How to prepare for your first day hike
Issued: 14 Jul 2020

When we are planning a trip or our next outdoor adventure, we are happy. (This is a proven fact!)

Photo credit: Ben Edmonds © Queensland Government


When we are planning a trip or our next outdoor adventure, we are happy. (This is a proven fact!)

Part of the joy of adventure is the excitement and anticipation we feel as we dream about discovering a new place or taking on a new challenge.

So, when planning for your first-ever day hike (or any walk over 3 hours) in Queensland National Parks, you can use this newfound energy to help you prepare. Because—also a proven fact—the better prepared you are, the more likely you are to enjoy your walk!

We’ve outlined some simple steps you can take to help you prepare for your day hike and stay safe.

A couple of months before

A female hiker in a pink shirt and wearing a purple backpack is walking on a rainforest track. Rainforest Hike | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

Spend some time researching and getting physically prepared in the months leading up to your hike.

Read up on the hike you intend to do—route, location, climate, how to get there, access points, average hours and kilometres, and recommended gear and clothing.

Choose a hike with a suitable track grade for your fitness and trail experience. Start with a track that has a shorter distance and easier terrain, then move onto something more difficult next time around. An ‘out and back’ (return) route gives you the option to turn around earlier if you are feeling tired or running out of daylight.

Terrain and conditions can affect the time your walk will take. Use the suggested times/distances on the park/trail web page as a guide. Your group is only as fast as your slowest trail buddy so take this into account when planning your day. Also factor in your travel time from home and available daylight hours, depending on the season.

Now start to think about your fitness. Consider your current health and obtain medical clearance from your practitioner if you intend to start a new exercise regime or have any pre-existing conditions you need to manage when hiking.

A female hiker in bright blue wet weather gear is walking across large rocks. Training in hiking gear | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

To build up your hiking fitness, begin by walking 3–4 times a week, increasing the distance and intensity. Add in some stairs or steep ascents and repeat some intervals on these by ascending several times. Walk on natural terrain wherever possible.

Train in your gear—wear the trail shoes or boots you intend to hike in, the socks and clothing you intend to wear, as well as your day pack. The more familiar you are with your gear, the better. And you will soon know if anything is likely to give you trouble on the trail!

Remember to stretch! After you walk, and every hour if you’re based at a desk, slowly stretch any muscles that feel tight or stiff to encourage more mobility.

One month before your planned hike, do a 3 hour ‘practice’ walk with your trail buddies. This will help you gauge the fitness and pace of the group, which in turn may influence the route you choose to walk. And, much of the fun in prepping for a hike is in the shared journey and preparation beforehand!

One week before

A selection of hiking equipment, including wet weather clothes, first-aid-kit, water bottle and headlight, is laid out neatly on a rock. Hiking gear | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

This is the time to check, check and check again!

  • Check park alerts for any track closures, access issues or changed conditions.
  • Check the weather forecast and adjust your plans if required.
  • Check in with your trail buddies and let each other know about any pre-existing medical conditions you should be aware of in case of an emergency.
  • Organise your transport and where to leave your vehicle/s when hiking.
  • Buy and prepare your snacks for the trail.
  • Lay out your gear.
  • Review your first aid kit and any personal meds you need to take with you.
  • Download the maps and trail notes for your chosen route.

The day before

A female hiker wearing a blue T-shirt is typing on her smartphone. Checking conditions| Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

Almost there! Last minute checking is the order of the day.

  • Check the weather forecast, local conditions and park alerts again; adjust your plans if required.
  • Confirm meeting time and place with your trail buddies.
  • Pack your gear and water and organise your food.
  • Charge your mobile phone and check head torch batteries.
  • Eat a nutritious dinner and get a good night’s sleep!

Day zero

A folded park map with walking tacks is being opened by a hiker. Checking maps | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

On the trail at last! Arrive with a positive attitude and a willingness to walk as a team. The excitement will be contagious! Support each other and adjust your plans if someone is unwell.

  • Sign in on the walkers’ register if one is in place.
  • Allocate someone to be the ‘tail end’ and don’t let anyone fall behind them. Rotate the order of the group often to give everyone a turn at the front and back. This adds variety and helps to keep the ‘slower’ walkers motivated to keep going, rather than leaving them to play ‘catch up’ at the back all day.
  • Take regular breaks to enjoy the scenery and nourish yourselves along the way. Drink when thirsty and eat small amounts often (every 45–60min).
  • Put your phone away, or turn it on airplane mode if you want to use it for photography. This allows you to disconnect from distractions such as messages and emails, and helps save your battery if your phone is constantly searching for signal.
  • Don’t rely on mobile phone coverage—in many national parks there are no mobile phone signals, so don’t plan to split your group and expect to be able to call each other.
  • Stay together and always carry printed maps and track notes with you. You can’t rely on online apps to work in the wilderness!
  • And lastly, be present, be curious, and of course, ‘take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints’.

Day hike, tick!

A male and female hiker in bright wet weather gear are climbing up rocky steps.Hiking in wet weather gear | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

Relax and enjoy that euphoric feeling of succeeding in your challenge, as a team, together in nature. Nothing beats it! And then… start planning your next outdoor adventure!

Find out more about walking in Queensland's National Parks.