Types of Hiking:
So Many Hikes
To Choose From

by Diane Spicer

Meet Hiking For Her's Diane

Types of hiking?

You mean, hiking is more than just walking?

  • Yes, definitely yes.

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.

Which types of hiking do you want to do? Hiking For Her outlines all of your options, with great trail tips. #hike #typesofhiking #hiking #backpacking #womenhikers #goforahike #hikingtips

Where are you right now
on the hiking continuum?

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 this overview of the types of hiking you can select from, with plenty of hiking tips to get you started.

Because the type of hiking you want to do (or dream about) matters!

Now let's start to take a close look at your options.


Types of hiking:
day hikes

Dayhiker on a trail near Mount Rainier National ParkCan you spot me on this dayhike trail near Mt. Rainier?

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:

  • Scope out the terrain to estimate how tough the hike will be in terms of time and effort.
  • Calculate your turn around destination and time point.
  • Spot water sources (or be sure to carry extra water if there are none).
  • Anticipate landmarks (if you don't reach them, maybe you took a wrong turn).


More day hiking tips for you

Along with packing a great day hike lunch, be sure to carry the hiking ten essentials in your backpack just in case that wrong turn costs you hours of daylight.

  • Even if it's "just a day hike", you need to be prepared to take care of yourself outdoors overnight.

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.


Want all of the best hiking tips for day hikers
all in one spot?

This Hiking For Her book gathers them together for you!

  • Paperback and electronic formats
  • Brimming with tips, suggestions and trail wisdom from a trail veteran.
Hikers love the best tips, and you can find everything you need to know to hit the trail all in one place. Check it out! #hiking #womenhiking #dayhikes #hikingtips #hikingbook #femalehikers


More types of hiking:
overnight trips

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)...

and a greater commitment to safety and comfort.

But you have an advantage!

Start with these best tips for planning a successful overnight.

Extra tip:

If you're just getting started with overnight hikes, base camping might be best.

  • Make solid plans to provide a reliable home away from home (a.k.a. your tent or a tarp) in all but the mildest weather.


Types of hiking:
backpacking

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:


Backpackers need more

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.

As in:


Shhh! Here's the secret!

A multiday backpacking trip also yields a much more payoff.

I'm talking about priceless experiences like:

  • wildlife sightings from you tent before the dayhikers arrive, or after they head home in the evening
  • stargazing in silence under inky black skies (shooting stars, satellites, Milky Way, swooping bats)
  • the serenity that comes with using your physical, rather than mental, muscles day after day

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.


Backpacking subtypes

Yes, it's true.

Not all backpackers hit the trail in the same way.

Your choices depend upon the length of time you're on the trail, and your hiking goals.

Here's a quick run down:

  • Multi day backpackers like loop trails, allowing them to start and end at the same trail head with no need to arrange for a shuttle or pick up.
  • Other multi day backpackers do an "out and back" along the same trail. (The same trail looks different, really!)
  • Section hikers will choose a long trail (details below) and get going, knowing they will come off before it's completed and come back at a later time to enjoy more.
  • Distance backpackers aim to complete a long trail all in one go, hopefully before the weather turns the trail against them.
  • Yo-yo hikers not only do a long trail in one direction and complete it, but they turn around and go the entire distance back to where they started: the ultimate loop hike!
  • Ultralight backpackers? They're after the smallest weight possible for each and every item of gear and bite of food.

The call of the wild
for backpackers in the U.S.

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!

Some suggestions:

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.

  • PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)
  • AT (Appalachian Trail)
  • CDT (Continental Divide Trail)

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.


Hike and camp with others
in a class

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.

REI Co-op offers classes like this.


Over forty hiker

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.

  • Find out all the details about joining!
  • It doesn't matter where you are in the world, or where you are in developing your hiking skills, all are welcome :)
  • And don't let the "40" throw you; younger women can join to gain wisdom from those who are indeed over that age benchmark.
  • Beginners are especially welcome to start a conversation, and maybe find a hiking partner.


Let's continue our look at the types of hiking

you might like to do.


Hiking for romance

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.

  • Just use these tips to make your trail time add up to romance, even in the face of the realities of hiking.


Hiking for
treasure
!

Geocaching for hikers is hiking with a definite purpose in mind:

  • Finding a secret, hidden cache of goodies that only non-muggles can find
  • And then bragging about it to other geocachers :)

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).


Hiking for
weight loss

No way around the fact that hiking is hard work in terms of sustained muscle contractions and physical strength.

  • In fact, hikers are classified as endurance athletes!

If you've set a weight loss goal and are looking for an effective way to burn calories, consider this fact:

  • It's possible to burn 5,000+ calories on a dayhike, although more modest numbers can be achieved each time you hit the trail.

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).

  • Once you hit your weight loss goal, you can transition into other types of hiking. Bookmark this types of hiking page, and return when you're ready for ideas and tips.
  • Wear high performance plus size clothing that fits and looks great while you're pursuing your weight loss goal so your hiking addiction won't be thwarted.

Try a hike
in the dark

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.


Rainy weather
hiking

Don't let Mother Nature dictate when you'll take a hike.

Be ready for those gloomy, wet days with these tips:


Barrier free hiking

Not everyone can access a dirt packed or rocky hiking trail.

For folks with mobility issues, and those who plan hike with folks who use a wheelchair or stroller, accessible hiking trails are a must.


Hiking with
special dietary needs

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.


Hiking 
in your birthday suit
?! 

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...

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!


Socially responsible 
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


Hiking as 
pilgrimage

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:

  • exploration of a beautiful, historic region of Europe
  • meeting people from around the world
  • testing your ability to stay open to opportunities for new sites, sounds and adventures.


