Information for New Hikers
An Introduction to the Carolina Mountain Club
Hiking is an easy and enjoyable way to get exercise. However, if you do not exercise regularly or have a health-related condition it is important that you consult with a doctor before starting on a new exercise program such as hiking.
CMC has at least three hikes each week: an all day hike on Wednesday and Sunday and a half-day hike on Sunday. Twice a month we offer a Saturday hike. Once a month we offer 2 all day hikes on Sunday, one difficult and one moderate. Occasionally there are other hikes scheduled. Go to our Hiking Schedules to find out what we are doing. The schedules have been saved back to 2000. Occasionally we schedule a two or three-day backpack, usually in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Often, hikers that attend a CMC hike will meet others who hike at their level and organize their own hikes together.
Each hike is rated for difficulty. C is easy. B is moderate. A is difficult. AA is very difficult. Each hike is rated in length and total altitude gain. The criteria for these ratings are at the top of each schedule. It's important for you to know what you are capable of before you select and attend a hike. This is easy if you have some experience going on our hikes. It may not be clear for people that are new to hiking, particularly hiking in North Carolina's mountains. For new hikers or people who are not sure of their capabilities we suggest beginning with a half-day hike and using that experience to assess how they feel on and after the hike. New hikers can gradually increase the difficulty in length and altitude change on subsequent hikes. Most people that have been doing other exercise programs, like long walks in the hills, running, biking and sports can start with the half-day hikes without much difficulty.
Our policy regarding hiking with animals is that pets are not allowed on CMC hikes. Service dogs are not considered pets and must, by law, be allowed to hike with their owners. We can ask what services the dog performs for its owner. We require that all service dogs be on a leash and in their owner's control at all times. We require that all service dogs be well behaved. If the above two conditions are not met, we can exclude the dog from the hike.
Non-members are welcome on CMC hikes; after doing a few hikes with CMC, we encourage joining the club. For the past few years a local outdoor store has given each of our members a $10 gift card when they join or renew their membership. Information about how to join may be found at www.carolinamountainclub.org/index.cfm/do/pages.view/id/2/page/Join.
Everyone who participates in a CMC hike is completely responsible for themselves - their health and their safety. In particular this means being healthy and fit enough, before the hike, to go on the particular hike without damaging themselves or slowing down others significantly. Each person is responsible for their own health and safety during the hike. Each person should carry all the medications that they might need during a hike. For example, someone that is allergic to bee stings must carry whatever medications might be necessary in case of multiple bee stings.
A few new hikers may have difficulty with even our easiest hikes. We ask new hikers to call the hike leader beforehand so that the leader can be confident that the hike will be comfortable for the hiker. We want to make sure that every new hiker has a good experience from the beginning. Sometimes a new hiker will bite off more than they can chew at that time, thereby getting discouraged from future hikes. That's unfortunate because every reasonably healthy person can get in shape, in time, to do even our difficult hikes and enjoy them. Please contactour CMC Hike Committee Chair, if you are unsure if you can do a half-day hike - typically 5 miles and 1000 feet of climbing.
The CMC does not have a formal instructional program for those new to hiking. The Reuter Center at the UNCA has, at times, offered a course in beginning hiking. Below are some suggestions for getting in shape to hike in the mountains:
- Go on long walks in your neighborhood. Use the odometer on your car, driving around your neighborhood to measure the distance of your walking routes. You should be able to walk 5 miles in 3 hours with a stop every half hour for water and rest. This will ensure that you can handle the distance component of a half-day hike. If your walks include some hills that's even better as most of our hikes include significant hill climbs. Even if you are used to hiking or walking on flat surfaces, remember that hikes in the mountains will entail climbing which can be more tiring.
- Find a friend who wants to hike with you and go on some of the easy hikes in our database. The hikes are rated for difficulty so that you can pick out easy ones. The best ones for training purposes are close to Asheville on the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST), along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the trails in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest area. One disadvantage of this approach is that it does require some easy trail navigating ability. That's why the MST hikes are good - they are easy to find and they don't have a lot of confusing connections. The MST is well marked by trail signs and blazes, and connects to the parkway frequently.
- Go to a fitness center and tell the trainers what you want to accomplish (5 miles and 1000 feet of climbing). They should put you on a treadmill and stair-stepper. They will gradually increase the workout until you get there - it won't take long.
During your personal training program it's important to pay attention to how you feel during and after a hike. It's not necessary to push yourself very hard to make progress. Hiking is supposed to be fun, including the part where you are gradually building up your strength and endurance. The hike itself should not make you very uncomfortable – rest often if needed. It's normal to feel tired after a hike. If you have difficulty sleeping that night or are very tired the next day then perhaps it was too difficult at that time. If so, then stay at that level or back off a bit until you feel comfortable with that difficulty level. Then gradually add some more difficulty.
You can do a Hike Search in our database to find hikes that may be of interest to you.
Go to this graduated list of hikes (TBD) to find very easy and easy hikes to start with. Start with the ones higher on the list and work down until you are fairly comfortable with the ones at the bottom.
Go to What to Bring for a list of items to bring on a hike.