31 Reasons Why You Should Start Hiking

Have you been looking for a new hobby or activity to help you grow as a person? I would urge you to consider hiking. I feel that taking up hiking has, in many ways, changed my life for the better. Based on my personal experience, I’ve come up with 31 reasons why you should consider hiking as an activity or passion.

Improve Your Physical Fitness

Most people would likely cite physical fitness as a good reason to start hiking. Indeed, as you carry a heavy load up and down rugged terrain, hiking will help you strengthen various muscle groups, including your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. This type of activity also improves your cardiovascular system, lowers your risk of heart diseases, and decreases blood pressure. Carrying extra weight over uneven terrain also strengthens your core and improves your balance.

Hiking is an excellent way to get in shape and lose weight. A man who weighs 170 pounds and carries a 20-lb backpack will burn approximately 529 calories per hour hiking over uneven terrain. You can do the math – a six- or seven-hour hike will help you burn more than 3,000 calories!

Learn How To Challenge Yourself

Hiking is not easy. Even during a day hike, you may encounter some severe climbs that make you start to breathe heavily, cause your legs to ache, and make you want to stop and rest. And when you are carrying a heavy pack, the desire to stop grows even greater.

This is where you learn to push yourself past what you are capable of. When you feel like you can’t make it up the next climb, you can challenge yourself to make that climb. When you want to stop and rest after 3 hours of hiking, you can challenge yourself to go one more mile.

And when you do meet your challenge, you will not have only grown as a hiker, but as a person. The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from finishing a tough hike can serve as the foundation for future hikes and different challenges you may face in life.

Experience The Outdoors

A great way to learn to love and appreciate the outdoors is to spend a day or more hiking through the forest, or along mountain passes, or on an ocean beach.

You will get the chance to practice Leave No Trace, and not only show respect for the outdoors and wildlife, but also start to understand why they are principles that hikers should adhere to and respect.

Spend More Time With Friends And Family

One of the great pleasures of my life since I began hiking has been the time I have been able to spend with my family.

My hikes usually include at least one of my brothers, or one of my sons, or both. We’ve hiked mountains and oceans shores together, it’s been a great way to connect and enjoy each other’s company.

My son and I on the Washington Coast

Learn Survival Techniques

On hikes, you get the chance to learn some vital skills that might help you in a survival situation. You learn how to find and filter clean water, prepare appropriately for adverse weather conditions, how to read a map and simple orientation skills, and even build a shelter to protect you from the elements.

You will also learn how to repair your gear, make smart decisions when faced with different obstacles, and perhaps how to build a fire with minimal fire starting equipment.

Travel More

Most of us likely have a good hiking trail or two within a few miles of our homes, but if you really want to spread your wings as a hiker, you’ll probably want to explore different parts of your area, state, or even different countries!

After you’ve hiked some of the great trails in your area, you’ll naturally want to branch out – maybe hike along the ocean, or some rain forest trails. You’ll start reading about trails in other parts of the world that call out to you – and before you know it, you are traveling to new places, experiencing different parts of the world.

Get Away From Your Screens

Want to know one of the most underrated parts of a remote hiking trail? You can’t get reception for your cell phone! While this might cause some people to start hyperventilating, for others it is a true escape from the crazy, hectic world that we live in.

There is a true liberation in not looking down at your screen every other minute, or sitting down for lunch, and instead of looking at your phone, looking out over a beautiful meadow.

Find Great New Places Near You

While you can certainly become a world traveler as a hiker, you can also learn about great new places to explore near you.

For example, I learned a couple of years ago about a short hiking trail up to the Stevens Lakes on the Idaho and Montana border. After hiking it and finding beautiful twin lakes at the top of a ridge, I was so happy to have found a great hike near to my home.

Now when I want to take a quick overnight hike, Stevens Lakes is on my short list.

