Jim Hohnberger, speaker, author, and founder of Empowered Living Ministries moved with his family to the Montana wilderness years ago. Today, he lives in Colorado and continues to relish all the beauty on display in Rocky Mountain National Park, where he and his wife Sally frequently partake in one of their favorite hobbies: hiking.
For those hikers that may be inexperienced and thinking of roaming the Rocky Mountains, Jim offers a few helpful tips that will both make your hike more enjoyable and possibly even save your life.
Acclimate with Smaller Hikes First
The higher altitude and dry weather among the Rocky Mountains, especially in Colorado make it especially difficult to breathe. Even those in the best of shape will feel winded walking short distances. The good news is, your body will get used to the altitude if you give it a chance.
Therefore, Jim Hohnberger recommends taking a short hike or two before tackling the hike you want. Once your body is used to the thin air, your endurance will enable you to enjoy more rigorous hikes and distances.
Pack Water — a Lot of It
The dry weather at high altitudes can quickly dehydrate hikers. Consider investing in a Camelback for each hiker, and bring a few water bottles on top of that. It is also a good idea to bring some salty snacks (like nuts). The snacks will not only give you some extra carbs, but they will also keep you sipping your water as you hike.
Wear the Appropriate Footwear
Colorado and Montana hiking paths have stretches of mud, loose dirt, and even snow depending on the season. That means that whatever shoes you wear should be able to give you good grip and keep your feet as dry as possible.
Ideally, you should invest in a good pair of hiking boots. Many experienced Rocky Mountain hikers wear FiveFinger-style shoes or hiking sandals. However, those are usually hikers that have been taking the trails for years and know the terrain. For someone wanting to start hiking, Jim Hohnberger recommends investing in a good pair of hiking boots and lots of wool socks to help keep your feet dry and blister free.
Don’t Be Surprised to See Snow Year Round
One of Jim Hohnberger’s favorite things about the Rockies is the snow on mountain tops. Hikers frequently encounter snow at all times of the year while they hike the trails around Colorado and Montana.
Know the Weather Forecast
With the treacherous terrain and high altitude, trying to hike during bad weather can be miserable and dangerous. As such, make sure to check the weather forecast the day of and be willing to change your plans if the weather is not pleasant. Jim Hohnberger notes that in Colorado it is common for there to be afternoon thunderstorms and it is important to plan accordingly.
Bring Layers and Socks
Temperatures drop quickly the higher in elevation you go. It is a good idea to bring layers (including waterproof jackets) so that you will be as comfortable as possible during your hike.
Also, having extra pairs of dry socks can help you prevent blisters. Sweat and other moisture on the hike can cause your skin to get soft and rub against the sides of your shoe. Changing your socks periodically will soak up the moisture and keep your feet as dry as possible.