If you’re looking for hiking tips from a random dude on the Internet, you’ve come to the right place!

It’s been a very long time since I’ve earned a merit badge, so my credentials may be a little out-of-date, but I have put many miles on my shoes while wandering the awesome trails in the Hudson Valley, and have learned a few lessons along the way.

Here’s a list of tips, thoughts, and tricks that will hopefully be helpful as you prepare for your next adventure, or at least serve as a nice review of all the smart things you’re already doing.

Please share your own tips in the comments below!

Hiking tips from a random dude on the Internet:

1. Carry more water than you think you need. Glug a bunch before you go, too.  And leave a water bottle in the car, so you’ll have more to drink when you get back there (you won’t have to carry that one, either – it’s free!).  Nothing’s worse than rationing water on a hike, except for running out.  Bring a ton.  Liters.  Gallons.  Even if you don’t drink it all, think of all that extra free exercise you’ll get from lugging it around!

2. Just before you start your descent, tie your shoelaces a little tighter. That’ll help keep your toes from banging into the front of your shoes the whole way down.

3. Use trekking poles, even though you think they look dorky. They make life SO much easier on your knees (especially on the way down), and they’re very handy for hopping across streams on rocks or logs without worrying about losing your balance.  If you’re carrying a child on your back, trekking poles should be mandatory equipment.  I fell on my face while hiking with a kid on my back once – just tripped over a root on an easy stretch of trail.   When it happens, it happens FAST.  Fortunately, except for my bloody nose, we were both fine.  If I’d have been using trekking poles like an intelligent person, I probably wouldn’t have fallen at all.  Use them.  It’s dorky NOT to.

4. Collapsible bowls are handy for keeping your pooch hydrated. (Any old Tupperware would do the trick, too, you big cheapskate.  But make sure you bring a bowl for your pooch, and plenty of water for her to drink.)

5. If you’re hiking solo (not recommended behavior, but I sure love doing it), make sure somebody knows where you’re going, what route you’re taking, and when you should be expected back in civilization. If you don’t do this, don’t blame me if you have to cut off your hand with a dull pocketknife to survive.

6. Don’t depend on having cell service out on the trail. It’s a bonus if your phone still works out there, but there are plenty of trails in the area where you’ll have no service (this is nature telling you to stop looking at your phone).  Plan accordingly.  (You could also bring along a handy-dandy hiking GPS, which is how I record the data I use when creating my trail guides.)

7. Did I mention to bring more water than you need?

8.  A band-aid or a little piece of duct tape can make a new blister feel sooo much better, or stop a hot spot from turning into a blister. Keep a little piece of duct tape or some band-aids in your pack at all times.  Also, bring a pack.  You have a pack, right?

9.  ALWAYS check the time when you hit the trail. This will help you to judge how long you’ve been hiking, so you have a good idea of how long it should take you to get back.  This is especially important if you’re hiking close to sunset, so you can pace yourself to make sure you’re back before dark.  (Also, know exactly when the sun is going to set.)

10.  Keep a small flashlight or headlamp in your pack. Sure, you don’t plan on being out after dark.  But delays happen, and having a light could be the difference between making it back to your car or spending the night with the raccoons.

11.  Do you have a map? You need a map.  “Dude, I have your trail guides!” you might say.  “Fantastic!  Also, you should have a map,” I will reply (and I will be referring to the awesome maps from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference).  I try to write trail instructions so that you won’t need to refer to the map, but if you take one wrong turn, my trail guides will be of little use to you.  Know what would be very useful in that circumstance?  A map!  (This Avenza maps app comes highly recommended as well, as a nice companion to a good ol’ paper map.)

12.  Most of the trail guides on this site have a Google Map embedded near the bottom of the guide in the “Resources” section, marked with the text: Google Terrain Map of hike route. If you’re looking at the guide on a mobile device, you can tap the [ ] icon in the top-right corner of the embedded Google Map to maximize it.  When you do this, the Google Maps app (assuming you have it installed) will open, showing your location as a blue dot versus my GPS trace of the hike route.  The blue dot even has a little headlight to show you which way you’re walking.  Cool, right?  Don’t depend on this feature out on the trails (cell service can be spotty), but it’s a cool feature when it works!

13.  Sneakers work fine for most hikes, and I wore them hiking for many, many years. Then I switched to hard-soled hiking shoes (I’ve rolled through at least a dozen pairs of Merrells in the last twenty years), and they make a world of difference, especially on very rocky hikes.  If it’s an option, I’d recommended paying the extra few bones for the Gore-Tex versions of the shoes, too.  It’s fun to step in puddles with impunity.

