Summer is upon us, and with it comes a new set of outdoor activities you can do to keep your body moving, such as hiking. Hiking is a low-impact exercise, so it won’t put too much of a strain on your muscles and joints while still gaining health benefits. Not only will hiking improve your balance and help you build muscle, but it will also increase bone density depending on the difficulty of the hiking trail. We assessed three hikes around Idaho Falls with different difficulty levels to keep you moving this summer, and some additional tips to prevent potential injuries during your hiking trip.
Hikes Around Idaho Falls
North Menan Butte Trail
The North Menan Buttes formed about 10,000 years ago due to violent volcano eruptions and magma that boiled up through the ground. Today, the North Menan Butte is a National Natural Landmark and a great area to explore geology formations and natural history.
You can reach the North Menan Butte trail by traveling north from Idaho Falls on Highway 20. Follow US-20 E to Jefferson County and then take exit 325 towards Menan/Roberts and turn left. Continue for around five miles until you need to turn right onto N 3600 E. The parking lot to the North Menan Butte Trail will be on your right.
The North Menan Butte trail length is around 3.4 miles (5.5 km) with an elevation of over 900 feet (294 m). The trail difficulty is moderate and will take an average of two hours to complete. The hike will begin with a steep climb with hard rock, then turning to both loose and slippery gravel, so wearing a pair of hiking boots with good traction is ideal. Watch your footing and bring enough water to stay hydrated during your hike.
Cress Creek Nature Trail
The Cress Creek Nature Trail is a great option for beginners as the trail is gentle with views of the South Fork of the Snake River. The hike will start with a paved trail until you reach the creek, after which it will be gravel.
You can reach the Cress Creek Nature Trail by taking US-26 E for around 19 miles and taking the exit to N 160 E/N 4950 E and turning right on E 100 N. After crossing the Heise Bridge, turn left onto E Heise Rd until you arrive at the Cress Creek Nature Trail parking lot on the right.
The Cress Creek Nature Trail is a 1.3 miles (2.1 km) loop along the South Fork of the Snake River with an elevation of a little over 300 feet (95 m). It is a gentle and easy trail that takes an average of 40-50 minutes to complete, so it’s perfect for first-time hikers. There are also picnic tables and benches along the trail where you can rest and eat while enjoying the beautiful landscape.
Greenbelt Loop Trail
The Greenbelt Loop Trail is right in the heart of Idaho Falls with a paved path along the Snake River. During your hike, you’ll go by the Japanese Garden, a 600-foot wide waterfall, and restaurants and shops. If you decide to hike on a Saturday, you might even get the chance to enjoy the Farmer’s Market.
The Greenbelt Loop consists of the Northern Loop (2.3 miles) and the Southern Loop (2+ miles) with mild elevation and only a few steep sections. It can take around 1-2 hours to complete depending on the activities you decide to partake in or view during your hike, such as the Japanese Garden or the Veterans War Memorial. You may even encounter some people running or biking along the trail.
Tips for Preventing Injuries While Hiking
Even though hiking is a form of low-impact exercise, there are some common injuries that may occur during your hike depending on trail terrain and conditions. Some of the common hiking injuries include foot pain and blisters, twisted or sprained ankles, knee pain or joint inflammation, and low-back and spine pain. Below we will go over each of these injuries and what you can do to prevent them.
Foot Pain and Blisters
There are three common foot problems caused by hiking. These include blisters, plantar fasciitis, and hot spots. Blisters occur when there’s friction against your sock and hiking boot. The first signs of plantar fasciitis are heel and foot-arch pain while hot spots are red and tender spots – a good sign that a blister will form.
The best way to avoid these common foot problems is by obtaining proper hiking boots and wearing them with proper socks and insoles. We recommend a pair of hiking boots that is half or a full size larger than the normal shoe size with insoles that match your arch height. The socks should also be breathable and not too thin or thick. Lastly, you should lace your hiking boots properly leaving enough breathing room for the foot to avoid friction or cutting off circulation.
Twisted or Sprained Ankle
A twisted or sprained ankle can happen to anyone, no matter their age. The injury occurs when the tissue connecting and supporting your ankle bones tears or is stretched above and beyond its limit. With a twisted or sprained ankle commonly comes pain, swelling, and bruising, causing difficulty walking or standing upright on both feet.
One of the best ways to avoid a twisted or sprained ankle is to be aware of your surroundings during your hiking trip. You can also do research about the hiking trail to learn about the type of terrain you will encounter and ensure you lace your hiking boots properly. If you have suffered from a twisted or sprained ankle before, you can use external support, such as a brace, to aid you during your hike. Lastly, ankle exercises can help you strengthen your ankles and prevent injuries.
Knee Pain or Joint Inflammation
Knee pain or joint inflammation issues are mostly related to age, but they also happen due to an injury or repeated stress that affects the knee ligaments or the muscles. Some other knee problems include torn cartilage, tendonitis, or arthritis.
Going on a hiking trip does add more strain to your knees, especially if the terrain is challenging. But rest assured, it shouldn’t stop you from exploring and exercising your physical health. To prevent an injury, you can use the aid of trekking poles when going uphill and downhill, as the trekking poles will decrease pressure on the knees. Keep your knees unlocked and ensure you stretch your legs and hips before you hit the trail. Lastly, you can use a knee brace or Kinesio tape to reduce the movement of your kneecap and to provide extra support.
Neck, Low-Back, and Spine Pain
Neck, low-back, and spine pain are common issues among hikers, especially those who do long-distance or multi-day hiking trips. Ironically, hiking can also help you relieve neck, low-back, and spine pain as hiking strengthens your back and core muscles and improves your flexibility.
One of the main reasons this type of pain occurs is due to carrying extra weight, such as a backpack full of supplies. Not all backpacks are created equal, and they need to be fitted correctly to your body to distribute the weight evenly across your hips. Stretching and core exercises also help alleviate neck, low-back, and spine pain.
Our doctors at Summit Orthopaedics keep up to date on the latest advancements in orthopaedic care. Our team is always ready to help you get the care you need, from musculoskeletal injuries, neck, low-back, spine conditions, sports injuries, and joint replacement surgeries. So if you have had an accident or if you are experiencing orthopaedic pain, call or book an appointment with our physicians today.