Hiking is one of the best ways to get into nature, exercise and live a better quality of life. And the incredible views you earn by walking up hills are rewarding for the views, the achievement and the experience.
Having said that, hiking up hills can feel a little intimidating for beginners. One of the early mistakes newbies make when they first start out walking is trying to tackle strenuous hills.
The good news is that you don’t have to conquer the highest peaks to experience a sense of achievement and take in stunning views. To that end, we’ve picked out 10 hill walks for beginners that will help you in your quest for endurance and learn trekking skills without too much risk of danger.
With that in mind, there are a few pointers to consider. If you’re fairly new to trekking, pick a trail that is under five miles and does not involve anything more than a moderate climb.
In addition, research the weather and whether there are any potential hazards throughout the season. For example, some hilly locations are prone to flooding or heavy snowfall.
When the weather is not good trails will be closed. So check the weather forecast the previous evening and again for updates on the morning you plan to go. It will be a waste of a journey and a disappointment to get to a trail only to find it closed.
What equipment do you need for hill walking?
Walking up hills is more strenuous than a flat trail. Bear this in mind before you head out – and fill your backpack accordingly.
The equipment and clothing you need for hiking are largely determined by the seasons and the weather conditions. Packing for winter is fairly straightforward because you already know you will need to wrap up.
In the warmer months, you need to take into account all types of weather conditions. Don’t always rely on the weather forecast. It’s quite possible that you set off from ground level in blazing sunshine, but get caught in a rain cloud at altitude – where it’s colder.
The weather is another good reason why newbies should start with easy hills. You need to learn how to survive the elements. Mother Nature can be beautiful but she can also be dangerous.
If the weather is warm, you might want to consider investing in moisture-wicking clothing. Avoid cotton because it soaks up sweat and will cause a chill if it gets windy. Polyester and merino wool are the best options.
Footwear is also very important. We strongly recommend investing in a pair of decent hiking boots. If you’re likely to go trekking in rocky areas, hiking boots with ankle support provide your lower legs with more protection from loose stones that can get thrown about.
Once you have purchased new boots, take a couple of weeks to break them in before you go hiking. You don’t want to be climbing a hill in boots that rub.
In addition, pack the following items in your backpack:
- Thermal layers
- Hat (sun hat or warm beanie, depending on the season)
- Spare socks
- Nutritious snacks
Our Top Ten Hills For Beginners
Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons, Wales, UK
Standing at 886m, Pen y Fan is the Brecon Beacons of Wales is the highest peak in the southern climes of the UK. The ancient Celtic name literally translates to ‘Top Spot” meaning highest point.
There are four routes to the summit, two of which are easy. You can either start from the car park stationed halfway up at around 440m and walk the remainder to the summit. If you want more of a challenge, take the 11-mile Beacon’s Circuit route from the Storey Arms, Corn Du or Cribyn.
The best time to climb Pen y Fan is between May to October. It is possible to reach in the winter, but there is a higher chance of rain and clouds tarnishing the stunning views somewhat – although if the light hits the sky-fluff right, the results can be quite breathtaking.
Johnston Canyon Trail to Lower Falls – Banff National Park, Canada
Banff National Park is hailed as one of Canada’s hiking meccas. Surrounded by steep cliff faces, thick forests, waterfalls and glacial lakes, there is no shortage of stunning scenery and hill climbs to conquer.
A great choice for beginners is the Johnston Canyon trail. It’s a downward hill descent which you have to climb up to get back but delivers the best views of the waterfall and the canyon.
If you want to make the hike more challenging take the trail up to the Upper Falls or Ink Pots.
Booromba Rocks Trail, Namadgi National Park, Canberra, Australia
The Booromba Rocks trail in Namadgi National Park is only a short distance of 4kms but is a steep climb to the summit. This can feel much more strenuous for beginners than it may initially appear. However, the uninterrupted views across the park looking out to Canberra, are well worth the effort.
There are two starting points to join the Booromba Rocks trail. The typical choice is from the Booroomba Rocks car park. If you want a longer walk, start from the old Honeysuckle Creek Space Tracking Station. This is actually a point of reference due to its contributions to the Apollo space program.
Canyon Rim South Trail to Point Sublime – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
Yellowstone National Park has tons of iconic hiking trails, many of which are moderate to hard and best left to experienced hikers. Having said that, there are still plenty of great hill trails for newbies to get stuck into.
The historic Canyon Rim South Trail is a 5.1-mile loop that follows the river, passed Artist Point (where the tourists hang out), past lakes Lily Pad and woodland teeming with chipmunks before heading down into a meadow where you may spot wild bison.
