Enjoy Happy Trails, the free monthly newsletter from Hiking For Her

Receive a free resource: "Hiking Layering System Explained"

Elder Hikers:
We've Earned The Title!

By Diane Spicer

Hikers over 40 have earned the title Elder Hiker. Find out how to make the most of it at Hiking For Her. #hiking #backpacking #hikingoverforty #olderhikers #elderhikers #seniorcitizenhikers

Elder hikers?

When I first saw this label, I thought:

"Come on. Just say it. Senior citizens tottering down a trail."

Then I burst out laughing!


Because I got my AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) invitation in the mail several (as in double digits) years ago.

They send those invites to any American over the age of fifty.

So by definition, I AM an elder, one who happens to be a hiker!

And you know what?

I'm proud of being an older mature hiker.

Proud of all this:

  • the strength in my legs as I eat up the miles,
  • the spring in my step as I make my way up a mountain side or along a meandering stream,
  • the wisdom I carry from all of the years of trail time,
  • the endless enthusiasm in my heart for all things outdoors and wild.

Embrace the title!

Elder Hiker.

Yup, that's me!

Senior Citizen Hiker, loud and proud.

I've earned it over the decades of accumulating wisdom and experience on the trail.

  • Read more about my philosophy toward being an older hiker here.

Make a careful distinction between
elderly and elder

Don't let the media, social or otherwise, define what growing older means.

Reject the ugly stereotypes of the elderly as weak, dimwitted, forgetful, faded old fools.

Keep your body and mind as strong as possible, and gather your wisdom to pass along as a hiking elder.

Because an elder is someone who deserves respect for the years of living that accrued the wisdom.

Elder hikers have deep stores of outdoor knowledge.

Elder hiking realities

But I'm also a realist.

I know exactly what it feels like to live in an aging body.

My lower back hurts the day after a long hike.

My feet sometimes give me signals that they're not particularly happy with the weight of my pack and the length of my hikes.

My feet swell up.

So do my hands.

I can always tell when I hit the double-digits on a hike: anything over 10 miles, and my knees begin to creak.

And you really don't want to hear about my chronically sore toes from enlarging feet as I age!

Hiking pain = reality.


So what can an
older woman who hikes do?


Here's the short list of considerations any female hiker approaching, or over, the age of 50 years should ponder:

The effects of menopause on the body

Conversion of muscle into fat over time

Nutrition for menopausal hikers

Keeping bones strong

Self care tips

Osteoarthritis and female hikers

Gender neutral elder hiking topics

These topics can be shared by both genders of mature hiker:

Post-hiking aches & pains: what to do?

Healthy teas for hikers

Injury prevention

Back pain relief

Coping with sore knees

Swollen hands after a hike

Consider wearing compression socks

Fixing toe troubles

Gear evaluation

Time to lighten up your pack?

Conditioning to maintain top trail form

Hiking for weight loss

Finding accessible hiking trails

Putting together the best sleep system

Hiking with glasses

But there's a whole lot more for you here at Hiking For Her.

  • This site map will get you up to speed on lots of other trail issues that may be impacting your trail time.
  • Use the UP arrow over on the right to get to the search box near the top of each page.

Make the most of the benefit of
turning 62 as a hiker

Do you have your lifetime National Park Pass yet?

The price keeps creeping up, so lock in yours now.

Be proactive as an elder hiker!

In the mood for some pre-emptive action?

  • Read Bob Anderson's book on stretching for those of us over 50, and make time every day to keep your muscles limber.

It will really pay off on the trail!

Taking a Tai chi or Pilates class also pays dividends in flexibility and core strength, and there are low cost beginner classes available at your local community recreational center.

Ditto for yoga classes.


  • The best on line yoga teacher I've found is this one, with fantastic YouTube videos: Adriene Mishler

Protest media age-ism

Let's band together to fight the corporate image of an older hiker.

Or the lack thereof.

If you take 5 minutes to flip through one of the admittedly scarce hiking magazines, or scroll through outdoor gear websites, you'll notice a theme:

  • No one is under the age of (what looks to me, maybe I'm wrong) 25.
  • Not a gray hair, smile crease or extra pound of body weight to be seen.

How can this be??

Mature hikers are ignored, despite the facts:

  • We have disposable income and some time on our hands when we "retire" from the rat race.
  • We have a strong desire to work through our hiking bucket lists.
  • We're focused and level headed planners.
  • We know the value of high quality, high performance gear and clothing.
  • We have conquered many challenges in life, one of the many traits of a strong hiker.

Are you with me?

I propose that we contact these advertisers and gear companies to remind them that we're out there on the trails - and that we are purchasing their products.

Support companies that don't portray elder hikers as invisible, nonexistent or over the hill. In other words, if you see a gray haired backpacker in one of their ads, buy something!

I've written my share of letters to gear reps, editors and bloggers, letting them know that I don't appreciate being ignored.

  • And I've suggested better clothing and gear options for older hikers, too.

Care to join me?

It's fun to be an old curmudgeon ;)

Don't be intimidated!

Ignore the media messages that say hiking is only for svelte twenty somethings.

  • If you can walk, you can hike.
  • Your body is designed for the movement of walking, and if you maintain mobility you should be able to hike throughout your life time.

And ignore all of the media messages that say only the elite hikers are worthy of time and attention, including:

  • long trail hikers on trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail
  • fast-and-light record setters (FKT, fastest known time) who try to outdo each other in terms of covering the most ground quickly
  • stories about hiking in destinations that you will never visit, with glossy photos of the equipment and death defying routes up mountainsides, through jungles, or across deserts for days on end

Then vow to get out there and proudly claim the title of elder hiker, even if you're not as nimble, flexible or motivated as you once were.

You're a hiker, even if you don't cover 20 miles a day with 15 pounds on your back and one granola bar in your pocket!

Says who?

Says me!

Tell the scoffers that Hiking For Her says so!

The power of elder hikers

Ever hear of Great Old Broads For Wilderness?

This national organization pulls together elders (and they use the word with pride!) to work on protecting public lands in the USA.

They have local "Broadbands" that you can become involved with, or start one of your own.

The fees are low, the camaraderie is immense.

  • Guys can join too, as Brothers.

And here's a news flash:

Every time I'm off trail in the back country, it's always elder hikers I meet.

Seems like the silver foxes know the best routes!

Are you surprised?

The media might be!


Sorry about that rant.

Sometimes feeling invisible sets me off.

  • Or trying to find a hiking hat that isn't covered in perky little dots and pink daisies that would make a woman my age want to howl.

Can you relate?

Let me leave you with this calm, peaceful thought:

Celebrate your strength, wisdom,and accomplishments!

But take good care of your assets so you can hike in your golden years.

The links above will help you accomplish that.

Female hiker kneeling, wearing a green backpack while photographing wild flowers in a mountain meadow, Cascade Mountains, Washington State USAFifty years of hiking and counting...

You might like to read these next

Home page > Types of Hiking >

Elder Hikers