PHOTO/MAGGIE NICHOLS: Madeline hikes Hunter Creek during the non-snowy season.

There may still be plenty of snow in the mountains—but it’s time to start planning for the summer.

What are your summer goals? You could be looking to tackle one of the many trails around Reno and Tahoe for the first (or second, or third) time. Maybe you want to finally summit one of our many iconic peaks (when the snow is melted!), or reach a dreamed-of backcountry destination, or simply hit a mileage goal. Don’t wait for all the trails to melt before you start training for your next adventure!

Trail guides I’ve spoken to all agree that you can (and should!) start training for trails by walking around your neighborhood and local parks. It’s a good idea to lace up (or slip on) the shoes you plan to wear on the trails and put some mileage on them while you explore near your home. This not only helps you to increase your daily distance limit, but it ensures that your shoes are broken in before you head into the wild. You don’t want to develop painful blisters or pressure points.

The general guideline for how much weight you should carry is around 10% of your body weight in a daypack, and 20% of your body weight in a backpack.

For those planning to carry a daypack or tackle a backpacking trip, many guides swear by practicing with sacks of flour. Because they are reasonably soft against your back, can be commonly bought in one- and five-pound sacks, and stack easily, they are a great way to put practice weight in your pack. While you should check with your doctor before carrying heavy gear around, once you’re ready to train, flour can be a great tool.

The general guideline for how much weight you should carry is around 10% of your body weight in a daypack, and 20% of your body weight in a backpack—so if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 15 pounds in a daypack, or 30 pounds in a backpack. If you’ve already got all your gear (and food and water!) and can pack it away to see how much it tips the scale, that’s another great way to know what your training goal is, and work toward it.

And then … walk! Walk your neighborhood before work or after dinner. Take your flour-sack backpack and trail shoes to work and walk on your lunch break. Check out local parks, and walk off the sidewalk for a little extra challenge. As the snow melts and you’re ready for more, check out some of the local low-elevation trails nearby, in places like Hidden Valley, Huffaker Park and Hunter Creek.

There are also many local resources to help you learn more skills and practice outside before you attempt a large journey. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association hosts public-forum discussions with guides about what it’s like to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail. Join one of these events to get some information from the pros. The Tahoe Institute for Natural Science offers opportunities to get out and explore local wildlife; why not carry your daypack while you snowshoe with chickadees or hike beneath eagles? REI offers various classes and workshops to help you get out more safely and knowledgeably.

If you’re feeling extra-inspired, you could learn a new skill to help with your trail goals, like winter camping with International Alpine Guides or wilderness first aid through the National Outdoor Leadership School. For some variety, you could also sign up for one of Reno’s many spring races; most of them will let you walk your 5k or 10k (or sometimes more!) if you want. With or without a backpack full of flour, these events can be a fun and social way to get out and enjoy the spring weather as you gear up for summer.

Davis Creek, Thomas Creek and Galena Creek all offer out-and-back trails where you can practice hiking uphill (until your way is blocked by the snow). As the days continue to get longer, and the snow keeps melting just a little more, your adventures can take you even higher into the Sierra Nevada. With some practice and training under your belt—and maybe a few new skills—you’ll be ready to adventure with confidence!

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Maggie Nichols

Maggie Nichols is an avid outdoor adventurer and a dedicated nature enthusiast. She started leading canoeing and hiking expeditions in her teens and never stopped. While following her love of the environment...

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