I’ve been hiking for years. I have a general rule of thumb that I hike without water if I expect the trip is less than an hour and it isn’t too hot.

After that, I’ll bring a bottle of water and a snack or two like a granola bar, a pack of raisins, a small bag of trail mix, or a cheese and crackers package. For longer trips of four hours or more, I will bring more water and more snacks.

Our view we shared with a sandwich at Canyonlands National Park.

Recently, though, we’ve been doing some longer hikes or several short ones where we are hiking over lunchtime. Those snacks didn’t feel right. So, we’ve been bringing a sandwich like peanut butter and jelly and it has changed our hiking style and enjoyment of the trail. My new rule: Bring a sandwich!

Sure, you bring water and snacks like granola bars. But those can be consumed while hiking. A sandwich means you should sit down to unwrap the package and then eat your sandwich while looking around. Maybe eat an apple, chips, or a pack of raisins at the same time. I don’t necessarily mean that a sandwich is the only option for a trail lunch, but it is what works for me.

The view from a picnic table under a tree at Kodachrome Basin State Park.

Hiking tends to mean watching your feet and the path. Is there a rock or root you need to step around? Where do I go next?

Sitting and enjoying a sandwich means you have time to look around and enjoy the view. It can be a reward for reaching the summit or a place under a rock ledge or tree to enjoy the shade for a while.

The break means you can go back to hiking feeling refreshed. You also get protein (peanut butter), some carbohydrates (bread), and maybe a bit of sugar for energy (jam).

It reminds you to stop and look around. You remember that hiking isn’t all about the physical walking and climbing but also being a part of nature. Take time to observe the plants, animals, weather, and geology.

A sandwich by a creek in Zion National Park was relaxing.

It is also time to talk to your hiking partner when it’s quiet versus single file hiking up a trail. You might also share a picnic table or a shadowed area with fellow hikers. You can enjoy a chat versus a quick hello as you pass them going the other way.

Many trails have a destination like a waterfall or view. This can be a great place to sit and eat lunch while enjoying the view. Sometimes it is better to stop off just before or after the destination if that spot is full of fellow hikers taking pictures. Or, a sandwich after your first hike and before the next works well.

A sandwich seems like a little thing, but it has changed my way of hiking. My breaks on the trail are what I remember most. The end of the trail isn’t the goal. Instead, the goal is to enjoy the path.