by Diane Spicer
Types of hiking?
You mean, hiking is more than just walking?
And therein lies the beauty of hiking!
You can do your own thing, and still be a member of the hiking community.
But we can all agree that there are distinct types of hiking, which appeal to various people and are suited to distinct regions.
If you're new to hiking, you might want to start with this heartfelt and simple hiking advice.
More to check out as you're getting started as a hiker:
Or dive right into the overview page you're on to discover all of the types of hiking, with plenty of hiking tips to get you started for each of them.
If you're a beginner hiker, dayhikes are the way to start building trail skills.
Select well marked, maintained trails within easy commuting distance from home.
Study a map of the area before you leave the trail head so you can develop these important hiking skils:
Once you have a few seasons of dayhikes under your boots, you might want to consider navigating off trail using maps and GPS navigation skills.
This Hiking For Her book gathers them together for you!
Why turn around and go home when you can stay overnight in a favorite hiking destination?
However, you're taking a big step (hiking pun intended) by combining camping with hiking.
Planning a backpacking trip requires a longer time investment (both planning and trail time)...
But you have an advantage!
Start with these best tips for planning a successful overnight.
If you're just getting started with overnight hikes, base camping might be best.
Everybody's gotta start somewhere, and keep going from there.
Day hikers may graduate to combining hiking with camping, as we just saw with overnight and weekend hiking trips.
But if you want to go "all in", find someone who knows a wee bit more than you about backpacking and give a multi day backpacking trip a try.
Or use these Hiking For Her trail vetted tips to start your planning:
Regardless of which level of hiker you identify with as you transition into "more than just day hiking", staying out longer than a few days (an extended backpacking trip) demands more from you.
A multiday backpacking trip also yields a much more payoff.
I'm talking about priceless experiences like:
Nothing gives you deeper satisfaction than gazing at a mountain peak or leafy ridge from the peacefulness of your camp site, knowing that you got yourself AND your gear there using the strength of your legs and your trail smarts.
Yes, it's true.
Not all backpackers hit the trail in the same way.
Your backpacking options depend upon the length of time you're on the trail, your physical conditioning as well as your hiking goals.
Here's a quick run down:
Once you've mastered the backpacking gear list and have your backpacking menus dialed in, you're going to crave more trail time in out of the way places.
Sooner or later, the call of the wild will begin to whisper in your ear.
You want bigger adventures!
For an off-the-beaten path place to backpack, try the Porcupine Mountains in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
To go even more remote in that part of the world, you can try Isle Royale hiking.
If you fall in love with backpacking, you're going to start eyeing the long trails in various regions of the United States.
But there are shorter but less crowded trails to tempt you:
If the idea of a loop trail near heavily populated areas appeals to you, consider the 1000+ mile long Buckeye Trail in Ohio.
Not everyone wants to hike with a trail buddy.
And not all female hikers want to do group hiking.
Interested in going it alone on the trail? Dive into these tips to make sure you're ready to keep yourself safe and confident:
Sometimes the best way to get started is to take a beginner level class.
It provides structure, a safe environment for your questions and concerns, and a knowledgeable instructor who can give immediate feedback.
Once you know the basics of being a hiker, you can take more advanced classes to strengthen and expand your hiking skill set.
REI Co-op offers classes like this.
Does that describe you?
Then you might be delighted to find out that we have a private community of women called Over Forty Hiker, waiting for your participation and unique perspective.
If your significant other suggests a backpacking trip, why not go for it?
Or why don't you suggest it?
Types of hiking for women can definitely include a romantic get away.
And don't overlook the possibility that a spark of romance might occur in those REI classes mentioned above!
Geocaching for hikers is hiking with a definite purpose in mind:
You'll need the coordinates of the cache, a navigational unit like a GPS or smartphone app, and a set of sharp eyes to locate your treasure.
That link above will get you started.
