If you think hiking has to mean loading up the car, driving out to the wilderness and shlepping a day’s worth of supplies around on your back, you’re missing the point! The only thing you really need for a hike is your own two feet and your explorers cap, even if you never leave your own neighborhood. Here are some fun and easy tips on how to take an epic hike in your own hood. orion walking

Get a Map
Pick up a good old fashioned paper kind (drugstores, gas stations or libraries usually carry them), or if you can’t track one down, print one from the internet. Place a big star where you live and start studying possible routes. Nope, looking at your phone while you walk doesn’t count!

Decide on a Distance
Do you want to conquer a mile or two or simply circle a few blocks? This is a great time to teach you little trekkers about map scale. Using a piece of string marked off with the map’s scaled distance is an easy way to figure out how far you can go.

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Plot Some Points of Interest
Choose three nearby destinations that will be fun to find, from a colorful mural to an extra-tall slide to decades old landmark tree. Mark those spots on your map using fun shapes or colors. Make a key so you remember which destinations are which!

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Create Trail Markers
Who knows, this hike may just go down in history. Or at least it will be so fun that you’ll want to retrace your steps at another time. Make your route official by placing trail markers along the way.  The best markers are made with items found in nature (so you aren’t branded a litter bug). We suggest brightly painted pinecones or recognizable stick sculptures hung from twine.

Pack Some Snacks
It’s a proven fact: Food just tastes better after a little exploration. Plus, half the fun of hiking is that you have everything you need on your back, so there’s no need to make pit stops back at home mid-hike. Here is a tasty trail mix recipe that will provide plenty of energy for the hike ahead. Don’t forget a water bottle!

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Invite a Friend
Sure, solo hiking has it’s perks (see Wild) but it can also get lonely (See Wild), so invite a friend to tackle your rout with you. Kids can get get their first experience with arguing over directions.

Ready, Set, Hike! 
Lace or velcro up your comfy shoes and set out. Bring along a camera or a trail journal to document your finds, and remember the rules of the trail: Always give a friendly hello to fellow hikers that you pass and leave only footsteps, take only memories. Happy hiking!

Do you have any tips for close-to-home hikers? Tell us in the comments below! 

–Erin Feher

All images by the author unless otherwise noted.