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Every time I go walking or hiking, I generally spend most of my time looking down to make sure I don't step on a snake or hole or dog poop. I don't do it consciously, it just happens. Obviously, I miss out on a lot of birds and small animals up in the trees and I'd like to see how other people cope with the urge to avoid obstacles and just enjoy their surroundings.

How can I go walking and hiking without constantly looking down?

  • I don't really get the question, if you don't want too look down just look up! Sorry but no better advice over here... If you like to see your sourroundings go for it and be curious - it's not possible to look down then ;) – Wills Jun 19 '15 at 14:08
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    @Wills it's a very easy habit to get into actually :) not all habits are easy to break without advice! – Aravona Jun 19 '15 at 14:13
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    This question makes me laugh, because I was an adult the first time I moved away from the mountains to a big city with side walks, aside from having to retrain my legs to walk on flat concrete, I also had to train my brain to take my eyes off of my feet and look straight ahead. I'd spent my entire childhood walking to school along forrest paths, stepping over roots and rocks, looking up made me paranoid that I was going to trip over something. – ShemSeger Jun 19 '15 at 15:14
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This may seem kind of obvious, but I use a scanning technique. I like to look at the next 10-20 feet, look up on all sides, look down, and then look up. It's a lot like driving, scan your mirrors, then your environment, then your dash or whatever you need to, and then repeat. It does take mental purpose, so you will have to train yourself.

I like to scan ahead, look up at one area, say my right, scan, and then look to the left. Mostly it is second nature.

  • As someone who used to very much look down when walking (I trip over my own feet / curbs a lot...!) scanning around, forcing yourself to look up at something high / in the distance I found very good at eventually sort of levelling out where I look - not saying I don't look down as I walk still, sometimes you need to :P +1 this definitely works in my experience. – Aravona Jun 19 '15 at 6:48
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    This is an important skill to learn and get into the habit of, it's very easy to blindly follow an animal trail into a dead end if your not constantly aware of your surroundings, like you said I don't think there is any more trick to it then, get into the habit of looking up! at first you do it consciously after time it becomes second nature. – user2766 Jun 19 '15 at 8:13
  • By practicing scanning, not only do you look around more - but I even tend to hike faster. I can see the scenery and plan my footsteps out to step around rocks that would otherwise trip me. After a while, you know in X steps you need to side step right without really looking down, and can enjoy the critters scampering across the trail in front of you. – Ramrod Dec 22 '16 at 7:14
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I find this is something I do when I can't see much of the scene in front of me at once. This is normally because I'm not far from the person in front of me. Therefore, my advice is: walk in front. Or, leave a big gap between you and the person in front of you. This is perhaps somewhat antisocial, but personally I quite like to walk alone about half the time. It lets me focus on my surroundings a bit more.

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The trick to be able memorize the immediate trail ahead of you and pick your footfalls several steps before you get to them.

It's the same as offroad driving. You can't see over your hood, and hanging out your window only lets you see one side of your vehicle. You have to memorize the features on the ground ahead and know where your wheels are so you can avoid those features when they disappear from view.

The same can be done while hiking. While you have your head up enjoying the scenery, make mental notes of the trail ahead, if you know where you're feet are, then you can learn to step over obstacles and avoid trip hazards without having to look down and watch your feet the whole time.

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I hike with my feet slightly turned upwards against the direction they are moving. This prevents stubbing or anything abrupt and lets me get a firm grip on the firmament whether I see it or not. Also, after some thought, I tend to place my foot from the back-outside to front-inside and let it settle a bit until I feel it catch and then apply weight; for places with loose or jagged terrain, or simply where I want to move with the ground that is really helpful for me.

Personally rather than scan, I sort of observe, which lets me see beneath and above, then too I listen since a lot of snakes I can hear or catch their motion visually.

To me the ground really isn't overly concerning, if I can see the challenges in general, and don't have to be concerned with the nitty-gritty of minor debris than I am golden.

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seems to me if you're hiking for distance, then watching where you're going is really important; but if you're there to see, listen, smell, etc., just slow down. Animals don't move quickly, they pause, look around, smell, listen, then move on. Birds are always looking around for threats & food. Slowing down is good- you may not cover a lot of ground, but it will be a richer experience.

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Ha ha. You can't. At least not off a leveled surface. I've struggled with this too. If I look down I miss the views; if I look up I trip. So I look ahead for a place to stop and enjoy. Then I march on, eyes on the rocks and detritus in the trail, until I reach my looky place.

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How can I go walking and hiking without constantly looking down?

When I am walking in a city such as NYC or Las Vegas, I do not look down. I am looking right and left for cars, people and dark alleys. But I think you are correct when in the wild to look down more than other places. As Cody Lundin says foot placement is very important. When stepping on rocks, up and over logs, in and out of mudholes and through high grass, you just have to know where you are placing your feet. There is only one way to know, you travel slowly and deliberately and do not place your feet in any spot that you have not looked at first.

Sure, that means cutting your speed down but I do not see any other way. We hike in pairs so that the front guy checks the ground out and generally only looks 15 to 20 ft ahead. He is clearing the way for the guy behind him who scans the trees and listens, getting an overview. Depending on where you are of course we do not relax and smell the coffee until we reach the destination. If you want to look around and enjoy nature, stop! We never do that moving.

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