Do you ever think hiking doesn’t get much respect anymore?

Wait, better question: Remember that hiking film that showed at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, then went viral after all the magazines shared it on Facebook?

Me neither. But hell, a couple weekends ago, I was out on a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park trying to get a photo of a specific rock formation, and I realized I was hiking. Not mountain biking or approaching a rock climb or ice climb, or skiing or snowboarding, or trail running, or really anything above sub-gnar. But it was … fun. Fun? Yeah, it was nice.

Fact: Hiking is actually just walking, only on dirt or rocks or other uneven surfaces. Or walking where an animal larger than you can kill and eat you.

Which doesn’t get so much love when it has to compete with more XTREME sports in the outdoor realm. Even though you can take your shirt off to do it, and it was basically responsible for Desert Solitaire, lots of Thoreau’s material, and all of John Muir’s writing, and thusly the Sierra Club.

Also, just FYI, before you get all arrogant about walking to Starbucks to get a latte, remember that hiking was the predecessor to walking. Because there were no sidewalks when your ancestors were out trying to take down a saber-toothed tiger with a spear. They hiked, then later there were roads and sidewalks for walking, and later, there was Starbucks.

Some other facts about hiking:

  • Hiking has been known to increase the satisfaction level of many types of freeze dried food, as well as several flavors of energy bars, up to 35 percent.
  • Hiking was the inspiration for skiing and snowshoeing. Actually, the rage induced by postholing while hiking was probably the inspiration for those two things, but whatever.
  • Hiking often happens spontaneously to mountain bikers.
  • Unlike other XTREME sports like rock climbing and heli-skiing, you don’t need hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth of gadgets and shiny things to hike. If you have shoes, a Snickers bar, and a bottle of water, you can go hiking. Also, if you only have shoes and no Snickers bar or bottle of water, you can still go hiking.
  • If you do want to spend a bunch of money on hiking gadgets, you can totally do that too.
  • Bears basically spend their entire lives hiking, and bears are rad.
  • You can sometimes see bears while you are hiking, which can be good or bad.
  • If you have no idea what the hell you’re doing or where to go, there are literally dozens of books about hiking. Try googling “hiking books” and you should find a shitload of them.
  • Some hikes end at rock climbing destinations, like El Capitan and Castleton Tower. If you are not a rock climber, hikes that do not end at rock climbing destinations will probably be more interesting.
  • Most popular hikes are on trails. You do not necessarily need a trail to go hiking. If you don’t have a trail, you are “bushwhacking,” which is a lot like hiking, but slower and less fun.
  • Hikes range in distance from under 100 feet to thousands of miles. If you have never been hiking before, you should start at the lower end of the scale instead of, say, the Pacific Crest Trail, which requires more skills and sometimes quitting your job.

If you are interested in fun, or nature, or exercise, or breathtaking views, or all four, there’s a good chance you might like hiking. Give it a try today!


30 replies on “Hiking Is Cool

  • Kevin Sweet

    Yes! I fell in love with hiking after moving to Colorado and it’s almost all I think about in the summer months. I’ll be doing my first thru-hike this year. Hiking is seriously the best.

  • art

    I live in Washington, DC and I don’t have a car so my ability to get outdoors is limited to where I can get to by Metro/Bus/Train. Luckily, I can walk out my backdoor and half a block to an entrance to the Soapstone Valley Trail of Rock Creek Park, which links to the Western Ridge Trail, which gets me…somewhat…out of the city for a little while. I can also get to some other trails and get some hiking, or trail-running, in and get away from people and the city and cars and stress for a little while. Hiking does not get the love it deserves from more extreme people perhaps because the extremities (my new name for extreme peeps) have a need to get the belly-tickle of excitement in their outdoorsy activities. Hiking is almost meditative. So please try it! And take off your damn headphones!

  • Jeff Hester (@theSoCalHiker)

    Hiking IS cool. It may not be sexy. The viral GoPro video-of-the-moment probably won’t cover anyone’s awesome hike. But hiking can take you places that few others will ever see — except maybe in photos. And photos never do it justice.

    Hike on!

  • Kate C

    I know people who would argue that shoes are not necessary for hiking.

    Also, bears are not rad. They are Godless Killing Machines. Everybody knows this.

  • Wolf

    Hiking off trail (bushwacking) around here often is done in the pursuit of walking up mountains, which is pretty cool, and is sometimes known as mountaineering. In Montana when you’re hiking up a mountain you might have to do some rock climbing to continue your hiking pursuit. If that happens we don’t call it rock climbing though. We say there is a “steep scramble” or we use some other innocuous phrase like “class 4/5” to describe the deadly technical rock climbing on the side of a mountain (most likely on loose rock).

    Hiking up mountains might be a good way for rock climbing-non-hikers to learn to enjoy the best of both worlds.

