Hiking Motivation

I feel kind of silly talking about hiking motivation whenever someone asks me why I hit the trail every week.

For me, hiking is an inbuilt need, a drive, an absolute "must have" in large doses.

And it's been that way pretty much since my teens. Trust me on how long ago that was!

So when people ask me how I stay motivated, I feel like a fraud giving them advice. I've never explored the landscape of finding motivation as a hiker (get the little hiking joke there?).

But rather than share that unhelpful factoid, I try to dig deep into my memory banks for areas where I'm NOT motivated: taking a calculus or physics course, for instance.

Or scrubbing the kitchen floor.

I've done those things, because I knew they were important.

Did I enjoy them? No!

Which gets me to my next point:

If you have to motivate yourself to hike, maybe you should explore other sports.

If hiking is a (pick one):

  • chore,
  • burden,
  • inconvenience,
  • physical endurance event
  • something you do because your significant other wants to

... then maybe you're a hiker by name but not by heart.

I'd rather spend this space on some thoughts about ATTITUDE.

I've observed lots of hikers, in many different settings and groups. And I've noticed that they fall into 3 general categories. A few words about each:

ALPHA HIKERS: Out in front, taking the lead on every decision, knowing exactly what should be done or how many miles to go before stopping... have you met these folks on the trail?

Their posture shouts "I'm the leader!"

If you're a hiker who is just starting out, gaining skills and confidence, these are the folks you should be hiking with.

Learn from them, listen to their words and watch their actions, and take comfort in their knowledge base if something goes wrong.

They will know what to do, or at least have an opinion about what to do.

FOLLOWERS: Glad to be part of the herd, happy to go as far or as short of a distance as you'd like, content to take pictures or soak their feet in a cold pool at the base of the waterfall.

This type of hiker is great in a group setting, where the route has been laid out, someone else is keeping track of the turn around time, and the weather is good.

If things get dicey, though, this type of hiker can be a detriment at worst, or no help at all at best.

So don't hike only with other followers, if that's you. It could be risky.

And this brings me back, oddly enough, to hiking motivation.

I find the first type of hiker lacking in the ability to motivate other hikers, because he/she has such never ending exuberance that other folks feel worn down or overwhelmed, rather than motivated, when they exclaim "Only 10 more miles, you can do it!"

The second general type of hiker, the follower, is also unable to generate hiking motivation for others. It's not that they're wimpy, but their comfort zone forces them to defer decisions or attempting to instill hiking motivation in others.

And so there must be some middle ground, or I wouldn't have told you there were 3 categories, right?

Time to introduce the...

INDIVIDUALISTS: Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.

Both have their places on the trail.

Deferring gracefully to someone else is a beautiful attribute to have, when it's called for.

Standing firm, putting forth your knowledge when it's essential for navigation, insisting on safety margins - also beautiful attributes.

And confident individualists have perfected the fine art of discerning when to choose the appropriate route (another little hiking pun - sorry).

Can an individualist motivate anyone else?

I have been in groups of 10 people and watched this type of hiker step up to the task of getting every tired, dirty, wet and hungry person safely to the campsite just before dark.


By using humor and compassion, in measured doses.

And sometimes by offering to carry gear to lighten someone's pack.

These hikers are the folks I admire. They know that sometimes people get themselves into situations that are uncomfortable.

  • Blisters from new boots.
  • Ill fitting packs picked out in a hurry and now digging into the hip bones.
  • Signing up for hiking trips they weren't physically conditioned to tackle.
  • Letting poor weather conditions make them feel vulnerable.
  • And the list goes on.

It takes skill to walk the line between bludgeoning these folks with common sense for their own good, and cutting them too much slack.

Hiking motivation summed up

To sum up:

Hiking motivation needs to be internal first.

And sometimes we are called upon to motivate others to do the right thing on the trail even when it's not obvious:

  • Turn around although the summit is close.
  • Take a break even when they don't "feel" tired.
  • Drink more water even before the thirst drive kicks in.
  • Dip deep and make it to base camp before daylight fades.
  • Give the right-of-way to the bear by spending 30 minutes sitting on a rock.

And that's when you'll know which type of hiker you really are.

Do you give orders, give up, or give your expertise?

Any of these may be appropriate, but it depends on the situation.

Personal challenge: Try all 3 approaches to hiking motivation, and see which one feels best.

Drop me a line and let me know! Use the CONTACT box at the top left of any page. I'd love to hear from you.

Hiking trail signsNot sure where to go next?

Home page > Best Hiking Tips > Hiking Motivation

Didn't find what you were looking for? Use this search box to find it quickly.