How to do your Research & Find the Best Hiking Trails

Finding new trails to hike and doing the research for the best views can be a fun but tricky part of the adventure! We’re constantly asked about our trail reports and top things to do in an area which is what inspired me to create our travel blog in the first place. For this blog, I’d like to answer one of our most asked questions: how do you find these epic hikes?!

There are plenty of resources available for you to do your own research and hunt for hikes in your area, and I’m sharing the top 12 ways that we’ve scouted locations and found some of the best trails we’ve ever hiked. This is a great starting point for researching and planning your upcoming adventures, and I hope this inspires you to do your own research to find the best hiking trails!

Google Search

The number one place you should start is with a Google search. This is the easiest way to find hikes in the area near you and you’ll start with plenty of resources to start your research. Google SEO hand-picks the most helpful resources to share with you on the first page of your search results, and you’ll find anything from photos, blogs, dedicated websites, and maps.

Google Maps

This brings us to our next search result which is Google Maps and Google Earth. By searching on Google Maps you’ll be able to zoom into locations, trailheads and even use street view to see locations in real-time. Google Maps often includes trails and trailheads on their map and you can scope out mountains, lakes and viewpoints that are of interest to you!

Travel Blogs

The reason we started a travel blog was to answer all of the questions we were getting in our DMs, and to share a long-form resource on our website rather than short-form information on social media. This means I can write as much information as I think is needed, include multiple links, photos, and share our full experience through a blog. Blog posts are a FANTASTIC resource and you’ll find the top-ranking blogs listed on Google.

Reading blogs from locals & actual people

I want to recommend reading blogs from local adventurers and actual people. This doesn’t mean that tourism websites are not written by actual people, but it’s best to search for blogs written by people who have done the trail and take their own photos. This will give you the best insight, and you’d be surprised at the secret tips people are sharing on their blogs!

All Trails

All Trails is an incredible resource not only for trail reviews but to also find and save local hikes in the area you’re researching. You can find specific parks that you want to explore and find hikes that are rated by difficulty with up-to-date statistics on trail length and elevation. You can save your favourite hikes to a list on the app and return to them later!

Reading AllTrails reviews

One of the best parts of AllTrails is that its members often post trail reviews after their hike and log the distance and time it took them to hike it. This gives you up-to-date insights on how other people felt the hike was in terms of difficulty, how the trail itself is holding up, and whether or not it’s available for hiking.

iOverlander

This recommendation is similar to All Trails, but does not include trail reviews or reports. Instead, iOverlander has helped us find some fantastic views and lookout points. We used this app when we were travelling in our camper van and it helped us find places to park, Sani-dumps, showers, and more.

Instagram Hashtags & Locations

A seriously great way to find places to hike is to search on Instagram by going through location tags and hashtags. When you search location tags, you can also see any stories that people have tagged from that location for 24 hours. You’ll find plenty of photos and inspiration for locations to hike whether you search for the trail itself or search for a nearby park you’d like to explore.

National Parks & Parks Canada websites

Tourism boards often create their own websites with plenty of important information and trail guides. This is a great way to get an idea of what things you can do in the area and some of the most popular trails. I often prefer reading blogs from locals, but this is a great way to get a full scope of the area.

Pinterest

Pinterest is such an inspiring platform! By searching for hikes or parks on Pinterest, you’ll be presented with multiple blog guides, trail reports and photos from all sorts of locations. This is a great way to do research on a social media platform and pinning your favourite pins/guides will save them for later.

Guidebooks & Trail Maps

You can purchase guidebooks and trail maps to almost every hiking location, and while we haven’t invested in a physical hiking guide yet I know that this can be a great way to have a resource in front of you to bring on your adventures, often with maps and routes.

Rangers Stations

One of the coolest ways we found hikes (on Vancouver Island) was on our road trip in a camper van where we’d stop at a local ranger station and ask the rangers for advice! If we didn’t know the area and wanted to find something to do in the park we were in we’d stop by and get recommended plenty of ideas for hikes. Plus, the rangers love talking to people!

Word of Mouth – talk to people!

This suggestion is closely based off of the last one, but if you’re camping or staying in a new area with other tourists or locals (think around your campgrounds, your hotel/hostel, ect) then it could be a great conversation starter to ask for recommendations for hikes and trails.

Visitor Centres

This is another suggestion loosely based on Ranger stations, but visitor centres can be another great way to get to know an area. We walked into a visitor centre on Vancouver Island when we realized we had no cell service and didn’t know where to go! We were given a free map of the area and recommended some cool places to check out, and they even helped us figure out tide times. They also gave us free wifi!

Local Facebook Groups

I’ve just started to join local Facebook groups in Vancouver and I think there can be some great communities built around sharing the best hikes. To find these, I’ve searched “hiking in BC” and requested to join multiple ones that looked like a good fit for us. I love seeing local reviews and photos posted to Facebook, as it’s a bit more private than some of these other options.

Exploring on your own

Jake has taken us to some awesome locations by finding them on our own! This isn’t exactly a quick way of travelling or researching, but if you have the time to explore and drive down some roads you’ve never seen before, do it. You’d be surprised at what you can find by following signs and promising roads!

Hire a Guide

This is the expensive option on the list, but hiring a guide with local experience can be the best way to find spots. Our tour guide in Aruba was a legend for bringing us to one of his secret spots after we had asked him if he knew anywhere that would be good to take photos and fly our drone. I love when people bring me to their favourite spots and tour guides know best!

Final Thoughts

After sharing some of our favourite techniques to research and find the best hikes, I hope I’ve inspired you to do your own research instead of relying on others to tell you! While it can be nice to ask someone where their photos were taken, it can be discouraging when others don’t want to do their own research and expect a hand-out. With this research blog in mind, you’ll be finding the best hikes and views in no time!

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