14.  If you’re even THINKING about littering, carving your name anywhere, or spray-painting something while you’re out on the trails, you’re not allowed to use my trail guides. Please close your browser right now.  (If you’re still reading, thanks for being cool!  Bonus points if you pick up some trash while you’re out there.)  And if wouldn’t hurt the rest of us to bone up on Leave No Trace, too.

15. Jeans are fine for short hikes in the right conditions, but they take like four days to dry if they get wet. You’ll hear seasoned hikers saying “cotton kills” for this reason – it’s about the worst material to wear outdoors (this Gizmodo article: “Why Cotton Kills, A Technical Explanation,” will tell you more than you ever wanted to know on the topic).  Wear synthetic, quick-drying clothing out there if you want to look like you know what you’re doing, and also if you want to not get killed by your fashion choices.

16. Speaking of things that could kill you, do you know what you’d do if you ran into a bear out there? A rattlesnake? They’re both fairly common in this area, but are much less dangerous for your health than sitting on your couch all day. You’ll most likely never need to use it, but you should have a game plan clearly in your mind for how you’ll react if the time ever comes. That way, you can calmly implement your plan if need be, then you can safely wet your pants about it from the comfort of your home afterwards. Check out this New York DEC page on handling Black Bear Encounters.  CatskillMountaineer.com also has a very comprehensive page on Timber Rattlesnakes and Copperheads. For the snakes, you can take some solace in the fact that 98% of snake bites happen to people who are “messing with snakes they found in the wild.” Step carefully out there, don’t stick your hands or feet into small areas where a snake could be hanging out, don’t “mess with” any snakes you find in the wild, don’t run from bears, and you should have a perfectly pleasant time out there.

17.  While we’re discussing the dangers of the natural world, let’s talk about Lyme Disease.  I know several people who have contracted Lyme Disease in the Hudson Valley, and you probably do, too.  My wife tends to douse our children and herself in a fog of bug spray whenever they step outside.  I’m perhaps a little too cavalier on the subject, usually just spraying my shoes and ankles – that has worked fine for me so far, but I’d feel wicked guilty if you got Lyme Disease because you adopted that technique.  Whatever your comfort level and risk tolerance, you should keep a can of bug spray in the car at all times, and douse yourself before you head into the woods.  For your reference, the New York Health Department has a Lyme Disease page with tons of helpful information and resources.

18. Always, ALWAYS play a game of “Find the Next Trail Marker” while you’re hiking. That’s the #1 thing I see new hikers doing incorrectly – they’re just strolling along, not paying attention to the blazes as they inadvertently meander onto an unmarked trail into the wild green yonder.  Keep your eyes up, always scanning for the next blaze.

19. Snacks. The whole point of hiking is snacks. “Let’s go for a hike!” I’ll say to my kids. “Let’s go eat snacks in the woods!” is all they hear. Your backpack should have a large compartment filled with snacks (bananas, granola bars, candy bars, apples, trail mix, Rice Krispie treats even though you’re a grown-up, etc.) so that it looks like the inside of a third-grader’s lunchbox. Hiking entitles you to put all food-related inhibitions aside for the day. If you burn more calories than you consume out there, you’re doing it incorrectly.

20.  Super bonus tips from my dad!  I asked my dad (the dude who taught me everything I know about walking around in the woods) to take a look at the above list and tell me what I missed.

You can trust this guy

Here’s what he said:

  • When talking about hiking poles, I actually prefer a single stout hiking stick about 1″ in diameter.  This leaves one hand free and they don’t bend.
  • You just can’t overestimate the importance of good, comfortable footwear.  I like high tops to protect your ankles.   Also, don’t try to break in new shoes on a long hike.
  • I pack an extra pair of dry socks.  They felt really good when we had to ford a creek when we found that the bridge that was shown on our map had long washed away.   Speaking of socks,  I know some through hikers on the AT mark their socks as left and right.  I do this and it does improve the fit of your socks.   Did I say that good feeling footwear is important on a hike?
  • I don’t think you talked about a windbreaker in your backpack in case the weather turns foul.  I also carry a couple of foil emergency blankets.  They are light and could be a life saver if the temp took a sharp turn down or one turned an ankle and had to wait for help.
  • I also carry extra boot laces.  A loose shoe could make a descent quite interesting.
  • I also carry a purifying straw in case I had to extend my stay in the wilderness.  Iodine tablets would also work.   A way to purify water in the wilderness could be extremely important if one had to unexpectedly extend their stay in the woods.  See emergency blankets above.  Remember the Boy Scout saying…you can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food or something like that.
  • You did put in a plug for bug spray.  I use premethrin treated clothes and bug spray.  I think the most annoying insect on the trails are the gnats circling your head.  I douse on the DEET just for that reason.