Now let's switch our attention to locations on the globe for the types of hiking you're craving.


Hiking in
specific regions

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!


You could come for a hike
in my backyard: 
The Pacific Northwest

I happen to live in an incredibly diverse area for hiking opportunities: Washington State, USA.

  • On the east side of the state are rolling flat lands with geologic history that is well worth hiking through.
  • On the west side, where I live near Seattle, are the mountains: the Olympic Range on the coast, and the Cascade Range (divided into North, Central and South in this state).

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!

Female hiker on boulders with Mt. Rainier in backgroundThere she is! Big beautiful Mt. Rainier

Interested in Vancouver Island, BC hiking?


Mount Rainier day hikes:
the best types of 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.

  • Detailed hike description AND video here

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.


Or head to the 
Southwest

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.

Wait, what?

That's winter in Arizona!


Too hot to handle?

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??


Are the
Canadian Rockies
calling your name?

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:

Female hiker taking a photograph in the mountainsKinney Lake, Mt. Robson Provincial Park, B.C.


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.


More types of hiking:
wilderness hiking
adventures

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!

Sign marking a hiking trail as abandoned

A few suggestions based on personal experience:

  • If you have the hankering to hike an isolated, pristine wilderness in the middle of Lake Superior, look no further than Isle Royale. A boat or plane ride will get you there.
  • Wanna go WAY off the beaten path? Try East Greenland, or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)!
  • Solitude will be yours in the South Nahanni (Yukon).
  • Wrangell St Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska is another big rugged paradise for hikers to explore!

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.

And ponder the merits of lighweight or ultralightweight backpacking gear to make your wilderness trips more enjoyable.

  • Bush pilots will love you :)
East Greenland mountains pose special challenges for hikers.Special types of hiking include East Greenland mountains


Why not try
glacier hiking!

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.


 Huge hiking adventures: 
heli-hiking

Red and white helicopter parked on rocks with rugged mountains all around

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.


A lot of folks think hiking only happens in the summer.

Wrong!

Let's take a look at seasonal hiking.


Winter hiking

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:

  • spot fresh animal tracks & understand critter activity
  • explore areas that are brush covered or inaccessible during the summer
  • listen to the stillness and hush of snow covered trees
  • burn lots of calories (second lunch, anyone?) breathing all of that crisp air

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.

Female snowshoer wearing appropriate winter gear and a backpack, taking photos of Mount Rainier from a snowy ridgeDoesn't this look like a blast??


Don't neglect your
favorite trails in
spring and fall

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.


Hiking during
hunting season

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.


Now let's take a look at 

how age plays into hiking.


Elder hiking:
good for you!

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.

  • In my opinion, age is an attitude, not just your biological age.

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

Hiking through menopause

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.


Teach your hiking skills to
the next generation

Another type of hiking which is near and dear to my heart: teaching young people how to fall in love with hiking.

Hiking with kids and babies is an art unto itself.

Even more so with teenagers!

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!


Hiking for health

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.


Mental hiking =
Daydreaming 
about your next hike

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, 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.

Woman sitting on lounge chair near pool with towering palm tree behind herWorking hard on my next hiking trip


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.

For example:

Are you a "peak bagger"?

  • Someone who pushes through to gain a destination, whether it's a peak, a lake, waterfall, viewpoint or some other spot on the map?
  • Focused, prepared, conditioned, single minded hikers log lots of miles each season.

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!

With age, comes wisdom

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.
  • Maybe you're the type of hiker who delves into field guides, trail reports, regional books, and historical documents so you're prepared to catch every interesting area you pass through.

For example, sometimes I hike with my radar set on geologic formations. My husband downloads free geology maps, and we pause occasionally to check out what we're hiking over, around, and through.

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 approach to hiking 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:

flowers, grasses, shrubs, butterflies, birds (botany, wildlife biology) and to what's above you: towering Douglas firs in my neck of the woods, plus clouds, birds, and the occasional freak storm.

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.

Flower meadows lure hikers in the springtimeBrilliant purple Shooting Stars in a boggy alpine meadow


Hiking for relaxation

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.


During the hike, I engage all of my senses:

  • listening for bird calls or the sounds of water
  • feeling the breeze on my skin
  • smelling pines and forest soil
  • running my fingers over moss and bark
  • tasting the wind for moisture content

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 :)

Now that we've covered all of the hiking you can try, this question might come up:


Who should I hike with?

Let's roll through your options.

You could:


So which types of hiking
appeal to you?

Where are you in your hiking career?

If you're just starting out as a hiker, be purposeful about planning:

  • Keep track of where you'd like to go, and keep notes in a trail journal once you've been there.
  • Learn from your mis-steps, and learn from everyone you hike with (both positive and negative examples).

I always say there are no mistakes, only opportunities for enlightenment that are thrown your way.

Look through these hikes posted by enthusiastic hikers for some great hiking destination ideas. And then post your own!

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" in.

Best wishes for hiking the hike you love,

each and every time!


You might like to read these next!

  • Best Hiking Tips For Women Hikers: Get On The Trail Today

    Feast your eyes on this Hiking For Her guide packed with the best hiking tips for women hikers, from a seasoned female hiker who wants to keep you safe and happy on the trail.

  • Dayhiking Tips Book From Hiking For Her

    Hiking For Her's best dayhiking tips book will give you exactly what you need to know to hit the trail. Let this information be your guide to satisfying and safe hiking! Trail veterans and beginners, and everyone in between, will find trustworthy hiking tips to use.


Return HOME for lots more hiking tips


Female hiker leaning on boulders with hiking poles and backpack

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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