This is a great way to get kids interested in hiking, because their innate curiosity will pull them along the trail (snacks help).
No way around the fact that hiking is hard work in terms of sustained muscle contractions and physical strength.
If you've set a weight loss goal and are looking for an effective way to burn calories, consider this fact:
Here's my take on what hiking for weight loss looks like.
Forming a regular hiking habit will also tone up your major muscle groups and lead to a serious addiction to the outdoors.
While that might not move the needle much, your hiking clothes will fit better and you'll notice a different reflection in the mirror (or alpine lake while you eat lunch).
Does this sound like a scary idea to you?
Night hiking is not for everyone, but it's a great skill to develop.
And the rewards of navigating a trail using only your night vision are a big thrill.
Don't let Mother Nature dictate when you'll take a hike.
Be ready for those gloomy, wet days with these tips:
Be pleasantly surprised by the strong vegetal odors wafting off a wet trail: wet pine needles, dripping branches, saturated duff.
And prepare for more animal sightings than usual, when other humans are off the trail and the animals can go about their day in a more relaxed manner.
Not everyone can access a dirt packed or rocky hiking trail.
For folks with mobility issues, and those who hike with folks who use a wheelchair or stroller, accessible hiking trails are a must.
If you're free of dietary restrictions, you're one lucky hiker!
Some of us (myself included) need to pay careful attention to the food we pack for day hikes and backpacking trips.
Examples of special hiking diets:
And let's not neglect hikers with dietary preferences, such as organic trail food.
Did you know that some hikers prefer to hike with nothing between their skin and the brambles?
For more on naked hiking, read this! Don't worry, no photos, just the facts.
Not quite ready to bare it all?
Showing your skin and bare toes to the world is definitely one of the more unique types of hiking!
Are you concerned about the vanishing wilderness?
Do you see people trashing a campsite and wonder why they don't respect the outdoors like you do?
Would you like some ideas on how you as a hiker can model the ethics and stewardship of socially responsible hiking?
Read Hiking For Her's thoughts on this important topic here.
Leave No Trace hiking tips are covered here
P.S. Thanks for caring! Mother Earth loves hikers like you
Are you a history buff?
Have you had a major life transition recently and want to walk for clarity and reflection?
Tired of the same old, same old trails and want a long trail experience in a place you've never been before?
Putting your boots on The Way is the opposite of a wilderness trip, but has much to recommend it:
The possibilities are endless, aren't they!
How are you going to decide where to hike?
You can start in your own backyard, in local parks, state parks and any established trails that pass by you, as we mentioned above.
Or you could venture forth!
I happen to live in an incredibly diverse area for hiking opportunities: Washington State, USA.
If you've ever wanted to get in some serious alpine wandering time, you can read up on what Pacific Northwest hiking has to offer you.
Washington State has several active volcanoes with lots of hiking trails near (and on) them, too!
Interested in Vancouver Island, BC hiking?
If Mount Rainier piqued your interest, as just one example of a fantastic Mount Rainier hike, try Comet Falls and beyond to Van Trump Park.
While you're on the Paradise side of the mountain, check out Reflection Lakes and hike up to Pinnacle Peak.
Or Eagle Peak, on the opposite end of the Tatoosh Range.
Loving the idea of lots of Rainier day hiking?
Use these detailed descriptions, photos and videos to plan more of the best Rainier day hikes:
Or take a peek at these 3 "gotta do" Mount Rainier hike descriptions.
The Pacific NW is at the top left of your map of the United States.
So you can use my tips for all types of hiking in Washington and Oregon to cross off some bucket list hikes.
But are you ready to head south instead?
New Mexico offers some amazing hiking in the Gila Wilderness.
Arizona hiking trails are numerous, varied, extensive and fascinating.
The Grand Canyon or a hike through a petrified forest sounds appealing, doesn't it?
Nothing says winter like sunny warm days on miles of trails.
That's winter in Arizona!
