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Cheap Vacations | HIKING
Ways to take a great vacation, less expensively

Yes, I know for many of you the thought of hiking implies much WORK, boredom, sweat and toil, and the thought of trying it ends there. But if you are medically able to pursue this sport, even if you aren't yet in any kind of shape, it is an exhilarating, relaxing and beautiful way to enjoy a vacation.

The first hike I took was in the Angeles National Forest hiking Mt. Baldy. Forgive me,  Los Angeles, but I never knew that anything as beautiful as Mt. Baldy existed in the L.A. area. It is a hike that starts after taking a ski lift up to 7000'. The hike proceeds upward to 9500' at the top where we found snow in June! (not exactly an easy hike to start out with)

I took my new girlfriend at the time on this inaugural hike; we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Being ones who live at sea level, climbing uphill at that altitude soon brought thoughts of doubt, loss of sanity, early demise, etc...

Being the logical one, I was betting that those before us who gutted it out to reach the top had done so for a reward, and was I right. The vistas were spectacular. We not only had so much fun on this adventure, but we have pursued it at every available opportunity to discover the scenic treasures unique to every area we visit.

Hiking not only provides you with an opportunity to relax as you walk, almost like meditation, but it takes you to areas of natural beauty not available by any other means. It is a great way to get exercise, to satisfy the child in you to explore and discover, and can be a great way to bond with your partner.

I present this as an idea for a cheap vacation because it generally doesn't require expensive resort-style lodging, though it certainly can if you so choose. While backpacking a sleeping bag, tent and food can't get any cheaper, those of us who appreciate the comfort of a bed will fork over a little more, even if our paltry budget doesn't take us to a 4-star hotel.  The gear needed is fairly minimal and will be covered in a separate article: Cheap Vacations | Hiking | GEAR.  Food costs are also very reasonable when away from expensive resorts and can be reduced even more if you camp.

Though limiting oneself to day hikes can miss some great destinations only accessible by backpacking, we have enjoyed spectacular scenery on hikes that have ranged from as little as an hour or less to as much as 11 hours round trip. It depends, of course, on your level of fitness and training as well as your accumulated experience, like any other sport.

A word of caution should be added here. Hiking is physical exercise that can range from very mild to very strenuous. If you are out of shape, no matter what your age, do not start this activity "cold". Get a physical from your physician, if it has been a while, to let him clear you. If he does, get into shape for your hiking slowly. Walk, do light jogging perhaps, and add biking as cross training, etc. You will not enjoy even a moderately strenuous hike if you are in poor physical condition. But if you have done at least some conditioning, you will have so much more fun.

I did a short one minute video for an HP video contest on YouTube called "You on You" in which contestants describe (without showing any faces!) what they are passionate about. At the end you will get a taste for some of the scenery I have enjoyed on past hikes. The video is titled "Evolving Passions". 


How to find hiking trails

If you already have a destination in mind, a great first place to look for hiking trails in that local area is this site: where you can find hikes by city or zip code. Also, while surveying a map of your planned destination, look for State or National Parks in the vicinity and go to their websites.

If you don't have a set destination, go to the National Park Service site ( and check out parks by State. As an example, on the National Park Service site select "California" --> Channel Islands National Park -->Outdoor Activities -->Hiking). The site will describe what hiking is available as well provide links to maps for you to download.

I have found that the hiking in our National Parks is great. As you have seen, their web sites are well organized and informative. Remember also that the park lands were selected for preservation by our forefathers as locations of exemplary beauty or for some other unusual aspect worth protecting.

Here are a examples of National Parks I have hiked:  Glacier NP, Montana , Yellowstone NP, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho , Grand Teton NP, Wyoming , Badlands NP, South Dakota , Yosemite NP, California (where Ansel Adams did most of his photography), and Haleakala NP, Maui, Hawaii .  After checking out these parks you will appreciate that our National Parks are great places to visit and hike.

Additional Resources for Finding Hiking Opportunities

If you have only narrowed your trip planning to the State you wish to visit and want to see what kind of State parks they have, do a search for "state parks in ...." and look at the official site for that State's parks.

For additional resources in to locate places to hike, go to:

In Cheap Vacations | HIKING (part 2) I will present possible lodging choices to consider on a hiking trip, start the process of preparing for the hike(s), then introduce some basic hiking skills like "How do you know where to go?"


PLEASE NOTE:  If you are reading this article outside of the site, you will be unable to view and use links included with the original article.  To take advantage of these live links go to:

Ted Grellner, the author of this article and creator of, enjoys travel for hiking, photography, and the discovery of new places, faces and food.  After many years of traveling, a trip that was successful and fun was often the result of much planning and research. is a website with many resources devoted to trip planning, travel information and travel preparation to make travel much less burdensome. Go to to make the planning of your next trip easier and more fun.

by Ted Grellner - September 19, 2009

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