  • jaypeery

    Hiking is cool! Thanks for the reminder. Planning my next hike right now (my car is in the shop). I agree, bears are rad. No they’re not, they are SUPER RAD.

  • Abomb

    You’d be suprised how many people are hiking the PCT these days without any prior backpacking experience. It’s turning into the AT…

    As an avid hiker, I’ll admit hiking is not that extreme in comparison to the more adrenaline pumping outdoor endeavors. But something keeps drawing me back more than climbing, mountain biking or anything else has. I think it’s the pure simplicity of it and solitude it can bring. Most other outdoor sports just require so much stuff that kinda gets between me and why I go outdoors. It always seems to me like 90% of climbers want the climb to be two steps out of the car door and canyoneers are simply rappel junkies…

  • Jeff Hester

    Yes, hiking is cool. A hike may never get featured on a viral video-of-the-moment reel, but it does give you an easy way to escape the grind and see sights that few others will see.

    Hiking lets me get somewhere on my own two feet. Somewhere that is shared with relatively few others. Hiking lets me walk in the footprints of giants like Muir, and see vistas that haven’t really changed in 100s or even 1000s of years.

    Most of all, hiking lets me press the “reset button” on life, and remember what really matters.

    Yep. Hiking is very cool.

  • Velosopher

    It’s amazing how often your thought cycles mirror mine (or is it vice versa?). I’ve been nursing my knees through a bad stretch this spring, and had to give up riding and running for a short time. During that time, I remembered that I used to live for hiking. Now, it just seems… slow… to me. But I went for a long walk this week, and was suprisingly chipper all day. I suspect that back in caves, folks like me, who’d reached middle age (what, 30, in those days?) opted out of the run-down-the-antelope hunts and changed their expertise to hike-to-the-lair-and-kill-the-sabertooth fights. Or maybe just the gathering of nuts and berries.

    There’s too much extremism in outdoors activities today. Just walking around the block is a pretty cool thing, if I pay attention.

  • Jesse

    This post is great. Not only is it hilarious but also it touches on both bears (not surprisingly) and Paleo-Indians. Which makes me think of one of my favorite Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey:

    “When I was a kid my favorite relative was Uncle Caveman. After school we would go play in his cave and every once in a while he would eat one of us. It wasn’t until later that we found out he was a bear.”

  • Kristi

    Hiking is awesome. Vistas and mountain tops – you put yourself there – you and your two feet – carrying what you need to survive on your back. Plus, hikers have sexy calf muscles.

    Bears are so not rad. They will eat your food given the opportunity.

    Hiking in the winter is even more awesome – no bugs, no people and the chance to descend a trail in snowshoes on top of fluffy snow – It pretty much kicks butt.

    Bears sleep for a long time in the winter. They are very rad during those months.

    • greg petliski

      I can tell youre a real hiker because you fear bears not because they are (slightly) dangerous, but because they will (certainly) eat your food.

  • mims

    I’ll take a long, tall, clear alpine lake with out ice as the destination of my hike. happy to fly my freak flag as a hiker, even in vibram five fingers (so when you are swimming no need to worry about steppping on fishing hooks).

  • Bob

    I love hiking. I like to smell the spruce in Maine, touch the saguaro in Arizona, eat the sage at Grand Canyon, or stick my hand in Stony Creek in Pennsylvania. I trail run too sometimes but it’s when hiking that I truly pay attention to the trees, rocks, water, or desert.
    I saw a bear only once when hiking. It was a sub adult and it hauled ass down a tree and away when it heard my friend and I. I’d like to say that it would be rad to see a grizzly while hiking in Yellowstone but I don’t think it would.

  • Alicia

    Sometimes an alpine climb turns into a “hike with all your alpine crap” when 2 miles up the trail the conditions suck a little more than you would like them to. Maybe I should start doing something different on my vacations, like hiking with LESS CRAP.

  • Junaid Dawud

    WARNING!! Hiking and backpacking are habit forming and trying it even once may lead to lifelong dependency which may include: more frequent hiking and backpacking; hiking and backpacking for longer and longer distances in search of that next fix; uncontrollable urges to hike or backpack; listlessness and agitation when hiking is withheld; nostalgicization of pain; more hiking.

  • Stephen Martindale

    Have you considered that the the aspect of hiking that makes it an unsuitable subject for a viral video anecdote might be the very thing that makes hiking cool?

  • Abzug

    Your part about the shoes reminds me of one of my favorite Abbey quotes “A journey into the wilderness is the freest, cheapest, most nonprivileged of pleasures. Anyone with two legs and the price of a pair of army surplus combat boots may enter.” as well as the one of his about how walking makes you live longer by prolonging time because it takes forever to get anywhere. Loved this write up.

  • greg petliski

    If hiking ever has a moment to be cool enough for gopro’ing, it might be when youre hiking with 80 lbs of food and tools to go chop down trees and build bridges out of em, so others hikers can hike on them.

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