Having the ability to get into nature, enjoy the crisp, clean air while pushing yourself to summit that mountain or finish the trail is what hiking is all about. But if those aren’t good enough reasons to hike, I’ve got a ton more reasons to go hiking that you’ll want to see.
20 Reasons Why People Need to Hike
1. Be Happier
There are plenty of amazing health benefits everyone gets from hiking, but one of the most noticeable and instant reasons to hike is that it makes you happier! When you’re hiking, you’re getting heavy doses of natural vitamin D from the sunlight and you’re engaged in a workout at the same time.
Both vitamin D and working out are scientifically proven to boost your mood and make you happier. Therefore, hiking is like getting two shots of happiness at once!
2. Great Exercise
If you’re like me, and many people in this world, going to a gym and working out inside the confines of four walls just isn’t your thing. Sure gyms are great for building muscle and staying in shape when you’re short on time or you can’t get outside, but there’s nothing quite like strapping on a backpack and hiking 7 miles up and down a trail with 2,000 feet of incline.
Hiking gets the blood pumping and activates all kinds of muscles you had no idea you used. Hiking is great for building ankle and leg strength, as well as strengthening your core and many other parts of your body. In all honesty, the more you hike, the quicker your hiking body transformation will be.
3. Clear the Mind
There are so many things going on in our lives that it’s tough to truly clear your mind of all the things on, especially the things you can’t control. Next week’s work calendar, how you can help the company succeed, how you’re going to get that next promotion, when to write the next blog article — and so many things — are so tough to entirely clear from your mind.
But hiking helps because it reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels and stimulates blood flow to your brain and other parts of your body, which in turn helps to clear your mind from everything — even if it’s only for a few hours or minutes.
4. Improve Sleep
Speaking of increased blood flow and vitamin D exposure as well as reduced blood pressure and cortisol levels, those are all attributed to getting better natural sleep each night. Plus, you’re probably pushing your body pretty hard and getting a decent workout, which also helps tire the body down so you sleep better.
5. Reduce Stress, Depression & Anxiety
Our fast-paced, hustle-and-bustle society that thrives off likes and shares tends to take a heavy toll on many people, which leads to stress, depression and anxiety. But one of the best reasons to hike is that it helps to reduce all three because it naturally boosts your mood, clears your mind and puts you in a near-meditative state while enjoying the outdoors away from technology.
6. Save Money
While every hiker needs to buy and carry 10 hiking essentials with them at all times, those items along with hiking boots and a few other pieces of hiking gear will be some of the only expenses you incur on the trails. Hiking saves money over time because, after you buy your hiking gear (which should last for a few years), the only thing you may have to purchase is a permit for certain trails.
Long-term backpackers will incur some more expenses because they’ll need more and better gear, but hiking isn’t like playing golf or going out to the bar where you spend money every time. You’ll buy your gear and go for free until you need new gear.
7. Unplug From Technology
Nearly all day every day we look at screens. You may stare at a computer screen for eight hours a day, only glancing away to look at your phone’s screen up to 100 times a day, then you go home and may watch three hours of TV on your television screen.
Repeat this lifestyle Monday through Friday and ramp up the phone and TV times on weekends and you’re staring at a screen for 10 to 15 hours a day. That screen time takes a toll on your eyes, brain, body and mood.
Hiking gives you a few hours when you can completely unplug from every form of technology and keep your phone screen in your pocket, allowing you to unplug and connect with what’s around.
8. Escape the Outside World
Don’t get me wrong, the outside world is phenomenal. If it weren’t for all the technological advancements over the years, we simply wouldn’t have the everyday comforts that we do now. But those everyday comforts need maintaining and it seems like there’s always work to do.
Hiking, whether it’s for a few hours or a few days, presents an escape from the outside world of seemingly constant traffic, horns honking, negative news stories and so many more things that tend to cloud the mind.
9. Connect With the Environment
It should be no surprise that getting outside helps to connect you deeper with the environment. The more you get outside to hike and trek, the more you realize how incredible the earth is and that we must each do our part to preserve it. From the seven Leave No Trace principles to picking up trash on the trail left by others, every little bit you do to keep the earth pristine is another step toward protecting the environment.
10. Enjoy the Outdoors
So many times when you go outside, you aren’t able to truly enjoy it. One of the reasons I moved away from the concrete jungle of South Florida is because there weren’t really any spots left where you could go outside for a hike and enjoy the outdoors without man-made noise or trash.
One of the main reasons to hike is that hiking presents a platform for you to go outdoors, get away from man-made entities and simply enjoy the sights of flowers blooming on the side of a mountain, sounds of birds chirping uninterrupted or the smell of fresh pine needles falling from the trees and landing in the pocket of your jacket.
