Plan A Walking Route

how to plan your walking route safely

How to Plan a Walking Route Safely (Guides & Tips)

So you’ve decided to plan a walk and get out into the fresh air.

That’s a great start to your day.

I am going to help you find a walk and plan it, but you’ll have to do the hard work yourself – the walking.

Walking Route Planners

To create a walking route you will need reliable and up-to-date information on walkways.

Such information comes from a detailed map created by the Ordnance Survey team. Though not essential, using these maps will help you tremendously.

In the UK, the OS Explorer 1:25000 scale map is probably the most detailed walking map.

If you are planning an urban walk through a simple street map such as a print out from Google Maps or the AA will suffice. But if you go off track and start trekking over green spaces these maps will probably not show you the detail you may need.

It really depends on how much information you need to keep you and your colleagues safe and on track.

Details you will need to take into account;

  • steepness
  • pathways
  • crossings
  • parking
  • refreshment areas
  • planned stop off points
  • timings
  • mileage

Understanding Map Symbols Video

How to Create a Walking Route

So where do you start?

Picking a convenient starting place that is ideal for everyone taking part is your priority.

It will probably need parking for the time you are away and be accessible even for those that decide to arrive by train or bus.

If it’s just you then your starting point could be as simple as your home.

Nice and simple. Just pick up your rucksack and get walking!

Planning your walking route involves picking one that has regular stop off points or at least a cafe or pub at the end. Somewhere to freshen up and stock up on energy before setting back to your starting point.

Everyone loves to be fed and watered!

feeding time for puffins
Photo by Sharon Watters on Unsplash

If there are a few of you it might be worth contacting the pub/cafe owners to pre-warn them you are arriving at a specific time. This will help them plan staffing and food arrangements ahead of your visit.

There is nothing worse than arriving at a venue to find they cannot cater for your party.

Then what do you do?

You will have to find an alternative or explain to an angry mob that followed you that you cannot feed them and they’ll have to turn back.

Oh my word, they will be moaning all the way home and you’ll never be accepted as a friend again.

Dramatic I know.

So take the time out to prepare a decent stop off point it is well worth the all the effort.

Photo by Cyril Saulnier on Unsplash

Circular V's There & Back Walks

Planning a circular trekking route is far more interesting than a simple there and back walking route. Choose somewhere that has a good variety of walking paths as this will add to the enjoyment of the day.

How much Time Should You Leave For Your Walk?

On flat open ground with even surfaces the average walking speed is approximately 3mph (5km/h).

This is a good guide to help you plan your times.

Add a little extra if there are stiles, streams and uneven or hilly pathways.

Big groups will usually walk a lot slower so factor this in.

Using this figure is a good guide to allow for the end venue to prepare for your visit and for others to plan for their train/bus/parking tickets.

Being organised is essential especially when others are involved.

How Do You Plan Your Walk?

On OS maps you’ll see the simplest routes marked with green diamonds. These can be National Trails and Waymarked paths. They will also be shown as rights of way.

If they are marked with black dotted lines it means they may not be accessible.

Another good idea is to plan your walk by adding in viewpoints. These can help break up the walk, giving people a natural break to admire the countryside.

Once again, the OS maps will show you where the viewpoints are.

OS maps

Plan Your Walk With variety

Adding features to your hiking route will make it more interesting and give people something to discuss.

Waterways, woodland, inland and coastal paths all add talking points to your walk.

Over the long term, changing your route week by week will keep you interested and let you explore many areas you thought were just simple pathways.

If you’re used to countryside walks, why not explore a city centre walk? Looking up and seeing the architecture or learning the history of a place whilst on foot is a great way to learn new things and let you explore.

It’s surprising what you miss when you drive.

Walking Apps to Help You

There are plenty of online tools to help you plot your walking routes.

Some are free and some paid for.

Simple ones like Google maps route planner and iOS Maps now offer improved search facilities and suggestions for walkers and runners.

Many will also show you how far you have walked or are about to. Walkit is an app where you just put in the start and end points and it’ll throw up a walking route for you.

Walking Safety

Check the weather forecast the day before to make sure you are properly equipped to cater for whatever the weather decides to throw at you.

Make alternative arrangements if you are faced with windy or stormy weather especially if your walk takes you through open areas.

Remember that some pathways may become impassable if you have had a lot of rain, so find an alternative more solid roadway to get around.

Streams can easily become rivers so make sure there are footbridges to help you cross.

This is where planning your walk upfront will be so useful.

Coastal walks can quickly become dangerous.

met office tide timetables
Met Office Tide Times

Check local tide timetables and be aware how quickly the sea comes in. We often hear of walkers becoming stranded by a fast rising tide.

Walking along the cliff tops can also be hazardous with heavy rain.

Be very aware of coastal erosion and moving cliff faces.

One slip and you are gone!

Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but so many people, especially casual coastal visitors just fail to see the dangers of coastal walking. One slip and you are gone!

Take with you emergency contact numbers and planned escape routes should you be faced with any dangers. Again, being prepared is essential and could save your life.

This is all sounding very dramatic now, so let’s take a breather.

The important thing is getting outside and enjoying your walks as it is a great way to keep fit and enjoy life.


Be prepared, make last minute checks like the weather and your gear, and just get going.

Walking can be a very sociable affair too. Meeting people en-route or going as part of a walking group will make the day pass very quickly.

If you are solo walking, take advantage of the beautiful scenery by capturing it with your camera.

Once you’ve started walking you’ll be planning plenty more walks and inviting friends along to enjoy them with you.

Over To You

Where’s your favourite location to walk?

Please share with us by commenting below.

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