If you’re someone who wants to spend more time outside, but aren’t quite sure where to begin, we feel you. It can be daunting to plan even the quickest of getaways, especially if there is travel and a variety of logistics involved. This post is laden with tips and tricks for maximizing your weekend trips, to help you have the sort of adventures that keep you coming back for more.
Tip 1: Start small
You first weekend adventures don’t have to be back-breaking backpacking trips or extremely technical hikes (unless you want them to be!). In fact, unless you’ve been training with a heavy pack, and are experienced on technical trails (or traveling with someone who is), we wouldn’t recommend starting there. We would, however, recommend starting local: Explore nearby wildlife refuges, state and city parks, and nature trails. If there’s a local interpretive trail in your area, definitely check that out, as it likely features great information about local geography, flora, and fauna. Getting to know your local landscapes is a big first step in building a meaningful connection to an area.
Trick: Grab an area map and make a list of places to visit that are within 5 to 40 miles away from your home. Write down anything you find interesting. You’ll likely be surprised at how many options end up on your list!
Tip 2: Explore places that mean something to you
Is there a favorite local trail you love to hike? Somewhere you used to visit regularly when you were a kid? An area with particular cultural and historic significance to your family? Set your sights on building meaningful adventures in those places as opposed to visiting the latest “it” spots.
Trick: Start a nature journal. Find your favorite notebook and start keeping track of things you see and smell and hear as you visit some of the same local spots each weekend. Try visiting the same spot in the morning, the evening, and midday over a handful of weekends, and note where and how the landscape and wildlife changes.
Tip 3: Volunteer
Getting your hands dirty is the fastest way to meet like-minded adventure buddies, and one of the best ways to know a place in an impactful way. Sign up for a Keep It Wild cleanup party, or look for other local conservation events and trail work days happening in your area.
Trick: Do a quick search for local land-use agencies as well as outdoor community organizations near you. Odds are good both are perpetually looking for volunteers to get involved at a local level to help maintain trails and/or help with restoration or interpretation efforts. Do you have some expertise that might benefit a local volunteer org? Let them know!
Tip 4: Set an adventuring goal
Is there a local trail race you might want to run? A trail you want to hike? A distance you’d like to be able to cover while backpacking? A route you’d like to be able to mountain bike? Start building your weekend day and overnight trips to help you reach whatever outdoor adventure goals you’ve set for yourself. Consider joining a local hiking, running, or mountain biking group, most of which have regular events for all levels of experience.
Trick: If your ultimate goal requires foot travel in the dark, start training with a headlamp months before the event, so you’re comfortable with how long your headlamp lasts, how to swap batteries and/or re-charge your lights mid-adventure, and how your eyes will play tricks on you in the dark. Bonus trick: Solar-powered lights and charging stations are a fantastic idea with a super light footprint.
Tip 5: Mix it up
Until you find something that really makes your heart sing (and even after), try making every weekend a bit different. Hike one weekend, and try mountain-biking the next. Find a local swimming hole and rent a kayak for a day. Buy a local plant ID guide and try to find as many as you can on the trail, or spend an afternoon reading in the woods.
Trick: There’s really no limit to the ways you can learn to enjoy your local outdoor spots. The biggest trick is investing the time and trying to be as consistent as possible, so that spending time outdoors eventually becomes second nature.
Narrator: This blog was thoughtfully written by Kerri Anne Stebbins. You can find her on Instagram @kerri_anne.