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Training for Blue Ridge while Living in Central Florida

Preparing for first backpacking trip since I was in Girl Scouts many, many years ago. I want to do 4 day blue ridge hike. Any ideas on where to train? I hike the trails and walk the beaches 4-6 days a week, but I need to prepare for elevation. I started doing stairs at work, but it is very boring, the air is stuffy and I would much prefer being outside. I appreciate any suggestions!

11 Replies

What are the altitudes involved?  I don't believe the area is dreadfully high...but my experience is all in the west, where living around 2,000 feet ASL, we could regularly hike to 8-9000 feet without undue discomfort.

"Eight thousand feet (2,400m) is a rough threshold above which altitude illness occurs"  Third ed.  Medicine for Mountaineering, James A. Wilkerson, MD.

If possible, reach the area before you start your trip and take it easy.  "Climb high and sleep low" is a good strategy. Be conservative in your early objectives.  Acclimatization will occur at its own pace.  

I  believe Florida's highest point is 500 feet or so ASL.  Find higher terrain.

This counsel, as always, is given strictly on the level (ASL)

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One other thing.  Being in good shape is a different thing from acclimatization.  Get inshape, but e prepared to still adjust to altitude.

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Thanks Hikermor. I appreciate your response! I am not too worried about elevation sickness, I am more worried about my legs handling the climb after being a flat lander for a while 😬. Definitely not ready for 8000 ft! Hopefully will get to hike the west coast eventually. It looks amazing. Thanks again!


I live in Virginia where the blue ridge is, but I am at sea level, and I believe there’s nothing really to get ready for. The altitude seldom tops 3500 feet, once in a while 4 thousand feet so that’s never a problem.

My training consists of getting in a lot of steps with supplemental incline treadmill at a slow walking speed to get my heart rate up and work on the hills. I think you’ll be fine.

 I also do lots and lots of push-ups to avoid sore shoulders, just a hold over from army days.

You’ll be fine.  Where are you hiking?

REI Member Since 1979

Thanks Philreedshikes. I am thinking of taking one of the Rei hikes near Asheville. I lived in Candler for a few years, many years ago. Love that area by the Blue Ridge Parkway. I just started started working out my arms and using treking poles. You advice will encourage me to keep at it! This is a awesome community, so glad I joined.

Hi @SeaLevel - Thanks for bringing this question to the community! Like @Philreedshikes said, the elevation in the Blue Ridge Mountains does not generally produce altitude sickness that is seen at much higher elevations, though you will probably feel a difference in your energy levels/muscles when you transition from totally flat terrain to higher hills. 

When I lived in New Orleans, I would find large outdoor stairs to do workouts on since that was the only way to find elevation gain. There were some roomy stairs in our downtown area; a large, open staircase near the Superdome; and even a few football fields in public parks that had raised bleachers. You may want to see what options are available for public use in your city. Places like those offer many of the same workout opportunities as your stairs at work, but with the perk of being outside!

Your hike sounds like it will be good fun. We'd love to hear how it goes!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thanks! I will check out outdoor stairs and bleachers. Great idea! Anything that keeps me outside rather than inside will help keep me motivated!


Just for context,  passenger airplanes are pressurized to the equivalent of 6000-8000 feet so unless you train to fly on commercial airlines you are unlikely to have a problem 😉  I live a sea level although it is hilly around here but most of my backpacking has been at over 8000 feet and a fair amount over 10000

I haven't backpacked in the East but in general,  lunges and squats are good backpacking exercises. Assuming you have no health issues, do them with increasingly loaded pack or by holding 1 gallon milk jugs with increasing amounts of water keeping your back stable of course.  Core exercises like planks are good too. That and some level of aerobic fitness is generally adequate for most backpacking. Wind sprints are an efficient way of building aerobic capacity.  If you do have health issues get appropriate local advice. 

The most important thing is to make sure your footwear is not going to damage you and ruin your trip given the weight you expect to carry over the miles you expect to do so if exercise for the sake of it is boring to is for me...once you think you have your foot wear figured out go for longish hikes (say 5 miles) somewhere interesting with your fully loaded packed gear and equivalent weight for supplies and see how you and your feet do. 

Weigh your gear and refine it down to what is absolutely necessary for your safety and basic comfort (sleep and appropriate weather protection are the most important)....on clothing its a layers system not changes except maybe underwear.   Then you can add back a carefully curated set of things you want to take and see if its weight is worth it.

As a very general guide modern gear makes it fairly easy to get a solo 3 season base weight (pack + gear - supplies) of around 20-25 lbs and 15 -20 lb with a bit more thought and maybe money.  Assuming 2lb of food a day and carrying an average of 1 quart of water that means for a 4 day trip your starting pack weight should not be more than about 35lb and you can refine down from there.

Note: 2lb a day is based on 3200cal @ 100cal/oz for an active adult male (18-35 ish) so you may well need less...most people do unless they are hiking longer than 2 weeks.  100cal/oz is a typical average for backpacking food and you can also reduce the weight using more calorie dense food (oils and nuts are ~200cal/oz)

Excellent advice! Thanks for taking the time to answer my newbie question!

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