The beginning of the trail starts at Artist Point which is thought to be the spot from which the painter Thomas Moran is thought to have painted “The Great Canyon of Yellowstone” which persuaded Congress to make Yellowstone the first National Park. However, the tourist location is actually the wrong place. The spot Moran painted his influential piece is on the North Rim. It’s called Moran Point.
Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), Rogaland County, Norway
Located in Rogaland county in southwestern Norway, the Pulpit Rock, known as Preikestolen to locals, is home to one of the iconic images of the country. Hanging 600 metres about the Lyesfjord, the flat precipice is a popular spot to visit for local families and tourists alike.
The 350-meter elevation is considered a moderate hike for beginners. For locals, it’s an easy hike, so much so that they take their children and pets. You will need a certain level of fitness to make the top, predominantly because the rocky trail is uneven and requires more exertion than flat trails.
In general, the trajectory up the hill is a steady climb but there are a couple of steep inclines along the way. If you do feel yourself flagging after the steep climbs, take a few moments to catch your breath.
The weather can also be unpredictable in Norway. No matter what time of year you go, it is advisable to pack a good pair of hiking boots with ankle support and a good grip. The stones are loose and often wet which makes the trail slippery.
Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail, Co Fermanagh, Ireland
The Cuilcagh Legnabrocky Trail traverses one of the largest expanses of terrain in Ireland. The land is actually a boggy marsh which is not possible to walk on but is accessible by a 1-mile boardwalk that winds across the boulder fields to the summit of Cuilcagh Mountain.
The walk to the foot of the mountain is a moderate walk, but if you want to tackle the staircase to the summit perched at 2,185 ft, the climb can be tough on your legs. There are a total of 450 steps to conquer and the walk takes around two and half hours.
Since photos of the trail went viral in 2015 with the title Stairway To Heaven, the trail has adopted the nickname of the famous Led Zeppelin song. The trail begins shortly after the second car park.
Gornergrat to Riffelsee and Riffelberg, Zermatt, Switzerland
Surrounded by the breathtaking views of Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, the Zermatt hiking trail is rated as one of the best in Switzerland. Although the 5km climb only takes two hours and is rated easy, it offers some of the most stunning scenery including the colossus Matterhorn reflected in the water of the Riffelsee.
You can reach the site by train. Most visitors start the trek from Gornergrat station, but if you want to extend your hike by 2km, disembark at Rotenboden one stop down from Gornergrat. From Riffelsee continue along the mountain path to Riffelberg where you can catch the train back to Zermatt.
Mam Tor, Derbyshire, UK
Situated in the picturesque Hope Valley in the Peak District National Park near Derby, Mam Tor is a lofty ridge known as the ‘shivering mountain’. The name of the ridge was given to Mam Tor by ancient Celtic tribes who inhabited the area over 3000 years ago. Mam Tor means Mother Hill because a landslide created smaller hills below.
There are three trails that lead to the summit. The easiest is the 4.8km trek from Mam Nik Car Park. This trail takes about 2 hours. If you want a longer walk, there are also trails from Castleton and Hope.
To reach the summit, head into the woodland and turn right until you reach a gate that leads onto a stony path which marks the start of the trail. From there, the route is straightforward and brings you out to one of the most dramatic viewpoints in the Peak District looking out over Edale Valley.
Leopard’s Kloof, Cape Town, South Africa
Leopard’s Kloof, a one-hour drive from Cape Town is the easiest walk on this list. The 3km hike is a steady afternoon stroll which takes you through a fairytale forest to Harold Porter’s Botanical Gardens. It usually takes a little over one hour to reach the gardens.
What makes this walk so magical are the three waterfalls which are reached by crossing the stream. The first waterfall takes you on a descent whilst the other is uphill and up a series of rope ladders. You come out at the foot of the third waterfall surrounded by thick vegetation.
The scenery along the way is stunning and you will be delighted by the abundance of wildlife including baboons. When you reach the botanical gardens you will be greeted with breathtaking ocean views and a plethora of beautiful tropical flowers and plants.
Mount William (Duwil), Tasmania, Australia
Despite Mount William boasting the highest peak in Tasmania’s Mount William National Park, the 216-meter summit is fairly easy to reach and rewards visitors with 360-degree views of the surrounding Grampians and Australian coastline.
Although the Grampians is mostly rocky wilderness, the road leading up to Mount William is a scenic assortment of collections of moss, lichens, eucalyptus trees and she-oaks. If you are there at either dawn or dusk, you should expect to encounter kangaroos and wallabies. The trail starts from the end of the road and typically takes around one hour to complete.
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