45 Reasons To be a Hiker – Part I
As if you needed a reason to hike — but maybe your friends, family, or co-workers do. So, if they ask, here’s a list of reasons why you hike (and why they should, too).
1. Hiking is as easy or hard as you want it to be.
Does the thought of trudging up a hot mountainside crush your spirit? Does the idea of inching along a non-technical route bore the heck out of you? When you’re out there solo, you can control your pace and the difficulty of the trail. There are trails to match every intensity, from rail trails and dirt roads to scrambles. To further customize your outing, you can take it leisurely or trail run to the summit and back. Want to go with a group? Choose people who match the intensity you’re aiming for and set the pace expectation before you get to the trailhead.
2. Hiking can give you a reputation as the “adventure guru” in your social circle.
Ready for an ego boost? Start hiking. With the knowledge you’ll gain of the area and the best sights to see in the wild, your friends may start flocking to you to get your expert opinion on anything from weekend outings to hikes that’ll impress a first date.
3. Hiking helps you feel like you’re living in your own a nature documentary.
Track animals. Identify flora. Walk through landscapes changed by weathering and shifting crusts. You could watch all of this on tv, but why wish you were there when you can be the narrator of your own show?
4. Hiking can be done regardless of the weather or season.
While you don’t want to head out in a lightning storm, you don’t need blue bird days to enjoy the trail, either. Some of my favorite days outdoors were in what others call “bad weather” — it tends to keep people home and give me the trail to myself. Rain? Throw on a breathable shell. Snow? Strap on snowshoes and pack an extra layer. Hot? Fill your reservoir with ice, then pour in water until it’s full. You might find the trail takes on a fascinating personality in moody weather.
5. Hiking gives you a chance to set (and meet) your own physical goals.
Team sports are great; they help us learn to cooperate. But setting goals that aren’t reliant on anyone but yourself — and then achieving them — also has its benefits. When we accomplish something through our own effort and willpower, the payoff is self-confidence and motivation to push ourselves further in new goals. These qualities carry over into areas of life off the trail, too.
6. Hiking is (often) free.
Driving to the trailheads in state and national parks might land you with an entrance fee, but city parks, BLM land, many national forests, and other public and *private lands are free, which means accessing the trails within them also cost nothing.
*As with all trails, be sure to respect the property owner’s requests on private lands; it’s up to each of us to help ensure that trails through these areas will remain open for future hikers.
7. Hiking helps you become self-reliant.
When things break or go awry out in nature, you can’t run to the superstore to get a fix. And whether you’re hiking solo or with a group, you need to bring your best ideas to the table to come up with a solution.
8. Hiking fills your lungs with fresh air.
Breathing in fresh air has been shown to increase energy and vitality, while natural scents in the air can significantly increase feelings associated with well-being while simultaneously decreasing feelings of hostility and depression.
9. Hiking helps you meet new people.
You may meet them on the trail (where it’s easy to fall into conversation) or you may find them through a local hiking meetup. Being a hiker takes at least some of the barrier away from finding friendly people who you know you at least have one thing in common with — a love of the outdoors and exercise. Being a hiker almost anywhere means you rarely have to go outdoors solo. (But, of course, you can.)
10. Hiking puts you in front of some great scenery.
Why look at other people’s Instagram feeds with envy when you can get into those scenes yourself? You don’t need to live in a traditional “adventure hub,” either. Having lived all over North America, I’ve seen places that were equally beautiful in the south as out west: wetlands, wide rivers moving through cattails, gaping rock-walled sinkholes, sunrises over the surf — all of these scenes are just as soul-moving as alpenglow on a western or northern peak. Wherever you are, hiking will give you a show that catches the breath.
11. Hiking helps you escape the “issue of the day.”
TV to radio to social media — you just can’t escape the latest thing politicians are saying or the steady stream of protests on the latest political atrocity. Does it wear on you? Escape the anger. Set your cell phone to airplane mode (or off) and get yourself to a trailhead. You might still hear a lot of noise, but birds singing and rivers rushing is a whole lot better than listening to hours of talk radio debates.
Ready for more reasons? Check out Part II right here!