Online Exclusive: Readers' Choice 2012: Stuart Peck's Hiking Tips

Hiking tips from this region's top mapper, who has notched 20 bag nights and 200 trail miles in 9 states this year while scouting trails for BACKPACKER.


Stuart Peck

Owensboro, KY

“This region has mild terrain and many creek crossings. Opt for a light, quick-drying boot.”

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Our Midwest map contributor, who has tallied 20 bag nights and 200 trail miles in 9 states this year, shares his insights on hiking in this region.

>> Choose a hike in a national forest rather than a national park.

The national parks tend to draw crowds because of their world-class scenery, but national forests have more space, are more easily accessible, and often times the trails see far less traffic than those in the busier national parks.

>> Plan your trip for early or late spring or fall.

Hit the trail before or after everything is in full bloom and after peak fall colors. You'll still get the great weather but without the hoards of day hikers and leaf peepers.

>> A gear tip for the Midwest: Choose hiking shoes over hiking boots.

The terrain tends to be less rocky and more level than out West or in the Appalachian Mountains. The climate is also wetter, and stream crossings are more common along trails. Opt for a quicker drying and lighter hiking shoe over a heavier boot.