How To (Realistically) Complete Your 52-Hike Goal

We’ve all done it; made a lofty New Year’s resolution and abandoned it by mid-March, if not sooner! On Jan. 1, 2020 I made a resolution to complete 52 hikes in a year. With my trusty trail runners, leggings and a hoodie I set off to hike Talapus Lake. I made it to the lake, perhaps a little colder and wetter than intended, and had completed my first hike. 

Sunrise at Dirty Harry's Balcony in Washington

A self-described avid hiker, I quickly realized that I was in fact a fair-weather hiker, preferring the warmth, easy travel conditions and long days of summer. By March I had completed five hikes, well behind my one hike per week goal. I told myself that I would catch up during the summer (the advantage of being a teacher). But in mid-March the pandemic and government orders put a damper on my plan. With trail systems closed the responsible action was to stay close to home and explore my neighborhood parks. My intention to do 52 unique hikes quickly became to do 52 hikes. Luckily, the trails opened back up in May, but my remaining 44 hikes seemed daunting.

Little Mashel Falls in Washington

During the cold winter and spring months, I had made a list of dozens of potential hikes. Planning hikes became my new hobby. I coordinated camping trips and backpacking trips with my quaran-team. When I was short on time, I would plan two shorter hikes in a vicinity for the same day. By the end of August and the start of school, I had completed 38 hikes. I was on pace to meet my goal but was back to weekend only adventures. I planned a few double header weekends to squeeze in the last hikes and finished two weeks ahead of schedule with 253 miles under my feet. A celebratory bottle of champagne was lugged those last 11 miles to truly revel in my accomplishment. So, how’d I do it in the midst of a pandemic? It’s simple really: I set a goal, planned, prepared and did the thing.

Summit Lake in Washington

Set A Goal

Set your goal and the intention behind it. Are you doing 52 unique hikes, or can you repeat hikes? Is there a length requirement? Do urban or neighborhood trails count? Why are you completing 52 hikes? Setting your intentions will help focus your planning. I started with a goal of doing 52 unique hikes each over 5 miles. With the complications of a pandemic, that goal morphed into any 52 hikes that were at least 1 mile long. If the hike was included in Washington Trail Association’s map, I counted it. My intention was to use the hikes to not only explore new places but also to feel more grounded and to escape from the daily troubles of life. Having a clear goal helped me to focus.

rusted metal on Tradition Lake Loop in Washington

Plan It Out

Start planning your hikes. I like to use the Washington Trail Association’s app Trailblazer and their website. You can search and sort through hikes based on location, length, elevation gain, trail features and rating. I use the trail reports to judge the trail and road conditions too. I’m a big fan of lakes and waterfalls, but in autumn, I searched for fall colors to find less crowded trails. I researched ghost towns and lookout towers. In the colder months you could search for low elevation hikes to avoid snowy conditions. An important part in planning is to have a backup. There were many times I had planned to do a hike and the weather wasn’t cooperating, there was a road closure, trail washout or overcrowding. Having a backup will make navigating these difficulties easier. Remember, if you want to do 52 hikes, you’ll need to average one hike per week to meet your goal!

Denny Creek crossing to Lake Melakwa in Washington

Be Prepared

Remember how I said I was a fair-weather hiker? While trail runners and leggings are comfy, they aren’t always the best gear. Being prepared could be the difference between enjoying a hike or being miserable but also between making it home safely or not. In order to make my 52 hikes I often went solo. If you’re hiking alone, let someone know where you’re going, when you plan to be back and if your plans change. Here are my tips for getting the most out of your hike without breaking the bank or your back. Pack the 10 essentials. Always. No matter what. Determine the gear you need to be safe and comfortable for the hike you are doing. For me that meant purchasing water-proof high-cut boots, water resistant pants, a rain jacket and micro-spikes. I’m a minimalist but always bring a trail cider to celebrate. Bringing something you enjoy can help lift your spirits on any hike.

Carbonado Bridge to Melmont Ghost Town in Washington

Do The Thing

Do the thing is exactly what it sounds like. Make a goal, plan, be prepared and then do it! There were many times I woke up to hike (especially before sunrise) that I would much rather have stayed in bed, but you won’t make your goal if you don’t get out and do it. There was never a time where I went hiking and regretted it once on the trail. That being said, if for any reason you feel you can’t or shouldn’t continue a hike, trust your gut and turn around. In November I tried to hike to Lake Melakwa. The trip report from the week prior stated fair conditions and little snow. On the day of, we were post-holing with each step. We made it as far as the Denny Creek crossing before turning around and heading to Franklin Falls. Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination. 

Whether you’ve made a 52 hike goal or not, I hope you’re inspired to get out into nature and get figuratively lost. And who knows, maybe I’ll see you out on the trail!

Ava Davis

Ava Davis spends most of her free time exploring the scenic outdoors of Washington and/or sipping on cider. Based in Tacoma, she writes cider reviews and runs a website covering all aspects of the cider world. An avid reader, she also enjoys baking and is trying to complete 52 hikes before the end of the year. Find her on Instagram @pnwcidergirl @ava.wanders @pommesandpints or online at

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