Why Planning a Hike is Important and Tips to Plan Yours
Why Planning a Hike is Important and Tips to Plan Yours

Why Planning a Hike is Important and Tips to Plan Yours

Planning a hike before you set out is vital if you want to ensure that your day goes smoothly. Not doing so can lead to all sorts of blunders such as getting lost and adding hours to your trek.

I’m going to share a story from a hiking trip to Snowdonia National Park where we failed to plan the hike and almost completely ruined the day. Read on and you’ll find out about the blunders we made and why planning your hikes is so important along with tips to do so.

Table of contents

Why is planning a hike beforehand important?

The short answer to why planning a hike is important is so that you don’t get lost and end up disappearing in the middle of the wilderness—basically…

But I’m going to answer this question in a bit of a longer way by telling you the story of the almost-ruined hiking day that we had in Snowdonia. Stick around till the end as there are some important hiking takeaways for you here.

So, a friend, Kester, and I had gone to Snowdonia National Park in North Wales for a few days. We were doing a few hikes in the national park and visiting some waterfalls. These included Moelwyn Mawr and Aber Falls.

On this day, the plan was to do a three-peak hike that summited Cnicht, Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach. It would’ve been an epic day of roughly ten hours hiking and loads of photo opportunities. This was going to be the pinnacle of the trip for me and I was more excited for it than I had been to climb Snowdon.

The night before, we had a quick look at the route online and found the car park from where the hike started and finished. This brief search online into the route and car parking was the extent of our hike planning and was also where things started to go wrong. We hadn’t even started the hike…

A foxglove plant in the foreground and Cnicht mountain in the background.

The next day we were up early and excited to get going. We arrived at Croesor, where the car park was located, keen to get going. Little did we know, but the lack of planning the night before was about to come back to bite us.

As we left the car, we set off in the direction of the mountains ahead, thinking we were going the right way. We could see peaks and felt confident that this was the right direction.

Wrong. We were actually heading in the worst direction. This is because to do the three peaks in a row, you either walk clockwise starting with Cnicht, or you go anticlockwise starting with Moelwyn Bach. We, however, went straight and started the walk by heading up Moelwyn Mawr. This meant that we started the hike by climbing what should have been the middle peak.

What worse is that we were the majority of the way up before we crossed paths with another pair of hikers who made us realise our mistake. It then became clear that to do the three peaks, we’d either have to go right back to the hike start point, or double back on ourselves. Either way would add too much time onto the walk and there wouldn’t be enough daylight to now do the full three-peak trek we had ‘planned’.

It didn’t have to be a waste of a day though. Instead of the three peaks, we could finish climbing Moelwyn Mawr (the middle mountain) and then head over to what should have been the first mountain, Cnicht. With the new plan in mind, we summited Moelwyn Mawr.

The trig point atop Moelwyn Mawr.

The views from the top of Moelwyn Mawr are some of the best in Snowdonia, so we took a second to enjoy them. But they were so nice that they completely took our minds off the fact that we had no idea how to get over to Cnicht from where we were.

This was the second blunder due to lack of planning our hike. We thought we’d trust our gut and follow what looked like a clear ridgeline that wrapped around in a horseshoe-like way all the way to Cnicht. So, we started down the way we just came up to get to the second peak.

Once down to the level from where we could follow the ridgeline, the different perspective made us, again, realise that we had no clue where we were heading. We needed to get to another high point to once again orient ourselves. Luckily, not too far ahead of us was another.

About half way up this high point were two farmers sitting next to their quad bike. We asked if we were going in the right direction for Cnicht, which funnily enough, we weren’t. They explained how we would eventually get here, but our route was pretty dangerous and also a lot more technical.

Instead, they pointed us in the direction of an easier and more direct trail and explained the landmarks that we should pass. It was a good job that the farmers knew the mountains so well, because following their tips we were able to salvage the day and got to enjoy the two-peak hike.

Cnicht mountain.

We were lucky that the farmers were up so high this day and I guess this chance meeting makes the story a positive one. But even though the day ended well, our lack of planning for the hike almost sent it spiralling downwards.  

If those farmers hadn’t been there, we would have either likely gotten ourselves into a dangerous spot following the ridgeline, or simply would’ve been forced to go back the way we came to the car and abandon the hike. This would have been a waste of the day and cut short the number of hikes we would’ve done. And this would’ve really left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

I didn’t like the feeling of not having a clue which direction to go in too, and so I will definitely be planning my hikes well from now on.

Tips for planning a hike

Hopefully my story has given you at least some idea of how important planning a hike is before you set out. Now let’s look at tips for planning yours.

Check the route out

Look up the route online and find out its duration and difficulty. This will help you decide confidently if you’re fit enough to do it. Also check to see if there are multiple trails. The last thing you want during your hike is to come across a dissecting path and have no idea if you need to take it.

Calculate timings

Once you know the route duration, work out what time you need to set out. Keep the time of sunset in mind, and always add on an extra hour or two to your estimated hike duration in case you take a wrong turn.

Check the weather

The next thing to do is check the weather forecast. Obviously, this can change at the last minute, but plan your hike to avoid a bad day.

Prepare food and water

Make sure to pack enough food and water. A steep section of a hike can sap a lot of energy, and if you’ve still got a way to go, you’ll want enough hydration and calories to get you through. Avoid overly sugary snacks as your body will burn through these quickly. Go for carbs and naturally occurring sugars instead; bananas are my go to’s.

Charge your devices

Setting out on 100% battery will reduce the chances of your phone dying while you’re out in the wild. On the off chance you have signal, Google Maps can save your skin.

Have the right equipment

Along with making sure your electronics are fully charged, make sure that you have the right basic equipment. Get a decent pair of hiking shoes and clothing that’ll protect you from the elements. A decent lightweight rain jacket and a technical layer are my bare minimum recommendations. Also get yourself a head torch.

Let people know you’re heading out

Let someone know that you are going on a hike and where you’re going, especially if going alone. This way, there will at least be someone outside of your group that has an idea of where you are.  

Locate car parking

Find parking for your vehicle. If you’re in a national park especially, you’ll likely have to pay for parking. The last thing you want is to unknowingly leave your vehicle in a prohibited place and come back tired and hungry to find out you’ve been whacked with a fine.

Find more adventure travel content on my blog

And that is why planning a hike is important along with my hard-learnt lessons on how to plan one. Let me know in the comments if this has been helpful and any hiking blunders you’ve had.

If you want hiking recommendations for Snowdonia, then check out these next articles. Otherwise, head to the A World Over blog for all of my adventure travel recommendations and advice.

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