How to Find Great Trails to Explore

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Our summer and fall have been focused on day hiking trails around the Tahoe area.  We’ve settled in to a routine of picking a trail, packing up our packs and choosing our layers the night before we take off on our exploration.

We’ve come up with a few tried and true tactics to choose great trails to explore.

How to Find Great Trails

  • Keep a trail “wish list”.  We use Evernote for this, though a simple word document would suffice.  As we come across tips from friends, or read an article about a promising local hike, onto the list it goes.  This list becomes a great reference point when picking out trails for the weekend.
  • Keep your eyes open.  Many times while hiking we find ourselves spotting other trails that we’d like to explore.  For example, from the top of KT-22’s peak you are looking down upon the Five Lakes Trail.  Once we get home we pull out our maps and find the trail, adding it to our list.
  • Use guidebooks.  We own one area trail guidebook, and use it as a quick reference for finding area trails.  Pick a book that suits your style (easy day hikes, backpacking, challenging hikes, etc.) and you can’t go wrong.  Its a great quick reference, complete with trail notes, maps and pictures.
  • Use your map.  As you become more experienced with your local trails and terrain use your map to scope out trails and destinations.  We will often pick a peak, pond or lake off of our map, and then research the best trail head or OHV road to access it.  This has lead to some great adventures, usually off the beaten path, so to speak.
  • Set your expectations and limitations appropriately.  Do you have to be back home before dinner?  Pick a trail nearby that isn’t too long.  Are you hiking with a friend new to outdoor adventures?  Pick a rewarding trail with plenty of views that won’t push her too far from her comfort zone.  Have you been pent up in the house for a week, and are itching to stretch your legs on a long challenging trail?  Pick a trail with some challenging elevation gains and great length.  Are scenery and views your big priority?  Use your guidebook to find the best views this time of year.  Decide what matters, then use your resources to find the right trail.  This past weekend we had plenty to get done around the house, but still wanted to get outside.  We picked a trail within a 15 minute drive of our home and took off.  We were back home by early afternoon, having clocked in 11 miles for the day.How to Find Great Trails to Explore