Some of us like cool summers, and avoid hot trails.
Need to feast your eyes on 14,000 foot peaks?
On the other hand, Yukon hiking in the north has its appeal: solitude, caribou herds, and virtually untouched wilderness.
Why not try both??
If you want cool temperatures, big mountains, high alpine adventures, minimal human company and plenty of chances to encounter bears, why aren't you hiking in the Canadian Rockies?
Here's one hiking trip that's easy to plan for:
A great option for a fun hiking vacation is a hike-in backcountry lodge.
Be aware that high altitude hiking brings its own challenges.
Read the tips in that link to get ready to tackle elevation over 6000 feet.
Big adventure means you'll have to work hard to leave other human beings behind in the front country.
It's not called backcountry hiking for nothing!
A few suggestions based on personal experience:
Bush planes, helicopters, rafts, boats ... plus your strong backpacking legs will get you into the back country.
Mix and match these for a fantastic adventure.
But be sure your off trail hiking skills are up for it.
And ponder the merits of lighweight or ultralightweight backpacking gear to make your wilderness trips more enjoyable.
You'll know you're somewhere really special if you set off to explore the surface of a glacier.
This type of hiking is technical, meaning it requires specialized knowledge and gear.
So it's not for everyone.
Plus, you need a glacier, which might be harder to do in the coming decades.
To get a feel for what glacier hiking is like, read my account and see some photos of glacier exploration in Wrangell St. Elias.
Check here for my photos of hiking on the Tweedsmuir glacier, which reaches the Alsek River. (coming soon)
Huge hiking adventures:
To get a taste of real adventure as a hiker, try heli-hiking.
Sounds too luxurious?
Well, it is pricey, but it may be just the slice of heaven you need to create lifelong hiking memories.
If you've never been in a helicopter, you're in for a thrill.
The noise and power of the beast are harnessed for your arrival at pristine backcountry destinations that few humans achieve withmuscle power.
Why stop hiking when the snow flies?
There are at least 8 great reasons to take a winter hike.
Snowshoeing is just winter hiking, and it's twice as fun because you can:
Your navigation skills have to be well developed, though.
And your turn around time is absolutely non-negotiable, unless you find snowshoeing by headlamp or full moon an edifying activity: yet another type of hiking.
Just be sure you know these cold weather hiking tips.
Consider what you need to eat and drink, too.
Even if you don't want to snowshoe, but do want to hike during winter weather, take these winter hiking tips to heart.
Hikers get hungry in the spring for green leafy shoots - and you can take that as a dietary preference, a photographic craving, or botanically.
In the spring, trails are muddy and the weather is moody.
Temperatures swing from pleasant to not-so-much.
A spring hiker needs to be prepared!
And once the warmth of the summer sun fades, you've got plenty of trail fun to look forward to.
Make the most of crisp days with this fall hiking clothing and gear guide.
Hikers and hunters share outdoor spaces called trails.
It's your responsibility as a hiker to know when hunting seasons begin and end in the areas you're hiking through.
And it's up to you to make yourself visible, audible, and the opposite of a target.
Use these safety tips to accomplish all of that, so you can co-exist with hunters both on and off trails.
I'm proud to state that I've reached that special age bracket where the phrase "elder hiking" describes me.
But I'd prefer not to put numbers on it.
However, a basic fact of living in a human body is that accumulated wear and tear on joints and cartilage, plus improper conditioning, can leave an older hiker with aches and pains.
So if you're entering hiking as a juicy ripe tomato kind of woman (as opposed to a hard green tiny tomato), or are getting back into hiking after a surgery or injury, you might want to dip into these tips for folks over the age of ...
Oh, let's say 50 years or so.
I'll let you be the judge of when YOU become a wise old sage on the trail!
More tips for older hikers here
As a woman led website supporting female hikers, it's important to encourage you if you're reaching the time of life when your reproductive organs shut down.