Stevens Lakes Trail, Idaho

Learn About Conservationism

As a hiker, you learn a lot about doing more with less. For example, you know that you can’t take your kitchen with you, so you make simple, healthy(-ish) meals that you will be more likely to finish. Also, you are hiking, rather than driving, to engage in your activity. Less driving is better for our planet. And, you are practicing Leave No Trace, which means you do all you can so preserve the environment around you.

The point of this is simple – hiking requires a minimalist, simple approach to activity and recreation – one that is much more harmonious with the world around us than most other activities and hobbies.

Be Happier

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

John Muir

One thing a hiker receives out on the trail is happiness. This happens for several different reasons.

First, physical activity is a proven way to relieve stress. But hiking goes a step further and allows you to be outside in nature as you exercise. This is a double dose of stress relief. Second, hiking is a great, low-impact cardiovascular activity. It can burn a lot of calories and doesn’t put a large amount of stress on your joints.

Finally, hiking can provide a boost to your mental health. Being outside, in nature, and conquering a challenging hike can be a huge morale boost.

Become Part Of A Community

One thing you hear from many hikers, especially thru-hikers, is the sense of community that comes with meeting people on the trail. Besides practicing good trail etiquette and following rules of courtesy, you get the chance to walk or camp next to like-minded people.

Even if you are not a social butterfly, you still can contribute to the community by submitting helpful trail reports, practicing Leave No Trace, and donating to local trail associations or conservation groups.

Become A Gear Junkie

Let’s face it – gear is cool. You don’t need the best, most ultralight gear in the world to be a hiker, but it sure is fun to at least see the different gear available in the world of hiking and backpacking.

When I went on my first multi-day hike, I was encouraged to use a hammock instead of a tent. So I did some research about hammocks, found out their benefits, and the accessories I would need to get the most out of the experience. This kindled my interest in finding other pieces of gear, whether it was backpacks, sleeping bags, or hiking shoes.

As you become more of a hiker, you will naturally look for gear that enhances your hiking experiences. You’ll compare cost and benefits, find what’s right for you, and what you absolutely can do without. It’s a fun part of becoming a hiker.

Gear Is Cool!

It’s Easy To Do

Got a decent backpack and some decent shoes? Are you able to pack a good lunch and some water? Have some sunscreen?

Then you are ready to hike! If you want to start hiking, you can easily start with a good day-hike with the items you already have in your home. While most serious hikers start to accumulate gear to help them go on longer and more diverse hiking trips, you can start with a very simple setup for day hikes to find out if you like hiking. Hopefully you will, and you can start to expand your setup to do even more.

It’s Inexpensive

Yes, you can spend hundreds of dollars for your perfect hiking setup. But you can also start hiking with as little as a decent backpack and a good pair of shoes. Once you have those items, plus water and a little bit of food, you can tackle any short day-hike in your area.

The main requirement is the right attitude and the willingness to walk for a while in nature. That’s it – that’s all it takes to become a passionate hiker.

Reduce Stress

I mentioned how hiking reduces stress earlier, but wanted to touch on it some more. Being in nature can boost your mood and improve mental health. According to a study performed at Stanford University, spending time outdoors reduces stress, calms anxiety, and can lead to a lower risk of depression.

Doctors have even prescribed spending time in nature because of its benefits to mental health. Hiking can help you relieve your anxiety by quieting your mind and allowing you to spend more time in a meditative state. Sometimes, you can’t help but meditate as you walk along, letting your mind go blank and just concentrating on your breathing and next steps.

There Are Thousands Of Trails For You To Explore

Hiking never gets old – there are so many different trails to explore that you can literally hike thousands of miles without ever taking the same step twice.

I have mentioned before that I live in the Pacific Northwest. Within several hours from my front door, I have the option of hiking in the Cascade Mountains, the wide-open Palouse, the rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula, or along the Pacific Ocean. I can hike around Mount Rainier and Mount Hood in the same week.

Regardless of where you live, there are so many places available to you to explore as you start your hiking journey.

