As Spring weather has arrived,  the beautiful mountains in East Tennessee are full of hikers and explorers.

If you aren’t a big hiker, or maybe haven’t ever been up a trail, there are a few things one needs to know before starting their journey.

First you need to prepare. As a hiker, you need to figure out where you are going. And thankfully, with the help of a GPS, finding beautiful spots like waterfalls and overlooks nearby can be quite easy.

However, every hike has different levels of difficulty, so it is important to read reviews and try to find pictures of where you’re headed so you have an idea of what to expect.

Second, pack a bag to take with you. Whether you’re hiking for 30 minutes or five hours, you’ll be happy to be well prepared. While out in the elements, weather and a lot of other factors can change quickly. Pack plenty of  the necessary essentials such as water and a flashlight.

If it’s summer time, you’ll definitely need bug spray and sunscreen. Bring some food and maybe even an Eno if you plan to hang out for a bit. You have to also remember it’ll be colder in higher elevations if that’s where you’re headed, so a jacket is well recommended.

Animals are also fun to hike with, but be aware of the limitations of your dog compared to the toughness of the trail. Getting down the trail is one thing, but if Fido can’t make it back up, what do you do?

You also have to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings while hiking. It is not uncommon to come across a snake,  spider, or even a bear.

If you ever encounter a bear, never run. Get as big and tall as you can with your arms in the air, bang anything together you have close to make noise, and hopefully the bear will go on about its day. If you ever get close to or in between a mother bear and her cub, that is one of the most dangerous places to be. You have to be extremely cautious in places you aren’t familiar with.

A few years ago, a friend of mine went to a blue hole they had never been to. The first guy jumped in and as he came up for his first breath he started screaming and saying that there was barbed wire in the water. Soon, they found out that the guy had jumped into a nest of water moccasins, and unfortunately he died before any help got down to him.

Once you’ve packed and educated yourself on where you’re going, grab your friends and hit the trail. If you live in Johnson City or the surrounding area, there are so many places to go. Whether you want a long hike with a view at the top, a downward hike to the bottom of a waterfall, or a moderate trail with a little bit of everything.

A few popular places to hike around Johnson City are the Blue Hole and Twisted Falls. The Blue Hole is a pretty simple trail, depending how far down you go, of course. You will see waterfalls that lead into beautiful blue pools with trees towering over top, creating shady spots to rest during the dreadful summer heat.

Twisted Falls is extremely steep, but it’s a great workout. You walk down to the bottom and you will find an incredible waterfall. However, the hike back up feels like it’s a 90-degree angle.

There are plenty of other places to hike and explore in the area. Be sure to check out Roan Mountain, White Top on Buffalo Mountain, Twitsie Trail, Carvers Gap and Mount Le Conte.