Hiking while pregnant

Hiking while pregnant or 7 Tips for Hiking Mamas

Hiking in SNP during pregnancyAs I enter into the last two weeks of my first pregnancy (Yay – 38 weeks!), I really want to post about hiking while pregnant. If you were a hiker pre-pregnancy and want to continue hiking, follow these tips to make it an easier and more comfortable pregnancy experience. For all my East Coast friends, winter is still hanging around, but spring will be here before you know it and, hopefully, these tips will give all you mamas-to-be the tools to decide if hiking while pregnant is for you.

I could honestly go on forever about the joys and difficulty of hiking in various trimesters and seasons while pregnant, but for the sake of organization and readability, let’s go with a quick list of things to consider before hiking while pregnant.

All you non-preggo hikers, share this post with someone who may find it helpful!

1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
I can’t emphasize this one enough. As mamas-to-be we need to increase our water intake on a daily basis anyway…add strenuous activity and the need for extra H20 becomes extremely important. If carrying all that extra water-weight on your hike sounds exhausting, let someone else do the heavy lifting!

2. Bring a Hiking Buddy
I always recommend a hiking partner, pregnant or not. The need for a buddy becomes very important when you are expecting. Not only do you have someone there with you in case something goes wrong, but if it’s a super, awesome hiking friend, they will also help lighten your load. Don’t feel guilty asking a hiking partner to help carry your pack or water. Have you seen your adorable baby bump? That little boy or girl is adding some extra weight to your total body mass and if you want to drag that all up a mountain – well, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

3. Double your Snacks (or triple, no judging here)
Alright, this one may just be me, but I’ve been pretty hungry most of this pregnancy. Not only are we growing a human (which takes a lot of energy), but those intense hunger cravings in the 2nd trimester are no joke. I went from vegetarian to ‘give me that cheeseburger, now!’. Remember, if you go hiking, you are burning extra calories and babe is taking nutrients that it needs from you, so be sure to replenish with snacks that fuel your work and sound tasty.

4. Stretch
Loosen up before your hike with some quick warm ups and light stretching. Avoid those night-time leg cramps we often get during pregnancy by hydrating and doing some good stretching after the hike. I find that it’s best to focus on the calves and hamstrings after a good mountain climb.

5. Restrooms
Let’s be honest with ourselves…it’s just not that easy to squat anymore! Center of gravity shift, extra weight (mostly in the front), and general clumsiness are something most of us experience during pregnancy. Squatting in the woods behind a bush or tree for a quick pee is getting less and less feasible as our bellies grow. Plan hikes around open facilities in our State or National parks. Or be sure there is an open gas station or rest area near the trail you choose so you have a nearby option before and after the hike.

If you get stuck out on a trail and nature calls, be sure to use a tree trunk to help you balance as you squat. Find a smaller, sturdy tree, that you can wrap your hands around for balance and support as you lower your growing body to do your business. If your hiking partner is willing to help you back up after your tinkle, let them!

Additional Tip: East Coast mountain mamas – Hike on the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) and plan your route based on sections that pass an outhouse/shelter. This will be a lifesaver for those of you in your third trimester who are using the potty often.

Hiking during 2nd trimester

Hiking during 2nd trimester

6. Slow your pace
Don’t over do it; it’s okay to slow your typical hiking pace. Our lungs are being squished by our growing sprouts and we need to give ourselves a break. Please don’t judge yourself or others for needing to slow down. Hike at a pace that is comfortable for you and take breaks often. The last hike I went on was only a mile, yet I slowed myself down and allowed myself to take breaks when I felt out of breath or tired. Listen to your body. If it’s tired, stop and take a break. If you need to, turn around and head home. Now is NOT the time to push yourself and over do it.

7. Shorten your hike
It’s okay to choose shorter hikes as you progress in your pregnancy. I found that in the first and third trimester, the shorter the hike, the better! Nausea won the first trimester for me, especially in the heat and humidity of Virginia summers. My hikes were short and some planned longer hikes, were cut short when I just couldn’t go any further. And that is OKAY.  In the third trimester, especially as you draw nearer to your due date, I find it’s a good idea to stick to shorter trails so you can quickly and easily make it back to your car should something urgent come up. These babes decide when the want to show up, not us!

