wanted to visit. But, some people will handle that trail differently than others. Unless you’re trying to break a world record for the fastest hike, there’s no reason you can’t take your time while trying to complete an extended hike. As long as you plan it properly, of course!
Step One: Do Your Research
Before you plan your backcountry itinerary, do your research and see what kind of hikes are doable in the amount of time you have. If you only have time for a two-day hike, then research two-day hikes in your area. If you have time to do a week long hike, then research that. Once you find a few hikes that may be interesting to you, you must check out a few things:
- Difficulty: A week on a difficult trail for a skilled hiker might mean three weeks on the trail for a beginner hiker. Keep this in mind when choosing a destination that’s appropriate.
- Weather: What will the weather conditions be in the place you’re hoping to go? If it’s somewhere freezing and you know you can’t handle cold weather, then you may need to reconsider your options.
- Campgrounds: If this is longer than a day hike, where will you sleep? Are there campgrounds along the way or at least one when you arrive at the end of the trail?
- Hidden Gems: Is there anything you want to see along the way? Are you on a hunt for the best lakes, wildlife views, or photo-op spots? If so, don’t be afraid to choose a hike that caters to your interests. That’s the point, after all!
- Reviews: Read trail reviews! This will help answer a lot of the questions you may have. Other people who have done this trail before you will mention what the highlights of the trail were, so you don’t miss anything special along the way.
Once you’ve decided your trail of choice or sights of choice, it’s time for you to move onto the next step.
Step Two: Map it Out and Label
Before you assume how many miles there are which you can hike in a day, you first need to KNOW how many miles you can hike on average. If the extended hike you’re looking to do averages 10 miles a day, is that something you can realistically do? It would be good to do a few test runs before and see what feels comfortable. If you already have experience, then this shouldn’t be an issue for you. But, if you plan on giving yourself a challenge, then keep in mind what was too hard for you in the past.
- Get a map, and find the trailhead.
- Take a look at the map and find where the campsites are.
- Understand how many miles there are between each campsite. Perhaps you can skip over a campsite and go to the next one.
- If this is out in the backcountry and there are no official campgrounds, then figure out where it is you will sleep each night, and how long it will take you to get to that location.
- Is there anything you want to see along the way? Waterfalls, canyons, views, wild plants? Make sure to add that to your map! This is the key part of outlining your backcountry itinerary!
- Lastly, if this is a hike to a certain destination, like Havasupai Falls, figure out what time you’d have to get up in the morning to reach it in time to enjoy it.
Step Three: GO!
Once you’ve outlined your itinerary, it’s time to go!
Okay, maybe not yet. First, you need to get your gear together, get your hiking permit (if you need one), and all that other jazz. But, once you’re ready to go, just make sure you have a few things:
- Your map or handheld GPS with your points marked. Make sure you know how to navigate your map with a compass in case your handheld GPS craps out.
- Make reservations at your campsites. You don’t want to show up and find out that they are already all reserved!
- Make sure the areas you want to see along the way or towards the end of your extended hike are also open to visitors. You don’t want to hike all the way there and learn you can’t get in! That would be a bummer.
- Last but not least, check for safety! Generally, you can register at the visitor’s center and let them know your itinerary just in case.
Now you know how to outline your backcountry itinerary! Get moving, now!