11. Stimulate Your Brain
One of the best natural brain stimulators is problem-solving. Whether it’s solving a problem at work, on your car or anything else, solving a problem requires deep thought and analyzation, which is one of the best forms of brain stimulation that exists,
When you’re hiking, you have to solve problems constantly. From how much water and food to take with you, determining the time needed for a hike based on the elevation gain and length of the trail, navigating forks in the trail when there’s no clear indication of which way you’re supposed to go and figuring out how you’re going to push yourself to summit the mountain or finish the hike.
Whether you realize it or not, all of those are problems you must solve on the fly, which keeps your brain engaged and stimulated throughout much of the hike. It’s these issues at hand that help your brain filter out the rest of the world and concentrate solely on the journey of the hike.
12. Learn New Things
Going back to the constant problem-solving situations I talked about that stimulate your brain, all those situations teach you how to navigate the trails, prepare and plan ahead for each hike and teach your brain to react to situations more quickly. Hiking doesn’t just stimulate your brain, it trains it to learn new things as well.
13. Embrace the Unknown
Many times we pick our hiking trails based on the photos our friends have shown us or that we’ve seen online. That’s certainly why I decided to hop on a plane to Machu Picchu and hike the 10,000-foot mountain that overlooks the ancient Inca Ruins. That’s why I drove from Arches National Park to Silverton, Colorado to see the aqua blue lake floating in the sky called Ice Lake.
But I also go on a fair share of hikes that I’ve never seen pictures of. Of course, I still plan ahead, prepare for the hike and know where the trail leads. But this method of hiking into the unknown is what led me to discover amazing trails with spectacular scenery, like the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and Mount Fremont Lookout Trail in Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park.
I’ll never stop looking for amazing hikes based on the photos I’ve seen, but every once in awhile it’s nice to go in blind and not know what you’re going to see. That’s part of the fun for me.
14. Get Some Fresh Air
It doesn’t matter if you live in the city or the suburbs, when you step outside to get some truly fresh air from Mother Nature, you can feel the difference immediately. The oxygen outdoors, far away from human civilization, feels purer, tastes a bit sweeter and leaves you with a refreshing feeling that can only be matched by breathing in pure oxygen.
15. Experience Breathtaking Views
Sometimes it doesn’t take much of a hike to experience breathtaking views, like the extraordinary Tipsoo Lake in Mount Rainier National Park. Other times it can take a few miles before you see a sight that takes your breath away, like the journey to Colorado’s Ice Lake Basin. Whether you’re hiking through the flats of the Florida Springs, on top of the ancient ruins of Belize or somewhere in between, hiking always provides breathtaking views along the way.
16. Develop New Friendships
Hiking is made up of one huge community that shares the same interest in the outdoors and, many times, the same beliefs of why we like to spend time outdoors and how to protect it for the coming generations. With the introduction of Facebook pages designed to bring the hiking community closer to sites like MeetUp and REI Events, finding friends who enjoy hiking has never been easier!
17. Slow Down Life
Sometimes you need to slow life down a bit. Hiking is the perfect way to do that because it gets rid of all the outside distractions and constant feeling that you must stare at a screen. In turn, it connects you with nature and gives you the ability to slow down your life for a few hours.
18. Push Your Limits
It’s easier to give up than to push your limits to succeed. If pushing your limits was easy, everyone in the world would be successful at whatever they wanted to do. But for some reason, pushing your limits on the trail seems a bit easier than pushing yourself in other aspects of life.
Maybe it’s because you know an incredible Arch is waiting for you at the end of the trail. Maybe it’s because hiking provides so many immediate benefits that your mind can push your body more easily. Maybe it’s because hiking is the ultimate payoff sport. The only way you can lose is if you don’t push yourself to complete the trail, so losing to ourselves by not finishing the trail isn’t an option.
19. Feel Alive
Whether it’s hiking to an aqua blue river on the banks of the Niagara River in Canada, hiking up and down thousands of hand-laid stones in Machu Picchu, hiking the city streets to get the best view of downtown Seattle and nearby Mount Rainier or anywhere else in the world, hiking makes you feel alive because you’re accomplishing your goals with only the help of your own two feet.
20. Experience True Freedom
Life is full of rules. You must turn on your car’s blinkers when turning. You can only take an hour for lunch. You can’t speed or you risk getting a ticket. You have to pay the electric bill or the power company shuts it off. But on the trails, you can experience true freedom.
Sure, there are guidelines to live by when you’re hiking, but you’re ultimately responsible for your own survival on the trails. If you’re going on a multi-day hike, you must carry food, water and camping supplies with you, learn how to safely start a campfire on your own and, ultimately, survive without the comforts of modern society. If that isn’t true freedom, I don’t know what is.