Is Hiking The Cheapest, Healthiest Exercise There Is?

Rather than hang out at your usual brunch spot this weekend, why not change up your routine and head to the trails? Time outdoors is good for your health, and hiking is an ideal way to explore the natural world. Here are a few reasons we love this sport:

Hiking is cheap
While you may need to shell out cash for state or national park entry fees, gear, lunch after the hike and transportation, there are easy ways to keep costs down: Carpool to your destination, wear an old pair of tennis shoes rather than hiking boots, hike in an area without fees (or visit on Free Entrance Days) and pack a picnic. This way, you can spend less on a full day of recreation than you would on dinner and a movie.

Hiking is exercise
Depending on the trail you choose, your exercise may range from walking on flat ground to scrambling up a rock face. Either way, you'll probably spend more time exercising and enjoy the scenery more than you would at your gym. Hiking burns slightly more than 400 calories an hour in a 150-pound adult.  

Hiking fits into your schedule
Only have a few hours in the afternoon or free time on Wednesdays? No problem. The trails are there 24/7 and open most days of the year. Just make sure to ask local officials about any closures or rules. For instance, many areas are off limits after dark.

Hiking is an adventure
Trekking into unfamiliar territory leads to new discoveries. You might find a new swimming hole, waterfall or spot for photography.

Hiking is dog-friendly
With seemingly endless energy, dogs can make great hiking companions. Many state and national parks allow dogs as long as they are kept on a short leash, but make sure to check specific areas' restrictions on dogs before you go.