Menopausal hiking has its share of tears and triumphs.
I've outlined them for you here.
Another type of hiking which is near and dear to my heart: teaching young people how to fall in love with hiking.
That's what families are for, right?
Even more so with teenagers!
Another way to get youngsters out on the trail: organized groups.
I spent many years as a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader while my son and daughter were growing up.
I led groups of kids from ages 6 through 15 on camping and backpacking trips.
And I love to work with youth leaders on skill building for the next generation of hikers.
If our young people don't appreciate and nurture the outdoors and everything in it, there goes the planet!
So if you're working with kids and hiking, let me know how I can help you, because I hold you in high esteem.
And if family hiking is something you do regularly, congratulations!
I also want to point out that hiking is good medicine, regardless of your age.
But it might become more important as the candles on your birthday cake increase.
It's known that being in the outdoors for prolonged periods of time helps you deal with stress.
That, combined with the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal work out of a hike, will keep you in top shape.
Just in case it hasn't occurred to you, hikers need a break away from the grinding trail once in awhile, too.
If you have a high stress occupation or lifestyle, you really need a break!
I call those types of hiking breaks "mental hiking" as I bask in the sun (or on the couch), plotting my next adventure!
Or daydreaming while I'm waiting in line at the grocery store.
This may be one of the most important types of hiking, since it allows me to roam freely in a way my body can't.
While we're on the subject of mental hiking, it might be a good time to consider WHY you're on the trail.
This uncovers a different slant to the subject of types of hiking.
There seem to be 6 types of hikers.
Are you a "peak bagger"?
Full disclosure: I have 4 maps of the Cascade Mountains, with - I kid you not!- little star stickers on the hiking destinations I've achieved over my 20 years of hiking in Washington State.
The maps have lots of twinkly little stars on them!
So I know a few things about what I refer to as "laser lock" hiking: here's the target, here's the route, LET'S GO!
But I'm mellowing as I get older.
I now entertain the possibility of other types of hiking.
For instance, what about hiking exploration?
If you're on an "out and back" trip, whether it's a day hike, overnight, or multi-day excursion, maybe you're focused on exploring your environment rather than counting miles or attaining a specific destination.
Sometimes I hike with my radar set on geologic formations that are clearly mapped on geology maps of the region.
We fan out in little circles, pick up rocks, compare notes, and because he's got geology training, he tells me what I'm looking at ;)
I call these hikes my geology field trips!
And we take turns hauling back our "finds": lava bombs smelling of sulfur, gorgeous serpentine chunks, tiny garnets embedded in schist...
This non-destination hiking approach is a wonderful way to connect with the ecosystem, if you extend your attention from what's under your boots (geology) to what's around you:
On the way to the rocks, don't trample all of the alpine flowers!
Include "exploration hiking" in your repertoire of types of hiking, and you will come to appreciate your "big backyard" on an entirely different level.
Once or twice a season, I allow myself the luxury of hiking for relaxation.
This is one of the most therapeutic types of hiking imaginable.
How does this approach to the trail work?
During the hike, I engage all of my senses:
This gives my dominant visual sense a rest, and I end the hike in a peaceful mental space.
Definitely a great way to reset my outlook on life!
Please give it a try :)
Have a milestone coming up that you'd love to celebrate on the trail?
If you're hiking with a trail buddy who is celebrating a big life achievement (like graduation or childbirth, bring along a gift to make her face light up.
Let's roll through your options.
You've seen a lot of different approaches to trail time for hikers.
A tempting smorgasbord, no?
Time to choose one direction and go for it!
Here's one last little tip:
If you're just starting out as a hiker, be purposeful about planning:
I always say there are no mistakes, only opportunities for enlightenment that are thrown your way.
Please let this website continue to give you the tools and techniques you need to
enjoy being a hiker, regardless of the types of hiking you "specialize"
Best wishes for hiking the hike you love,
each and every time!
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five decades, & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
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