As always, be sure to check with your doctor before doing any physical activity (especially hiking). We are all different and each pregnancy is unique. Listen to your doctor and listen to your body. Don’t over do it. You and babe come first.

Blackrock

Blackrock Summit
Shenandoah National Park (Southern)
Skyline Drive milepost 85
Distance: 1 mile
Type: Loop or make it an ‘out and back’
Views: Beautiful view of mountains and valleys
Dogs: Bring your leashed furry friend along for the walk
Trailhead: At the end of the Blackrock Summit Parking area at milepost 85
Notes: A quick, easy trek to the summit for great views. Great hike for younger kiddos.
Blackrock summit1
Getting there:
From Charlottesville, VA the quickest way to Blackrock summit is using the South Entrance of the Shenandoah National Park (SNP) via 64 west. After heading towards the mountains on 64 west, take exit 99 towards Afton. Pay attention to the brown National Park signs to navigate your way to the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station of SNP. Drive North on the Skyline Drive for about 15-20 minutes to the Blackrock Summit Parking area at milepost 85. Do NOT park near Blackrock Gap (you will pass this first). Blackrock Gap is not the hike/trail described here. To find the trailhead, look to the end of the parking lot and find the trail Information board (pictured below).
IMG_7058Difficulty and length:
Only half a mile to get to some incredible views in Shenandoah National Park. Round trip, this hike is one mile and will likely take about 30 minutes. If hiking with smaller children or extremely pregnant ladies, allow for an hour.

Details:
As described above, this is a short hike to amazing views in the Southern part of SNP. Find the trail head at the trail information board once you park in the Blackrock Summit Parking area at milepost 85 along the Skyline Drive. Walk a few feet past the information board and then take a left and head south on the Appalachian Trail (white blaze).

You’ll notice it’s only a half a mile to the summit if you check out the trail marker (pictured above). After about 5-10 minutes on the trail, you will see another trail marker and a tree marked with a double white blaze. Turn right to stay on the trail and head to the summit. At this point the summit will be about .03 from where you are standing.

During this first half a mile, you will experience a little bit of an incline, but nothing unmanageable. It’s a short trek, so as soon as you start to get out of breath you will find yourself at the top. At the top, great views and a fun pile of rocks await.

After spending time at the summit enjoying the views, continue around the rocky pile to make your way back to your car. You are more than welcome to come back the way you came, but if you continue to follow the trail around the rocks, you will come to a trail marker after a few minutes. When you see this trail marker be sure to take a left to head back to the parking area.

Notes:
Not a lot to add to this hike, other than to reiterate that I think it’s a great one for families with small children or people who move at a slower pace. Not a lot of effort needed for the great views.

 

My experience:
Happy New Year and Happy First Day Hikes! Hoping to start a new tradition of hiking on New Year’s Day, I head out for Shenandoah National Park with my mom and my husband. It was a cold, but clear day and after all the holiday gatherings, it was time to get outside regardless of the temperatures.

At 34 weeks pregnant, it was difficult to get dressed for a cold hike…I haven’t invested in hiking maternity clothes for freezing temperatures (side note: after this hike, I did some digging and found this rockin’ site – http://www.mountain-mama.com/). I found my warmest, stretchiest, pre-pregnancy hiking wear and packed a ton of snacks (yes, for a 1 mile hike).

I cannot understate the importance of hitting the trails with patient hikers when you are in your third trimester. It took our small group about an hour to do the round trip, one mile hike. Typically this hike would take me about 20-30 minutes with a break at the top for pictures and exploring the rocks, but this pregnant waddle I’ve got going on slowed us down. Not to mention water, snack, and breathing breaks. My family was patient and stayed at my pace, making our day trip to the mountains perfect.

I mentioned this is a great hike for younger children above. We saw quite a few families with little kiddos. Not to mention a few hikers with small dogs on this trail. It was great to see so many people being active outside on New Year’s day. This is a great trail for a quick, family hike in the mountains.