Clear Your Mind

A hiking trip is a way to completely remove yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally – from your everyday life and its different challenges. I’ve often found it difficult to focus on the details of my life at home when I am on the trail.

And that is the point. If you are in need of getting away from the challenges of your everyday life, if only for a couple of days, then a hiking trip is a great way to clear your mind and give yourself a break. Sometimes you need an escape, and hiking can provide that.

Overcome Your Fears

The world can be a big and intimidating place. For some people, hiking into the wilderness, hours from civilization and safety, can be a scary prospect. Sometimes, it’s the idea of camping on a mountainside that intimidates a person. Or, it might just be the sheer length and difficulty of a hike that might cause one to doubt themselves.

If you want to get into the habit of facing and conquering your fears, hiking is a great way to do it. By completing a difficult hiking trip, you will gain a world of confidence – something that you can hopefully apply to other fears you might have.

See Wildlife In Their Natural Habitat

If you love nature and animal life, taking up hiking is a great way to connect an existing interest with a new one. Hikers continually report seeing deer, bear, birds and other wildlife on the trail.

So long as you show the proper respect to wildlife, you can feel good about observing some amazing animals in their natural habitat. Some things that every hiker should practice with regards to wildlife:

  • Observe From a Distance – Respect wildlife and try to not to startle or surprise
  • Don’t Feed Wildlife/Properly Store Your Food – Feeding wild life will bring them closer to you and other humans, which increases the chances of a dangerous interaction. It also teaches animals that humans are a source of food, which can lead to dangerous interaction. And if an animal such as a bear attacks a human due to close interaction, it may have to be killed. Don’t feed the animals!
  • Make Noise When You Hike – Try to talk to your hiking partners, or yell “Hey Bear!” every few minutes to warn animals of your presence, so they aren’t startled and possibly attack you.
  • Follow Leave No Trace – This includes properly disposing of your waste.

Create Memories That Will Last Forever

Even when it’s difficult, a hiking trip can create lasting memories. On a hike to Spider Gap, we hit a brutal climb that gained over 2000 feet of elevation in less than 2 miles. It was difficult! But when we hit the top of the climb and sat down for lunch, we had a view of Spider Meadow that was stunning – and well worth the pain we had just experienced!

A view of Spider Meadow after a brutal climb…

I’ll always remember that stretch of the trail and the satisfaction I had felt after getting past it, and the rewarding view that was there for us to enjoy.

I promise you that if you go on a hiking trip, whether with friends or by yourself, you will create memories that will stay with you throughout your life.

Start Family Traditions

Every year, I go on at least one hike with a brother. It’s a great thing that we share this interest and can enjoy our time together on the trail. It is something we look forward to every year – and hopefully will for years more to come.

You may not have a family member that is that motivated to start hiking – if that is the case, start them out with something simple. Hopefully there is a short but stunning hike nearby you can drag them to and where they might just catch the hiking bug.

I can guarantee – hiking with family creates great memories and stronger bonds with your family. It’s something you can do on a recurring basis and it will become part of what you do as a family.

Hike With Family!

Become a Better Cook

Granted, at the end of a long day of hiking, almost any food tastes good. So the need to create a great menu of hiking food might not be a vital one. But hiking does require you to become a bit creative with meal planning and preparation.

Some hikers prefer freeze-dried, instant food that only requires that you add water, and that’s fine. But I happen to enjoy preparing my own meals for a hiking trip. I try to balance the calorie/oz ratio with getting as much flavor as possible out of my meals. Sometimes I hit, sometimes I miss (I wouldn’t recommend instant mashed potatoes, for example…). But it might give you a real chance to grow as a cook.

Learn How To Plan

While a simple, 4- to 5-mile hike might not require much planning, a multi-day hike will require a good deal of planning for the sake of your safety, logistics, and time.

As you prepare for a hike, you will have to sort out your food, your clothing, the length of the trail, how to get there, what route you are going to take, what obstacles and hazards you might have to come across, and much more.