There, now you have advice from TWO generations of Todd men.  Thanks, Dad!  And thanks for all the adventures!  Looking forward to the next ones.

21.  SUPER ULTRA MEGA-BONUS!  I asked my kids for their hiking tips, too.

Here’s what they said:

The eight-year-old:

  • Wear sunscreen! [Editor’s note: Good job, buddy!  Totally should have mentioned that already.]
  • Wear thicker pants so it doesn’t hurt if you fall down.
  • If there are a lot of mosquitoes, wear a long-sleeved shirt so they can’t bite you as much.
  • Don’t wear slippers or high heels. [Editor’s note: Also excellent advice!]
  • Bring as little as possible.

The five-year-old:

  • If it’s hot, wear a tank top.  It has even shorter sleeves than short sleeves.
  • Bring extra shoes and socks.
  • Don’t put too much in your pack or you might fall down.
  • Don’t wear button-down shirts, ‘cause if the buttons come undone, you could lose your shirt. [Editor’s note: The kid is an expert on losing shirts.  You should listen to him.]

THREE generations of advice from Todd men, all for the cost of one generation!

Also from the eight-year-old: “Why did you put OUR advice all the way at the bottom? Nobody’s going to read all the way down here!”  We’ll see, buddy.  We’ll see.

I’m fresh out of ideas, but will add to this list if new things come to mind.  What helpful tips do YOU have?  What have we missed? Please leave your thoughts and tips in the comments below!

Comments (42)

Was this trail guide useful to you? Please leave a comment!
  1. Brian

    Tip #1 is my golden rule! The good thing about carrying water is, it gets lighter to carry as you go, if you’re staying hydrated. Great article!

  2. jessica erickson

    me and my son went up march 16,2024 and i tell you what it was so worth it and i hadn’t been here since i was a kid and now he wants to go back and check out more trails. this has got to be one of the best views between Sullivan and ulster county i live about 40 mins away and was down there for a paranormal investigation in Napanoch and we can’t wait to come back when the weather gets a little better and not so crazy like its been the past week mother nature is crazy these days.

    1. Mike

      Sounds great – which hike did you do, Jessica? And what happened with the paranormal investigation? You can’t just mention that in passing and not fill us in! Hope you and your son have many more great adventures out there.

      1. Jessica erickson

        We actually went on the short hike went on top to see the view and went around the lake and down the blueberry trail..
        however the paranormal investigation went great it was at the new bar and grill that’s opening march 24,2024 it’s called The RDI & Road Kill Grill it’s located on 28 state route 55 lots of activity even caught a entity on camera

        1. Mike

          Sounds like Sam’s Point! Wonderful spot, would love to get my family out there soon. That also sounds like a great name for a haunted restaurant. Very eventful day you had! Thanks for the quick response, and thanks for sharing!

  3. Brian H

    Thanks for the great write up of the Bull Hill Loop. I hiked this trail yesterday. The Cornish Estate is undergoing preservation work with a lot of the signage giving a brief history up already.

  4. Kash

    Want to add a little trail etiquette, which really boils down to: be considerate of your fellow hikers!

    1. People coming up have the right of way, so if you’re descending, peel off and make some room.
    2. If you have faster hikers on your tail, step to the side and let them pass you. There’s no shame here and everyone will have a better hike when they’re more spread out and going a speed that’s comfortable to them. *Cough* looking at you, aggressive dad, who wouldn’t let us pass and had his small children running to the point of tears to avoid letting us pass for the entirely of our Bear Mountain ascent *Cough*.
    3. For the love of all that’s holy, if you know you’re on a well-trodden trail (which pretty much all of the hikes on this site are!), don’t play music out of your boombox/phone for everyone to hear. It’s so obnoxious and you look like a herb! Look, we all love Pitbull, but even Mr. Worldwide has a time and place, and this ain’t it. Exceptions granted to solo hikers on sparsely populated trails trying to make noise to alert wildlife without constantly talking to themselves (that’s cool too though).
    4. Despite what a curmudgeon I may have sounded like with the other three points (which are hills *I will die on*!), you can say hi to your fellow hikers! It’s actually quite nice! And people are generally helpful, particularly if you want a time check to the peak, need some instructions, etc.

