How Do I Always Find The Best Hikes Near Me?

Taking a hike is the best way to experience a new country, state or territory. The best way to immerse yourself in each place’s individual natural beauty. But how do you find those epic hikes that only the locals know of? How do you find the best ‘hikes near me’ wherever you are?

I’m talking about those hikes without handrails. The type of hikes where each step needs to be carefully planned. Where the raw nature of the trail consumes every thought and the beauty overwhelms.

Those are the trails we seek and the trails I am going to help you find.

Beautiful Mt Murchison milky way sky while on one of the best hikes near me

Through our travels, we have discovered amazing hikes we hadn’t heard of before arriving at the destination. Partly because we aren’t so great at pre-planning our trips, and partly because these trails aren’t ones that come up on the first page of Google. But they’re out there, you just need to search a little harder!

I’m not going to answer your question exactly… I don’t know where you are. I will do one better. I’m going to let you in on my secrets to discovering the best hiking trails near me – without just asking Google.

Now I know some of you are content with the easier trails, trails that provide wondrous views without the added stress. And these tips will work perfectly for you as well.

So let’s take a look at how I find those truly tremendous hikes near me.

Ask The Locals

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and the saying couldn’t be truer – Local knowledge is the best knowledge! 

There is a little more to it than just asking any person you pass on the street however, you need to ask the right person to get the answer you’re looking for. 

But how do you find the right person? 

Search for like minded people of course…

We start by visiting the local outdoor store (if there is one) and chatting to the salesperson. I’d bet my bottom dollar these folk are avid adventures and local experts on the hiking trails in the area.

These guys will get this question a lot and can most likely gauge how much adventure you’re searching for after just a few seconds.

And I can guarantee they will be happy to point you in the right direction.

If the town’s too small for an outdoor store, our second attempt will be a cafe. Try and catch the cafe at a busy time, the chances of an enthusiastic local sitting nearby when you ask the server are high.

And have you ever struck up a conversation with an enthusiastic local in a small town? Expect to learn everything you ever wanted – and probably didn’t need to – know about your current destination.

As I said, local knowledge is the best knowledge.

Camping next to the river in Wilkinsons Valley while climbing one of the best hikes near me

Search For A Facebook Hiking Group In The Area

We live in a digital world, as much as some people like to avoid it. But the fact of the matter is, the information is out there so we may as well utilise it!

You can find a Facebook group for pretty much anything these days, and hiking groups are no exception.

Join a Facebook hiking group in the area you’re searching and ask the question…

It’s that simple.

Our extensive experience with hiking groups has been nothing but friendly and super helpful. Most fellow hikers are more than happy to help another adventurer experience the marvellous parts of the world they call home. As long as you respect nature and follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles of course.

This is what we believe was the intended purpose of Facebook and other social media platforms. To connect like-minded people in a common place where they can share experiences and knowledge. 

And when they’re used for this intended purpose, social media is one of the greatest inventions ever!

Misty mountains on the best hike in the Warrumbungle national Park

Use Google Earth Pro

A 3-dimensional topographical map. One that can span the entirety of the globe. All from the click of a mouse. I can’t think of a better way to find hiking trails near me.

Though we know Google Earth Pro has been around for ages, we have only just discovered this phenomenal mapping program and we are stoked!!

Google Earth Pro is a far more detailed version of Google maps, one that shows a detailed 3-dimensional picture of the wilderness terrain and mountain contours. You can also set a timeline and visualise where the position of the sun, moon and milky way will be in months to come, making it easy to plan camping spots and photography locations.

Sunset over Wilkinsons Valley in the Snowy mountains on what is Australia's best hike

Not only can you search for attractions through the app and website, you can also study the landscape to discover your own trails. If you’re skilled in off-track navigation and wilderness hiking, the possibilities are endless.

Along with Google’s extensive database filled with points of interest, the choice to create your own stockpile of destinations is possible. This program lets you set pins and store locations for future expeditions. Trust me, you can spend hours scouring the landscape for potential points of exploration!

Needless to say, Google Earth Pro is a game changer for planning hiking destinations and long expedition trips.

Simply put, it’s a hikers dream.

Download A Trail App

There are loads of apps popping up that can help you to discover epic hiking trails. 

But which are the best?

I have used both Gaia GPS and Alltrails – the top two contenders – to find the best hiking trails near me. They both have their positives and negatives, but I have to award Gaia GPS the first prize.

This is mainly due to the number of hiking trails I have found on Gaia that wasn’t on Alltrails. And the fact that a few times the information in Alltrails was incorrect.

You can use Gaia off-line if you pre-load the map first, and the arrow feature for GPS tracking has saved me more than once from going the wrong direction in dense fog! 

Ok, I’ll admit sometimes that fog is in my brain… but it can be confusing to remember your way after darting into the bush for a speedy pee break!

