National Park Image Gallery
National Park Image Gallery

Hiking is an excellent way to stay fit and see the world. Take a look at pictures of national parks.

©2007 Photodisc

If walking quickly is too uncomfortable for you as a fitness program, consider learning how to hike. Hiking allows you to opt for longer walks at a more moderate pace. In terms of energy costs, a day-long hike up hills and down winding paths is similar to running a marathon. But when it comes to taking in the sights, smells, and sounds as you go, hiking is tough to beat.

National Park Image Gallery

Where you choose to hike will depend, in part, on your interests. If you enjoy watching birds, for example, you may want to pack your binoculars and head for a swampy area like the Everglades National Park, which is known for its ornithological richness.

If you're interested in plant life, you may want to plan a spring or summer hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you'll find a brilliant display of rhododendrons and azaleas. If you just want to get out into nature, you may want to join the 20 million hikers and backpackers who put the national and state parks to good use each year.

Chances are you'll find a national, state, or local park in your area that offers scenic trails for hiking. Trail maps are often available to guide you; some show estimates of mileage and may indicate the degree of difficulty of the trails.

Even if you live in an urban area, you'll probably be able to find forest or wildlife preserves nearby that you can roam for a few hours. It's a healthy and inexpensive way to escape the noise and traffic of the city. It's also a good way to prepare your body for lengthier hikes across rougher terrain.

Your state board of tourism may be able to provide you with information about state and local parks. Local chapters of hiking groups and environmental organizations may also be able to assist you. To find out more about national parks in your area, contact the National Park Service.

This article has essential information for learning how to hike, including how to prepare for a hike, what to wear, what to pack, and how to stay safe. First, let's look at how you should prepare for a hike. Continue to the next section for the details.

To learn more about walking, see: