Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Sure Foot Adventures unique?

  • Sure Foot trips introduce you to the backcountry wilderness in a way transforms a foreign environment into a home. We provide everything you need to be safe, have fun, and gain confidence in the outdoors.

Will I have fun?

  • We plan on it! That said, we can’t guarantee that you’ll love camping and backpacking, but we do believe you’ll find the meaning  you are looking for on your Sure Foot trip.

Um, who are you people?

  • Sure Foot Adventures was founded in 2008 by husband & wife Jonah McDonald & Dana Goldman who have been leading outdoors adventures together since 2004. Jonah and Dana have since been joined by several other guides and administrative staff who help make our trips fun and meaningful. Please read our staff bios on our Meet Us page.

Who goes on these trips?

  • We’ve had participants as young as 18-months and as old as mid-70s. Our trips have included Jews, Christians, Muslims and atheists, and folks whose hail around from the world. Our adventures are GBLTQ-friendly, and we’ve gotten to camp with people of African-American, Indian, European, Korean, Pakistani, Caribbean, and South American origins. Though we don’t tend to talk about work or politics in the woods, we’ve had Republicans and Democrats, environmentalists and business people (often the same person!) on our trips. Some of our participants have spent many nights in the woods, but on almost every trip we introduce someone to camping for the first time. We enthusiastically welcome your unique self on a Sure Foot trip!

What should I expect on my next Sure Foot overnight trip?

    • Our campsite: When backpacking or camping, we camp at sites that are at least 1/4 mile away from our vehicles. Our campsites are located close to clear streams or springs that are good for collecting water (which we then purify) and for sticking our feet in.  All campsites are within a day hike’s distance from a natural wonder such as a mountain top or waterfall. There are no bathroom facilities at our campsites, so we teach you how to relieve yourself comfortably in the scenic outdoors.

    • Simplicity: We know that simplicity helps us relax, escape the stresses of city life, and enjoy nature more fully. As a result we only bring to our campsite what we can carry on our backs. On a Sure Foot trip, you will see a bottle of wine for the adults (but no cooler of beers), an ultralight wire grill for roasting garlic bread over the fire (but no barbeque grill and charcoal), foam pads for lounging around camp (but no lawn chairs). We use comfortable backpacking-style tents that are waterproof (but no multi-room tents that leak in a downpour). We may not have a faucet, but wait ’til you see our “kitchen sink.” You’ll be amazed at the ingenious ways we lighten our load without giving up comfort.

    • Gear Quality: The story we hear most often about terrible camping experiences almost always stems from poor gear. As a result, Sure Foot provides all essential group gear. Our tents keep us dry in a downpour. We provide high-quality backpacks, sleeping bags, pads, stoves and cookware so you don’t have to spend a fortune at REI. Our gear list ensures you have enough clothes for warmth, comfort, and staying dry, but not so many that your pack is too heavy.

    • Food: We pride ourselves in cooking gourmet backcountry meals on all of our trips. You’ll have the opportunity to choose meals such as farm-fresh eggs, bacon & toast, backcountry Shepherd’s Pie, tortellini with garlic-tomato sauce, Indian curried lentils, and African groundnut stew. For the snackers among us, we provide plenty of granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruit. And just wait til dessert! For participants with allergies or dietary concerns (gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant, etc.), our meals are designed to be flexible and we’ll work with you to make sure you can happily eat our culinary delights. Check out our Adventure Dining page!

    • Precipitation: Even if the weather report calls for sunny weather, we always pack in preparation for rain. You’ll have a rain jacket and your guides carry a large waterproof tarp on every Sure Foot trip that can become an impromptu shelter for waiting out rain. (Some of our best cardvgames and conversations have happened under the tarp!) And don’t forget — drizzly weather is perfect to keep us cool on day hikes and creek walks. This all means you will have the opportunity to enjoy the weather, not suffer in it.

  • Temperature: In the spring and fall, we sometimes encounter chilly temperatures in the mornings. In cold weather we ask that you wear non-cotton clothes (such as fleece and nylon) that dry quickly and provide warmth even when wet. By following the Sure Foot gear list, you’ll have enough warm layers (plus gloves and a warm hat) to keep you cozy and safe. Beyond that, we always build a fire whenever possible. And we provide sleeping bags built to keep you warm when it’s 20 degrees outside or warmer. Bottom line? When we enter the woods prepared, the weather may be cold but we don’t have to be.

What should I expect on my next Sure Foot day hike?

  • Every Sure Foot hike is different, but there are some general questions that we will answer below. Always feel free to contact us if your questions are not answered here or on our main Day Hikes page.

How many miles will we be hiking and how long will it take?

  • Every hike is different, but we generally plan our day hikes to take 3-6 hours. We like to estimate our hiking time at one mile per hour. You can find the mileage for your hike on our Day Hikes page.

How difficult is this hike? Can I do it?

  • Please read our trail rating for your hike. This can be found on our Day Hikes page. Only you know your fitness level, but we hope our trail rating can give you the confidence to choose the hike that’s right for you.

How fast do you hike? Can I keep up?

  • Sure Foot day hikes are community adventures in which everyone’s needs are taken into account. Our goal is to set a pace that draws a comfortable middle-ground between that of our fastest hikers and our slowest. We’ll help you find a pace that’s right for you. Your guide always hikes at the rear of the group so no one gets left behind. Hikers in the front of the group stop at every trail junction for a rest break and to let the whole group catch up. Otherwise, we take regular breaks to drink water, have snacks, and to visit with each other.

What should I wear?

  • We recommend participants wear non-cotton wicking fabrics for all of our adventures. Footwear should have a rugged sole – trail running athletic shoes and boots are good options. But do not wear brand new boots! To stay warm, layering is key. Wear multiple layers that you can take off and put on as you get warm or cold. A rain jacket or poncho is also a must.

Why non-cotton clothes?

  • When wet, cotton provides no warmth and actually steals heat from your body. Synthetic, wicking fabrics dry quickly, carry water away from your skin, and provide warmth even when wet. As a result, these fabrics are much safer for wilderness adventures. You can always find synthetic fabrics at thrift stores and discount stores such as Walmart and Target.

Why should I not wear brand new boots?

  • Boots have a rugged, stiff sole and heel cup that must be broken in. Without a slow break-in process, the stiff material often causes painful blisters. We would much rather you wear old footwear than a pair that is right out of the box!

What else should I bring?

  • Bring at least one-liter of water, a snack, and lunch. Wear a small backpack to carry your extra layers of clothing, your rain jacket (if it’s not raining), and your food and water. You might also choose to bring your camera. Your guide will be carrying a first aid kit, insect repellent, and sunscreen.

What should I pack for lunch?

  • If you’re on a full-day hike, we’ll be eating lunch on the trail, so bring a meal that does not have to be heated up. We recommend healthy foods that provide long-term energy. Your guides often carry peanut butter or meat and cheese sandwiches made on whole grain bread, an apple or orange, and some trail mix. Foods high in sugar and fat make the hike more difficult, and we recommend that you leave them at home.

What is the day hike fee for?

  • The fee for your day hike covers our organization of each hike and ensures that each hike has a trained guide who knows your route and is trained in Wilderness First Aid.

Can I physically do this?

  • We hope our trip will challenge you a bit in some way, but we’re not interested in providing an experience that’s physically grueling. We won’t do forced marches (or any marches for that matter!) and we decide together as a group what our goals are for our hikes.

What if I get injured?

  • Though we cannot always avoid injuries, we know how to respond to them.  Though most injuries on Sure Foot trips are minor, guides carry an extensive First Aid Kit and many years of First Responder experience. At least one guide on every Sure Foot trip is trained as a Wilderness First Responder. We also have Professional CPR and Wilderness First Aid certifications. Our guides study your Medical Information Form and plan ahead of time how to respond to emergencies. Our goal is prevention.

I have a disability, accessibility, or other health issue. Can I participate in a Sure Foot adventure?

  • Because our trips are physical endeavors, we do screen participants for medical conditions and physical ability and retain the right to reject participants on the basis of their medical history. However, we will do our best to accommodate you within the framework of our trips. Since safety is our utmost concern, we ask that you provide a full medical history on our Medical Information Form. If we have concerns about having a safe, pleasurable adventure with you, we’ll give you a call and chat. We will not reject your participation without first having a conversation with you.

Can you lead a custom trip just for my company, family, school group, etc?

  • Absolutely! We love leading custom trips for companies, families, groups of friends, schools and religious communities. These trips are fun for us because your group already knows each other and we can design the adventure specifically to your interests. Please contact us and we’ll start the process of designing and pricing your custom trip.

Please explain your trail ratings system in more detail.

  • Our trail ratings are based on our guides’ experience and are meant to help participants choose hikes appropriately. Guides impressions sometimes differ and trail conditions may have changed since our last rating, so please know that our ratings are subjective and only based on our personal knowledge of the trails. Our Sure Foot Hike Rating is based on four aspects: Overall Distance Hiked, Elevation Change, Terrain, and Off the Beaten Path. As you’ll see below, no trail can be fully described by numbers, so we include a 2-3 sentence written description of each trail as part of our rating. Now, we’ll explain each aspect followed by a deeper explanation of the Sure Foot Hike Rating:
    • Overall Distance Hiked: This is round-trip mileage. Trail mileage is almost always more difficult (though more beautiful) than city walking, but you can use urban walks as a gauge for how far you’ve walked in the past.
    • Elevation Change: This scale gives you a feel for how much “up and down” you’ll experience on the hike. In general, a mountain trail will have more elevation change than a creekside trail. However, trails near water might have many “PUDS” (pointless ups and downs) that tire hikers out.
      • 1=totally flat;
      • 2=rolling hills;
      • 3=lots of PUDS, but no extended climbs;
      • 4=some steep, extended uphill portions;
      • 5=the whole hike is steeply uphill and/or downhill.
    • Terrain: Our terrain scale is based on how difficult it is to put one foot in front of the other on the trail. More difficult trails have many roots and rocks and places where hikers must scramble around obstacles. Easier trails have a smooth surface.
      • 1=smooth, hard-packed surface;
      • 2=some roots and/or rocks, but easy to maneuver around – hikers can almost always place their feet on a flat surface;
      • 3=mostly smooth surface, but some areas of scrambling around obstacles is necessary;
      • 4=roots and rocks abound – hikers rarely get a flat surface to step on;
      • 5=this trail has major obstacles – the hiker has to put a great deal of effort into each step.
    • Off the Beaten Path: This scale shows you how accessible the trailhead is. Many Sure Foot hiking destinations require some driving on gravel or dirt surfaces. This scale also incorporates rating how far from urban centers the trailhead is.
      • 1=in the city;
      • 2=outside of the metro area, but divided highway driving only;
      • 3=farther outside the metro area, on paved country roads;
      • 4=trailhead access requires some gravel or dirt Forest Service road driving;
      • 5=requires a significant amount of driving on gravel or dirt Forest Service roads with relatively steep grade.
    • The Sure Foot Hike Rating: This rating incorporates all four of the above aspects, putting more weight on Elevation Change, Terrain, and Overall Distance (since the walking is more difficult than the driving to access the trail). Here are some examples of how hikes might be rated.
      • 1=a short hike on highly manicured paths – suitable for anyone of any age;
      • 2=a short hike with some elevation gain on well-traveled trails – the hike will work up a sweat, but most Americans can complete it without trouble;
      • 3=a 4-5 mile hike on well-traveled, but somewhat rough trails that include moderate elevation gain – active Americans will be tired at the end of the day, but will not be overly winded while hiking;
      • 4=a longer hike on rough terrain with a good deal of elevation change – fit, active Americans will be challenged;
      • 5=quite a bit of uphill and downhill, high mileage on rough terrain – a hike for people with a good deal of experience with cardiovascular exercise and trail miles under their boots.