Spring is nearly upon us—and so is hiking season! Day hikes are a great way to increase your physical activity, unwind, spend quality time with your family and get in shape for longer hikes (or break in new hiking boots!).

If going on day hikes aren’t already part of your lifestyle, this article is for you! We’ll also follow up with a second article on how to hit the trails—on two wheels. 

Plan your hike

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Look at the seasons and hours of operation, rules about bringing your four-legged friends, parking and trailhead locations, and descriptions of the trail to make sure it’s a good fit for your ability and schedule. Pay special attention to trail length, changes in elevation and level of difficulty.

If you’re not sure where to start to find great hikes, check out the local trails listed at yorktowntrailtown.org (and navigate to “Trails” at the top).

And when you’re ready to expand your hiking search, some resources include:

  • “50 Hikes in the Lower Hudson Valley” by Daniel Chazin
  • “Walkable Westchester” by Yorktown residents Jane and Walt Daniels
  • “Yorktown Hike Book” by the Yorktown Land Trust

These books and others can be purchased through The New York – New Jersey Trail Conference (nynjtc.org/catalog/books), and its site also has an extensive list of hikes throughout the region (nynjtc.org/view/hike).

Check the weather before you leave

Even if you’re just out for an hour or two, check the weather forecast to help you wear the right gear—be it a jacket for warmth, rain or sun protection; a hat to keep you warm, shade your face or keep the bugs away; or sneakers or rain boots! And in the summer, when storms can whip up with little notice or the weather can turn quickly, it’s never a bad idea to bring along a lightweight packable rain jacket and an extra layer for warmth.

Comfortable sneakers or boots are a must!

For a day hike, most times you can get away with wearing sturdy trainers or hiking sneakers rather than heavier, technical hiking boots.

Bring water and a snack

Nothing’s worse than a rumbling stomach on the trail. No matter the length of the hike, I bring along my favorite stainless steel water bottle and a snack—whether it’s an apple, bag of trail mix or a protein bar. For longer hikes, pack a lunch to enjoy at the summit or other way station. I use a metal bento box that’s perfect for packing bread or crackers that I don’t want to get smashed in my bag. The bento box is also great for wrangling any wrappers or plastic bags that need to be packed out.

And if your pooch is coming with you, be sure to pack extra water and treats for them, too.

The best insurance is to be prepared

I keep a small bag in my pack with Band-Aids and moleskin for blisters or other minor injuries, hand sanitizer, a bandana, bug repellent, sunscreen, dog waste bags and an emergency snack.

When I hike, I also bring my binoculars to spot far off birds and my smartphone—chock full of birding and other naturalist apps, maps and camera. And it’s also handy for emergencies!

See you on the trail! And stay turned for our second article about cycling Yorktown’s trails.

The Yorktown Trail Town Committee (yorktowntrailtown.org) is a newly minted nonprofit right here in Yorktown. Its leadership and membership are local business owners, outdoor advocates and residents that support a sustainable community economy by connecting trail and park users to local restaurants, stores and other businesses while celebrating Yorktown’s trails, parks, and open spaces. For volunteer opportunities, please search for us on VolunteerMatch.org, and look for the Paypal donation button (all donations are tax-deductible) on our website at yorktowntrailtown.org.