    Enjoy and see you on the trail!

    1. Mike

      All great additions to the list, Kash! Thanks so much for taking the time to share them. You don’t sound like a curmudgeon at all. That dad at Bear Mountain sounds crazy. And blasting music on the trails is a pet peeve of mine (and pretty much every single other hiker). You can get really great earbuds for pretty cheap these days. Maybe we should keep some in our packs to hand out to people who seem to need them? In any event, thanks for sharing. See you out there! Woooooo-OOOOOOOOO! (That’s the noise Pitbull makes.)

  5. Kieran Hooks

    Good light-hearted yet informative review.

    One recommendation, one question:
    * Google maps is useful for trails, but I would a) download an offline version of the map before you start out — GPS still works even if you don’t have cell service, and b) consider putting your phone in airline mode when on the trail — it will greatly lengthen the battery life and give you some increased peace and quiet on the trail. You can turn it back on when resting on the trail to get back in touch with the world if you need to

    * Is there an issue at parking at the trailhead? Cost, availability, capacity issues?

    1. Mike

      Great tips, Kieran! And for the questions, I try to answer all of them in each trail guide. There’s a “Cheapskate alert” on every hike that has an associated cost, and a discussion of the parking situation as well. Happy adventures to you!

  6. Connie Sulse

    I love the “when it’s hot, wear a tank top. It has shorter sleeves than short sleeves “! Thanks for all your advice. I really enjoy your website! God bless!!

    1. Mike

      Good question, Usha! I do try to mention that in each trail guide where there’s a porto-potty or bathroom available. That’s important information! But in general, the default is: Stop at a gas station on the way, and/or follow proper trail etiquette if you need to go while you’re out there. Here’s a handy page from REI on trail etiquette for when you just gotta go: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/hygiene-sanitation.html

  7. Gerardo

    Excellent blog or website! Thanks for sharing your experience, and the three generations tips! (yes, I read your son’s also, tell them). For me it was a great resource to choose the 2-3 hikes we will do in october with a couple of friend’s family, we are 10 in total and we like to do easy to moderate not too long hikes, we will go for the Kaatskill fall for sure and we were going to do Huckleberry, but after reading your guide we may change it for the giant ledge.
    Thanks again

  8. Allison Hector

    I LOVE your website. It is well organized and thorough, which is great for newbies like me. During these crazy times, hiking has become my family’s new favorite hobby. It has allowed us to get fresh air and exercise in a “socially distanced” way. Thank you so much for sharing all this wonderful information. Stay safe!

    1. Mike

      I come from the future to say, “Thank you so much for this exceedingly wonderful comment, Allison!” Sorry it took me so long to respond, but I enjoyed it again today as much as I did when you first left it. Thanks so much, and I hope you’ve had many more great adventures out there in the meantime!

  9. Sam Li

    I love what you said about jeans being fine for short hikes. I think that Hudson Valley is a great vacation location. I’ll consider attending an event in that area this summer.

  10. Nada Santiago

    Tell your son I read his advice, and LOVED it 🙂

    Is there a way to filter hikes and find the ones that are toddler and baby-in-the-carrier friendly?

    1. Mike

      Hey there, Nada! Thanks for the nice words on their sage advice!

      Yes, you can sort the hikes by difficulty on “The Hikes” page (https://hikethehudsonvalley.com/the-hikes/) by clicking the column header, and you can also filter them by difficulty on the Search Hikes page (https://hikethehudsonvalley.com/search-hikes/). In general, anything with a difficulty rating of 6 or less should be absolutely fine with a kid on your back. For 7 and up, you’ll want to read up on why it has such a high rating — if it’s just the length of the hike and you’re feeling up to it, you shouldn’t have any problems. If it’s because of a rock scramble or insane steepness, you probably wouldn’t want to try that while toting a kid. (I had baby-toting in mind when I rated these hikes, and wouldn’t give a hike a difficulty rating of 6 or less if it would present any special challenges to baby-toting folks.) Hope that helps, and I hope your family has some awesome adventures out there!

  11. Corinne Leombruno

    Awesome site and great tips. And I love the ones from the kids. I also pack tissues, my cell phone and an extra battery for my cell phone since I like to use the GPS to follow the trails. Thank you for all the great advice!