If you pay for Gaia GPS’s membership, you gain access to a huge amount of topographic maps throughout the world that can be downloaded to your phone. 

You can create your own hikes by tracking your progress, adding waypoints to remember points of interest or good camping possibilities. 

A tip if you have the free app is to upload the map you’ll be needing before going offline. Otherwise you won’t have access to it when you search with no reception.

Exploring the best hikes near me by walking through the woods

Buy A Topographic Map

Let’s go old school. This has to be my favourite physical tool for finding the best hikes near me. There is something about unfolding a map and searching for possible routes in a new place that gets me way more pumped than searching on a computer.

The ability to pour over a whole national park in one big picture makes planning so much easier in my opinion. Finding those sneaky trails you’ve not heard of or can’t remember the name of pop up right there in front of you.

Not to mention, having a map and compass handy on the trail is priceless.

I can never bring myself to rely solely on my phone for navigation, no matter how good Google Earth or Gaia GPS is. Technology has a way of stuffing up right when you need it… or the battery dies. 

And what happens if your battery dies…!

You can buy these invaluable tools online or from an Information Centre close to the area in question.

Reading a topographical map in the snow, looking for the best hikes near me

Visit The Local Information Centre

Ok, this one isn’t a secret… we’re all aware of Information Centres and chances are, we have all stepped foot in one on at least a few occasions.

But rather than wandering in and grabbing a couple of pamphlets and leaving, strike up a polite conversation with the person standing at the counter. 

First of all, they’re local and we all know how important that is in our search for the best hikes near me.

And secondly, it’s in their job description to boast about the epic adventures their town showcases.

This little conversation may teach you of the popular hikes and other attractions your destination of choice offers. But what’s better is you may discover a more spectacular hike, one you didn’t know existed.

Glowing sunrise in Thredbo while exploring one of the best hikes near me

Look Past The First Page Of Google

I’m going to let you in on a secret… you’re one of the millions searching for the best hikes near me on google, which means the most popular hikes you’ve most likely heard of a hundred times will be right there on the first page.

So how do you find something new from a Google Search?

There are generally hundreds of thousands of results related to your search – every single time – yet most people don’t move past the first page.

Why is that? Are we just lazy?

Even if it’s a simple click to show us the third or the fifth page, we won’t do it. We will try a different search query which takes a hell of a lot longer, and frankly more effort, than just clicking to the next page.

For some reason, we think that if a link hasn’t made it to the first three pages, it’s not worth looking at. But aren’t we trying to find something new? Something not so popular??

Once you scroll to the fifth or tenth page of Google, that’s when you’re going to find those little hobby blogs that write about their local experiences and their favourite hikes in the area.

I constantly find myself sifting through these articles when searching for hiking trails near me.

You’ve got to move past the tourism websites, search a little harder and get more creative if you want to succeed in finding the real hidden gems. 

Stunning view from a cave on Belougery Split Rock, looking down at the regeneration in the Warrumbungles

Explore Further

On top of all the above suggestions, this has to be my favourite way of finding new and exciting hikes near me. Hikes that are off the beaten track. Hikes that are worth exploring deeper.

It’s these unique experiences that open your eyes to the wider beauty of nature. The fear and thrill of the unknown add a sense of accomplishment to our expeditions, a sense that is unmatched by any other experience.

So get out and explore further.

It’s as simple as jumping in the car and driving out of town. Find a hill our mountain that looks enticing and see if you can get to it. If you can’t find a road, a brown tourist sign or an information board, search your location and find the name of the mountain you’re looking at. Do a little bit of prep work and make the effort to reach your destination.

This is how we have found so many of our favourite adventures, just by taking the random road with a brown tourist sign.

How do you think all of the first page listed hikes were originally found?

Tent set up in a snow cave while Camping in the snow while hiking in Thredbo

Visit The National Parks Website

Most countries have a national parks website with information on all the listed hikes in their national parks. Australia takes it one step further and has an individual website for each state or territory.

While this won’t help you to find the unlisted and secret hikes, it is an invaluable tool to gain important information on an area. These sites will inform of closures due to rehabilitation work or weather, of where toilet blocks and campsites can be found and where the closest contact is in an emergency. 

It’s always worth checking these sites before embarking on your adventures. Spontaneous or not, there’s always time to stay smart and prepared!

The epic view of the Mount Murchison Walk while experiencing the best hikes near me

When we visit new places, our first point of call is searching for the best hikes near me. And because we are almost always finding ourselves in unplanned destinations, the hints above have helped us on countless occasions to find incredible adventures.

We had no idea Mt Murchison even existed before talking to some locals. Or the Stirling Range national park until we explored Southern Western Australia’s mass expanse. Some of our greatest expeditions have been a spur of the moment decision based on the people or area surrounding us.

So take a leaf out of our book and start exploring deeper.

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Finding the best hikes near me wearing all of my hiking gear
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