You will learn how to put together a plan of action for your hike – a skill that could be of benefit to you outside of your hiking life. I’ve put together a Complete Guide To Planning The Perfect Hiking Trip. Hopefully it helps you plan your own hiking trip!

Recenter Your Life

We all need a passion – something we can use as a central focus in our life, or at least something that can provide balance. Hiking can be a huge part of your life, and to good effect.

Having something you are passionate about and that provides an escape can help you recenter your life. Perhaps hiking becomes a major part of your life that you build your life around. Perhaps it is one of several activities that you use to maintain balance. Either way, you can center your life more effectively with a good passion – like hiking!

Figure Out Ways To Solve Your Problems

You may use hiking trips as a way to unwind and just forget about your problems. That’s totally fine. I think that hiking is a great way to hit a semi-meditative state if you just stay quiet and just focus on your breathing and walking.

However, because you are relatively alone on the trail, you might take the time to really consider some problems you have and how to solve them. Hiking in the wilderness can provide clarity of thought that could prove invaluable as you work through different issues you face.

Learn A New Skill

Hiking is a skill! It’s more than just walking – it is a lifestyle and a skill that can be learned and improved upon. You will get better at climbing up mountain trails, traversing difficult terrain, and building stamina and a stronger body.

You will learn the tips and tricks of the hiking trade, so to speak. You’ll learn how to set up a tent or hammock, how to layer clothing properly, and how to collect and filter water.

There are so many cool little tricks and hacks that you learn as a hiker – things that can help you throughout your life.

Start A Geocaching Hobby

Geocaching is, effectively, a treasure hunt using GPS. Participants use a GPS-enabled device to navigate to a certain set of coordinates and then attempt to find a geocache container hidden at that location. There is usually a logbook with the geocache so you can add your name and experience.

You simply can download a Geocaching app to your phone, and you will be surprised with how many locations are near your home. What’s really cool, however, is that there are geocache locations in some pretty exotic locations, including on hiking trails. So you can combine a couple of hobbies at once if you geocache when you hike!

Find Out Who You Are And What You Are Capable Of

We all can use a jolt of self-confidence. Hiking is a great way of helping you build self-confidence and find out who you are and what you are capable of. If you hike long enough, you will have to push yourself mentally as well as physically.

Successfully planning and completing a hiking trip is a great way to find out something about yourself. You’ll learn that you can push yourself beyond what you thought you could do. You will learn that you can spend several days in the wilderness and survive – and thrive.

Wake Up When The Sun Comes Up

Do you like waking up early, or can you sleep in until 10am if left to your own devices? Well, if you take up hiking, I can guarantee that you will learn to wake up early and appreciate the fact that when the sun comes up, so do you.

Waking up early gives you a chance to see some beautiful stuff. You’ll see the sun coming over mountaintops. You’ll maybe see more wildlife out and about. And you’ll appreciate being able to start early and get more miles on the trail. And that’s something you can take with you off the trail – more productive people usually wake up earlier in the day.

Have Real Conversations With Others

I’m not a big talker. I don’t necessarily appreciate social gatherings. But when I am on the trail, I find myself more at ease and more willing to have great conversations with my hiking partners, who usually are family members. It’s a very rewarding benefit of hiking.

Start A New Career

You may find yourself loving hiking so much that you want to make it or the outdoors a central focus of your life. You may even wonder if you can make a living based on your hiking/outdoors passion.

There are so many ways you can make this a reality, including:

  • You can start your own blog
  • Start your own YouTube channel
  • Design a new hiking product, or improve upon an existing piece of gear
  • Become a wilderness guide
  • Work with the Forest Service or National Park Service
  • Work for an outdoor gear company


There are so many reasons to start hiking. It is a great hobby/activity that can become a rewarding part of your life. You can become healthier, happier, more well-rounded, and more resourceful as you hike more. I invite you to take the leap and start hiking. You wont’ regret it!

Happy Trails!

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