Hiking: What You Need

Hiking is a bit like running, all you really need is shoes and get walking! You don’t need to spend a fortune to get started hiking, but you certainly can. If you read Outside magazine, you can spend all kinds of money on gear to outfit your hobby, but you don’t need to spend a lot to get going.

Hiking in North Texas is not like hiking in the Rocky Mountains or across the Appalachian Trail. Our trails don’t include deathly defying drops or require multiple days in the back-country. However, it’s very easy to set out on a hike even on North Texas trails, and find yourself in trouble. I remember the time a friend went hiking up to the top of Enchanted Rock in Fredericksburg, in flip flops! Or when i stupidly went hiking in July at Fort Worth Nature Center without a map (early days before smart phones), and had no water.

Just because we may not live in the mountains, before you set out on a hike, you want to be prepared. While the precautions you may take to do a loop around White Rock Lake may vary from an extended hike through the LBJ Grasslands, there are a few basic things you should take into consideration.

You don’t need to spend a fortune, just make sure you have the basics before you set out!

The Right Shoes

It’s critical to wear the right footwear when going out on a trail, especially a long trail for multiple miles. Wearing the wrong kind of shoes (like my friend and her flip-flops) can result in blisters and bleeding feet. You don’t have to buy top of the line shoes from a designer shoe line, but you ought to consider buying the right kind of shoe for the activity you are engaging in. If you are just walking around the lake, you’ll probably need a different kind of shoe than if you were running on hard pavement, vs running on a rocky trail, or going on an extended high mileage hike. The right shoes make the difference in ending your hike with a sense of accomplishment vs being in pain. Finding the right fit is also critical, and you can always go to a retailer like a running store or REI to find the right shoe for the activities you love.

Water is Critical

This is critical in North Texas, you need to make sure you have plenty of water with you for the hike you are planning. While you may not need water for a short 3 mile hike around a local lake, that story could be dramatically different if you are going during the hot summer months and are running. I always have either my hydrapak (a backpack that also has a reservoir you can drink from with an included line), or a smaller hand held squeeze bottle. The amount you need to bring with you really depends on how long you are going to be out, the heat, and the exertion. Especially in the summer months, water isn’t an option, it’s a requirement. Keep in mind too, if you are bringing you furry friends with you, please bring water for them as well. I’ve encountered so many people at Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve who have their dogs with them who are over-heated, and they didn’t even bring water for them. So it’s not just you who needs water, your dogs do too!

A Map of the Trails

hands holding map
Not all the trails in North Texas are that difficult, some of the ones described here like Bachman Lake or White Rock Lake are simple loops, with very little opportunity to get lost or confused. However, if you are at LBJ Grasslands or the Fort Worth Nature Center, or if you’ve gone out to Dinosaur Valley State Park, you are going to want a map to plan your route, including your return to your vehicle. So in these circumstances, go prepared and have a map with you. If you are visiting a state park, you will be given a map when you enter, so I always keep those with me and refer to it as I’m exploring the park. If you are going somewhere remote, like LBJ Grasslands, I’d recommend printing a map out before you leave OR saving an image of a map to your cell phone. You may find yourself losing cell service if you are outside the metroplex, or you could run out of battery, or drop or lose your phone. Obviously the level of preparation will differ depending on where you are. Just make sure you know where you are, how to get back to your car, and keep an eye on the clock (hiking in the dark can be fun if you are prepared, not if you are lost!).

Cell Phone / GPS

In our modern age, it’s rare to ever be out somewhere WITHOUT your cell phone. They are a permanent appendage for many, a source of entertainment, for streaming music, and keeping up with your friends. Cell phones are also a critical safety tool when out on the trail. This is your way to call for help if you get hurt, or raise an alarm if you are feeling unsafe. When I’m hiking in a strange area and don’t know the area, i like to use apps that track my progress and display the path I’ve taken. I especially use this out at LBJ Grasslands, where we’ve lost the trail before, or just found that we were ready to leave and decided to go cross country on a more direct route to our car (this hasn’t always worked out so well, going through difficult terrain). The app i use the most for this is MapMyFitness, which does a very good job of tracking my location via the GPS in my phone, even if I’ve lost cell service. Once i was at Dogwood Canyon and followed a ‘side trail’ which wasn’t actually a trail. I kept going further and further up this hill to see if I could see the lake (I couldn’t), but then i realized i had no idea where the trail was. I had cell service, i wasn’t far from civilization, but was all turned around. Using Google Maps, i was able to see where i was, and where i needed to go. Another trick that is useful, some trails are displayed on Google Maps. I got a flat tire on River Legacy and didn’t have what i needed to fix it, so I had to walk the bike out. Using Google Maps, i could see where i was, and the best way to get back out to the parking lot.

The Right Clothing

friends hiking off road in autumn
What you wear is also important. And again, it really is going to depend on what time of the year you are going, what time of the day, and your comfort. A few guidelines. You are more likely in North Texas to be dealing with heat, so make sure to wear something breathable that keeps you cool. Cotton is a great fiber for day to day clothing, but if you are exercising outside in the heat, cotton is going to absorb your sweat and get hot and heavy on you. Go with synethic fabrics that wick the sweat away from you, keeping you cool and dryer. If you are going to be somewhere with higher grass or the risk of bugs or snakes, consider wearing light pants vs shorts to protect your legs from burrs, poison ivy or bites. For the winter, i find that layering is key. It may start out cold, but as you warm up from activity (or if the day warms up), you may find you want to remove some layers. I’ve also been out when in direct sun it felt nice and warm, but once back under the trees it got chilly again. So go prepared with a few layers to pick from, depending on how cold it is. In North Texas we often get those days that start cold in the 40s but end up warm and gorgeous.


Do what your mom likely told you, and put on your sunscreen! This is advice I’m awful at following, but protecting yourself from sun damage is something you’re future self will thank you for! Pick an SPF that is at least 30 or higher, and apply multiple times as needed as sweat will impact the level of protection you are getting.

A Camera

black sony dslr camera on green grass in front of brown and green mountain
Whether you are using your cell phone or a dedicated ‘fancy’ camera like a DSLR, one of the joys of being out in nature is to take photos of your experience. Whether it’s a selfie with you and your friends, a picture of wildflowers growing in a field, or pictures of wildlife like butterflies or birds, taking pictures is a great way to remember the experience and flex that creative spirit. I use my cell phone camera for this blog, it is amazing how powerful these tiny computers in our pockets have become, but you can spend a lot more on sophisticated camera systems for even better images. For many, photography is a hobby, and the views from many of our local trails are a great place to practice those skills

Snacks or Lunch

multiracial men eating snack during hiking
I always bring a snack with me if I’m going on a hike, especially if I’m on a longer hike, or it’s a long drive back home. Some trips it may just be a Kind bar or some almonds, or i may pack a full lunch if I’m making a day of it. My Hydrapak has room for a sandwich, snacks, chips, or whatever it is that I may need beyond just water. Many of the trails have picnic tables or other facilities, or you may take a break at a scenic spot on the trail (especially at Dinosaur Valley State Park or Mineral Wells State Park, where you’ll find some beautiful views due to the elevation). Just don’t forget to bring food, you may not find many options depending on where you are.

There are other things you may need, that I’m not going to list. I’ve seen people using trekking poles to navigate some of the more difficult spots at Cedar Ridge Preserve for example, but wouldn’t consider them essential due to our flat terrain in the area. Tents and multi-day hiking gear might be useful at LBJ Grasslands or at some of the State Parks if you want to stay overnight, but for many of our trails here in North Texas they won’t be essential. I think the basics above will keep you safe and in good shape!

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