Now is the best time to start planning for big summer hiking and backpacking objectives like the Presidential Traverse and the Great Range Traverse. With months of lead time, you’ll have ample opportunity to study your route, train on similar terrain, dial your kit, find some similarly psyched partners, and prepare for your mission. Here are some tips for turning your hiking goal into a hiking reality.

Credit: Tim Peck

Start Training Now

Putting the training time in during the weeks and months before your big objective is a surefire way to better performance. In the period leading up to your big goal, try to do progressively longer hikes each week, all building toward the total mileage and elevation of your ultimate objective. Week to week, aim for a sustainable increase in mileage and elevation, likely in the 5 to 10% range.

In addition to your weekly long hike, mix in several shorter training sessions. Ideally, these weekly sessions will include some time in the gym and some shorter hikes or trail runs. Be sure to also have a rest day every week. Putting this all together, a sample week might look like this:

  • An hour hike or trail run on Tuesday and Thursday
  • Gym workouts on Monday and Wednesday
  • A longer hike on Saturday
  • Rest on Sunday

Also consider building periodic recovery weeks into your training plan, in addition to your regularly scheduled rest days. One common way to do that is to treat every fourth week as a recovery week by cutting back the amount of training to let your body accumulate the three prior weeks of training, then progressing from there. Pushing too continuously is a good way to get injured.

For more info on training plans, the Training for the Uphill Athlete: A Manual for Mountain Runners and Ski Mountaineers by Scott Johnston, Steve House, and Killian Jornet is an excellent resource.

Credit: Tim Peck

Train on Similar Terrain

A great way to prepare for your adventure is to train on similar terrain. For example, if you’re stoked to do the rough and rocky Presidential Traverse in a day, training on similarly challenging trails like the Lincoln-Lafayette-Haystack loop on Franconia Ridge (8.5 miles, 4,000 feet of elevation gain) is an incredibly useful part of your training progression. Similarly, if you’re looking to cruise something like the 90+ mile Midstate Trail through central Massachusetts, mixing in some road running (or walking) into your training regime is a great way to prepare for the more-than-you’d-expect miles on backroad blacktop. And if you’re psyched on a route that entails a lot of scrambling, like the Trap Dike in the ADK, mix some easy slab climbing into your pre-trip routine.

Of course, not everybody can get to the bigger mountains regularly to train. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find similar terrain closer to home. For those in the Greater Boston area, the Skyline Trail in the Blue Hills is nearly in your backyard. At 7.5+ miles and almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain, the Skyline Trail is a fantastic training option that is as rough in sections as some of the Northeast’s bigger peaks. Find something near you with similar terrain, then frequent it during your training process.

Credit: Tim Peck

Dial Your Kit

An added benefit of pre-trip training is that you’ll have lots of opportunities to experiment with what gear works for you. Use these sessions to perfect your layering system, find foods that fuel your body best without causing stomach distress, and determine how much fluid you’ll need.

As the training sessions get longer, try to identify flaws in your gear. Is the footwear you’ve used for shorter hikes something you’ll actually be comfortable in for 8, 10, or 12 hours? Does your pack start to chafe after 10-ish miles? Is there a bunch of gear that you’re always carrying in your pack but never using?

Credit: Tim Peck

Study Your Route

Researching route beta in the weeks leading up to your trip will put you in a much better position to succeed. On trips like the Carter Traverse, already knowing which way to go at the many trail junctions is a good way to avoid delays or directional mishaps. Similarly, for trips like the Pemi Loop or Kilkenny Ridge Traverse (two routes that are notoriously dry in certain parts) knowing where you’re most likely to find your next water source is key to staying hydrated.

Not every trip is going to be a success, and planning a few bail-out options is another great thing to do in advance. This will come in particularly handy if unexpected bad weather rolls in while you’re high above treeline. Prepare your bail-out points also gives you a lot more freedom to attempt your route, bail if you aren’t quite ready, then try again after some additional training.

Pre-planning logistics is another key to a successful day. Consider whether you’ll need to shuttle cars or find a ride at the end. If so, get on top of these logistical issues now so you won’t be stranded at the trailhead or be facing a long road March back to the car.

Credit: Tim Peck

Find a Partner (or Two)

There are so many reasons to start looking for the ideal partner(s) right now. To begin with, partners bring the stoke to the planning process and add accountability to your training regimen—it’s much easier to stick to your training if a buddy is holding you responsible.

Partners also offer somebody to help share the load of the pre-trip logistics. Additionally, they’ll likely bring a different perspective than yours, potentially improving the overall plan while also serving as a sounding board for critical decisions like gear and food choices.

Finally, partners are folks for you to share your adventure with, both in the moment and in the months and years after.

Credit: Tim Peck

Last Mile

Trips like the Presidential Traverse and Great Traverse are among the toughest objectives in the Northeast. Spending some time to properly prepare for these adventures can help ensure an enjoyable existence, your success, and your safety.