Winter View:
Blackrock

 

 

Turk Mountain

Turk Mountain
Shenandoah National Park (Southern)
Skyline Drive milepost 94.1
Distance: 2.2 miles
Type: Out and back
Views: Shenandoah Valley
Dogs: Leashed Dogs are welcome
Trailhead: Across the road from the Turk Gap Parking Area at milepost 94.1
Notes: A steady, short climb to a rocky summit with beautiful views. Entrance fees to SNP apply.

Turk Mountain summitGetting there:
From Charlottesville, VA the quickest way to get to Turk Mountain is taking 64 West. Take exit 99 towards Afton and follow signs to enter the Shenandoah National Park at the South entrance (Rockfish Gap Entrance Station). Drive for about 10 miles north on the Skyline Drive to the Turk Gap Parking Area. The trailhead is across the Drive from the Parking Area.

Difficulty and length:
This is a nice short hike, at just 2.2 miles in total. Only 1.1 miles to the summit – you can do it! There are some steep inclines, which makes this hike a little difficult, but I would rate it as moderate due to the short length. I’m 24 weeks pregnant (read: taking lots of breaks) and this hike took me about one hour and thirty minutes.

Details:
This is a short hike with fabulous views in South Shenandoah National Park (SNP). When you arrive at the Turk Gap Parking Area (see ‘getting there’ above), cross the Skyline Drive and find the trail marker. The hike starts on the Appalachian Trail (AT), look for the iconic white blazes to be sure you are on the correct trail. After following along the AT for about five to ten minutes, you will see the trail splits. A side trail with blue blazes veers off to the right and the AT continues on the left. Read the trail marker and take the blue blaze trail to Turk Mountain summit.

The trail will lead slightly downhill for a bit before a steeper climb to the summit, but at this point you only have .9 of a mile to go!  As you get closer to the top, you will walk over an area that looks like the mountain spit a pile of rocks out. Upon researching after our hike, I found that this is called a talus slope of Erwin quartzite. Spend some time checking out the rocks while you take a breather before the last climb to the summit. We reached the summit about 45 minutes into the hike and it was absolutely worth the climb. We enjoyed the intense color from the leaves left on the trees during our entire trek. When you see the trail marker below you are at the summit, maybe 30 feet left to go on your journey if you are seeking great views.

After you see the trail marker above, there are some rocks to climb over for your views. Stay low and use your hands to maneuver over the rocks. Be careful to keep your balance and not slip. Watch out for children and dogs here if they are with you on your hike. Once you reach the rocks up near the summit, enjoy your reward. A beautiful view of the Shenandoah Valley.


Tip: When hiking in the fall, be careful as fallen leaves often cover the trail, tree roots, and rocks. It can be slippery and very easy to roll an ankle.

My experience:
My first time hiking Turk Mountain was on a chilly, beautiful October day in Virginia. It was 38 degrees when we left my car (i.e. very cold), but with the uphill climb, we soon shed some layers. I was 24 weeks pregnant and hiked with my sister, Caitlin, who was recovering from a cold. Basically, I’m trying to make the point that if a pregnant and sick person can do this hike, so can you! It is quite a bit of uphill, but due to the short distance to the summit, the tough parts go by quickly and are completely feasible. I’ll share more tips and insights on hiking while pregnant in a future post, but for now…back to the hike.

There is nothing like hiking in Virginia in October. Fall here is so beautiful, it’s hard to describe. You really have to see it for yourself. The leaves change the most beautiful hues of yellow, orange, and red. If you venture out on a sunny day, the trip anywhere on the Skyline Drive in the fall is truly magical. This hiking day was just like that; sunny, blue skies, a nice, brisk breeze, and incredible color. The beauty can be little distracting while you are driving, so be careful and don’t forget to drive slowly, and watch out for wildlife and other hikers as you make your way to a parking area for your fall hike.

Hiking with sisters is the best. Caitlin and I laughed and told stories during the entire hike. We encouraged each other and joked on each other when the hike got tough and one of us would lag behind. And there was no judgment on the number of times I had to pee (being pregnant and all). Family and nature make a good combination.

Fall view:
IMG_6238