      1. Allison Hector

        I LOVE your website. It is well organized and thorough, which is great for newbies like me. During these crazy times, hiking has become my family’s new favorite hobby. It has allowed us to get fresh air and exercise in a “socially distanced” way. Thank you so much for sharing all this wonderful information. Stay safe!

  12. Wendy Hennessy

    Always bring a small first aid kit. I can’t tell you how many times I have been hiking and stumbled upon someone with some sort of injury that was unprepared. I love this site as it helped me discover some things I wouldn’t find otherwise. Also, don’t eat anything if you aren’t 100% sure what it is – some berries are not edible. If your hiking on the regular doesn’t hurt to take a first aid and cpr class to be prepared. Heat emergencies, cold emergencies, allergic reactions, breaks, cuts, stings and bites can all happen so be prepared!

  13. Christina

    Hi, I will be staying over in Nyack the night before, and will take the train from Tarrytown to Cold Spring. Are there lockers anywhere near by where I could leave my luggage while hiking?

    1. Mike

      Hi Christina — Someone else may be able to offer more help here, but I’m afraid I don’t know of any lockers in the vicinity. If you discover a way to stash your luggage in Cold Sping, I’m sure others would appreciate any tips you can offer. Sorry I can’t be more (or any) help!

  14. Susan Horton

    For years this site has been our “go to” family page of which we have recommended to so many friends! Thanks so much for all the info. we have truly loved each step of the journey!

  15. PS

    Your kiddies had great advice. Please tell them I read them!!! And amazing thorough post. Thank you for sharing the wisdom. Please share any other advice for hiking with kids. Mine is only 6 months so any tips would be great. Also love the backpack carrier you’re using. Looks very comfortable for the kid. May be you can share detail on which one that is and if you recommend it? Thank you again for sharing the knowledge.

    1. Mike

      Thanks for the kind words, PS! I love that old Kelty backpack so much — my kids are too big for it now, but I sort of want to hang it as wall art or bronze it or something. I got more attached to that thing than I did to my first car. I wrote a little bit about it in the FAQ — that model isn’t made anymore, but there are many similar options out there: http://hikethehudsonvalley.com/frequently-asked-questions/#Six. When my kids got to be about 9 months old, their necks were strong enough to do some decent hikes in that pack. Then from 1-3 years, they’d ride in that thing all day long if my legs would hold up. Really miss carrying them around in that pack, but it’s much easier on my shoulders to just have them stroll along beside me now. Well, in front of me, usually. In any event, I wish you many happy adventures with your little one — have fun out there!

  16. Jeff Kent

    Regarding maps, if there’s one at the trailhead take a picture (or two) with your phone. Also pay close attention to your way home from the parking area. It sounds silly, but after a long hike you can be tired and make silly mistakes driving. On a related note…focus on getting back to your car before planning your route home. I tend to drift off visualizing street directions and twist my ankle within site of my car.

    Regarding kids, I have to drag my kids kicking and screaming into the woods. I find that two things help. 1, some sort of interesting mid-hike landmark. It can be a cool bridge, fire tower, big waterfall…some THING that’s not general nature that they can look forward to. 2, a promise of post-hike ice cream. See above note for not getting lost on the way home. If you promise post-hike ice cream and don’t deliver, you’re in big trouble, huge, trust me. I either look for one online ahead of time or just on the way to the hike. If they get bored mid-hike you can play the same alphabet game used in long car rides…A-Acorn, B-Butterfly!

    Got a dog? Dogs poop. Ideally your dog poops in the parking lot where the trash can is located. There are varying opinions when it comes to disposing of poop. I’ve had official park stewards tell me to just flip it off the trail. Others demand it to be bagged and carried out. I don’t mind bagging, but I’m not a fan of carrying it with me. That said I’m not a fan of seeing the bags on the side of the trail to be picked up later. When I had a dog I would always bag it (you can’t prove I didn’t!!) and if I was coming back that way I’d stash it out if sight making a mental note to pick it up. If I had to carry it, I attach it to the outside of my pack.

    I am not a fan of bug spray on my face. I always wear a hat when hiking and spray the hell out of it.

    1. Mike

      All great tips, Jeff! Thanks for sharing them. I’ve done the same thing with taking a picture of the posted maps at the trailhead — that can be a lifesaver. As can the post-hike ice cream.

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