Many consider a hike just a walk in the woods. And it is. But it can be so much more. The thing about it is that it can be done anywhere, anytime, any season and with very little planning or equipment needed. It is about the ultimate in simplistic activities, but one that offers amazing returns. From inner peace to an effective workout or even a science lesson, a hike is just what we all need. And the only things needed to achieve these benefits are comfy shoes and water.

Need to put your problems in perspective? Head out into the woods and observe the life and death struggle of creation. Notice the beauty of nature. Yes, even stop and smell the ubiquitous roses. And don't only head out on the most perfect of spring and fall days. Each season brings new discoveries and experiences-even on the same trail. You can view and more fully understand the cycle of nature if you switch it up a bit.

Spring: Cooler temperatures, flowers and trees budding, animals peeking out and everyone feeling a renewed sense of life... Hiking during this time of year can't be beat.

Summer: Hot; humid; animal, insect and plant activity at its peak. If you can stand it, there is so much to appreciate and learn.

Fall: Wow, the beauty! Colors galore, squirrels frantically gathering the last of the nuts. And, yes, the more comfortable temperatures certainly add to the enjoyment.

Winter: Not many people do winter hikes (and therein lies a large part of its appeal) unless you consider the uphill climb to sled down again. Don't deny yourself the experience of empty trees and paths and the almost eerie silence of the paths-except that of the snow crunching beneath your feet.

As I said earlier, hiking is an activity that can be done anywhere. And your Hamilton County back yard offers a huge variety of terrain, difficulty levels and views. Explore them. Take your kids. Work up a sweat or work out your problems. From a damp Morse Lake trail to a guided bird watch or nature jaunt at Strawtown Koteewi Park or even an urban hike to see Carmel's art and sculptures along the Monon Trail or the unique architecture in Noblesville, we are lucky to have such varied paths and people among us. Venture out and meet them.

For more outdoor exploration ideas, browse this list of parks, trails and activities.