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A Beginner's Guide to Hiking Lingo

Updated: May 17, 2021

Before you embark on a hike, especially if you are not going with somebody else who is familiar with hiking, it is important to know some basic terms you may come across during your trek! Depending on where you're hiking you may see some, all or none of these terms. As I continue to hike new places, I am still coming across new terms, so I hope this guide is helpful to those who would consider themselves beginner hikers. Remember, there's always more to be explored :)

Trailhead: Where the trail officially begins. There are typically marked with a sign of some sort, and will typically include the trail name, the elevation, length, and safety tips as appropriate.

Blazes: These are colored paint marks that help mark the trail along the way. Blazes are typically painted on either trees, rocks, or along the path. They help determine where trails meet and make sure hikers stay on the correct trail. (White blazes are universally for the Appalachian Trail)

Switchbacks: Terrible. Just kidding! (kinda) These are zigzag pathways that lead to the summit. I've only encountered switchbacks - at Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon and they are supposed to make the hike back up easier and helps to prevent trail erosion.

Hoodoos: A tall rock structure that form within sedimentary rock standing tall from basin like land. They are formed over millions of years from erosion. I have never seen a hoodoo until I visited Utah, they were everywhere! They basically are a bigger rock that gets thinner towards the top followed by a slightly rounder protruding formation at the top.

LNT: Leave No Trace. These are the 7 basic principles that provide the framework for minimum impact practices while hiking (especially backcountry hiking)

- plan ahead and prepare

-travel and camp on durable surfaces

-dispose of water properly

-leave what you find

-minimze campfire impacts

-respect the wildlife

-be considerate of other visitors

NPS: National Park Service. An agency that manages all National Parks, and several national monuments / historical properties. The NPS is an agency of the US Federal Government.

Backcountry Hiking: Leaving the busy, populated "front country" trails to hike the more remote, sometimes more dangerous trails.

Peak/Summit: The highest point of a mountain or hill.

AT: The abbreviation for the Appalachian Trail. Many hikers often use "AT" instead of the full name. The AT is a 2,190-mile long trail running through 14 states from Georgia to Maine.

Rock Scramble: A method of hiking that includes ascending rocky surfaces. Rock scrambling is not necessarily rock climbing, but more of a combination of rock climbing and walking.

Loop Trail: A single trail that ends the hiker back where they started with minimal or no repetition of the trail.

Out and Back Trail: A single trail that includes turning around once at the summit and following much of the same trail back down to the trail head.



hi! nic here

Welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time Recreational Therapist, in grad school and still trying to find time to explore! Follow my journey as I continue to embark on adventures near and far. I look forward to sharing my life with you, and remember, there's always more to be explored!

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