Some people might wonder if hiking is a hobby, and the short answer to that would be: Without a doubt! Hiking is an excellent activity that is physically stimulating, and mentally invigorating.
Hiking doesn’t just consist of easy walks in the park. It can become a full-body activity. And when you take into consideration all of the awesome benefits of hiking, you’ll be convinced that taking up hiking as a hobby would be a great way to improve your quality of life.
So before we begin, I’d like to share a bit of a backstory on how hiking actually came to be.
When Did Hiking Become a Hobby?
So there’s a lot of back and forth on when hiking became an “official” hobby. However, most experts agree that it started becoming popular in the late 1800s to early 1900s. This was around the same time that people started valuing nature and being outdoors more for both their physical and mental health.
Aside from religious pilgrimages, that involved walking many, many miles for spiritual reasons — walking for pleasure was first attributed in Europe during the 1800s. This is when hiking sort of took off as a “thing” people did for fun.
Here in the United States, The National Park Service was founded in 1916, which also contributed to the rise in the popularity of hiking. The NPS created many trails and parks that allowed people to explore nature in a safe and controlled environment. Many of the U.S. trails you see covered online are usually managed by the NPS.
Before the NPS, in 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park in the world and was quickly followed by Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park in 1890.
Previously, hunting was one of the only outdoor activities that were really considered a hobby. But as time went on, people started to see the benefits of hiking and other outdoor activities as well.
Nowadays, hiking is one of the most popular hobbies in the world! And it’s not just for adults either — more and more kids are getting into hiking too.
So, Is Hiking a Sport or Hobby?
Just like with anything else in life, the more popular it becomes, the more sophisticated it gets. Once people started taking hiking more seriously, it became both a sport and a hobby.
You can now find competitive hikers who take part in races and other events where they hike long distances within a set timeframe. This is the more “sporty” side of hiking.
On the other hand, you have people, like myself, who simply hike for the pleasure of it. They don’t care about times or speeds, they just enjoy being outdoors and taking in all the sights and sounds that nature has to offer. This is the more “hobbyist” side of hiking.
The majority of people who hike would probably consider it more of a hobby than a sport. And that’s perfectly fine! There’s no right or wrong answer here.
It doesn’t matter if you’re hiking to compete or just for fun, the important thing is that you’re getting out there and enjoying yourself.
Now, before we get into the good stuff, here’s some important advice to take with you out on the trails.
Tips to Start Hiking as A Hobby
If you’re looking to get started with hiking, then here are a few beginner tips to help get you started on the right foot:
Make Sure to Wear the Proper Gear
Having the right hiking gear is an integral part of making sure that your hike goes as smoothly and as comfortably as possible. Ideally, you’ll want a quality pair of closed-toe hiking boots paired with wool hiking socks to wick any moisture. Try to opt to bring an extra pair of socks just in case it rains. This will prevent any fungal infections from cropping up on your hiking adventures.
I also recommend trekking poles for beginners. They don’t have to be expensive, you can find some great budget trekking poles these days. These can help take some of the impact off of your legs and knees, especially on downhill sections of the trail. They’re also great for helping you keep your balance.
Start with Easy Trails
Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew by starting with an ambitious hike. It’s much better to start small and work your way up. There are plenty of easy trails out there that are perfect for beginners. And as you get more experienced, you can start to tackle more difficult hikes.
I jumped head-first into hiking with a moderately challenging hike in Utah’s Zion National Park. And while I was able to complete the hike, it wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience. I would have had a much better time if I had started with an easier trail.
Pack Plenty of Water and Maybe a Few Snacks
Hydration should always be on your mind when considering taking up hiking as a hobby. When I first started, I seriously underestimated how much water I would need on my hikes and under-packed in the water department. I now make it a point to pack at least one to two liters of water per person, per hike.
And while we’re on the topic of packing, food is also an important thing to bring along. A lot of times when people are hiking, they tend to forget to eat because they’re so focused on the destination. This can lead to feelings of dizziness, fatigue, and weakness. So make sure to pack some snacks that will give you sustained energy throughout your hike!
Some of the more intermediate to advanced hiking trails sometimes do not come with convenient amenities such as water fountains or even bathrooms, so make sure to bring a couple of bottles with you on the trail. This will help keep you hydrated and keep you out on the trails as long as possible. Eventually, you’ll learn about water filtration systems and how to purify water from natural water sources. But as a beginner, it’s not something you should be overly concerned about.
Bring Sun Protection
While many trails are lined with lush greenery that can act as a beautiful source of shade, there are some trails where the sun is beating down on you with not a lot of shade to escape to. To combat this and protect your skin, make sure to bring some sunscreen or a large hat to shield you from the sun’s UV rays. For even more sun protection, bring your favorite pair of sunglasses!
Heatstroke is a common occurrence on the trails during the summer months. So make sure to take plenty of breaks in the shade and drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
Don’t Rush It
Lastly, hiking is all about enjoying the journey, not the destination. Take your time and savor the experience. There’s no need to rush through a hike just so you can say that you did it.
10 Amazing Benefits of Hiking as a Hobby
Now that we’ve gotten the hiking basics out of the way, here are 10 reasons why hiking is an excellent hobby to take up:
It’s Easy to Start
Hiking is easily one of the most accessible outdoor activities to do. One of the best parts about taking up hiking is that you get to choose your level of difficulty. You can how close to home or how far out you would like to go. You can choose to hike on smooth, flat terrain, or you can challenge yourself with trails with scrambles, that may require you to use all fours to get around. It’s entirely up to you, you can make your hike as easy, or as complicated as you choose.
It Helps to Reduce Stress
Going on hikes can help to greatly reduce blood pressure and stress cortisol levels. Being outdoors has been proven to be beneficial for humans as an excellent source of stress relief. Hiking trails can be a beautiful, calm, green retreat from the hustle of everyday life. It can help you reach a peaceful mental state, with hikes sometimes being so quiet, that you can hear the faint buzzing of every bug out on the trails.
Piques a Sense of Adventure
Hiking can help us get in touch with a sense of adventure. The beautiful greenery helps to take us out of our regular routine and can help to enhance our sense of creativity. For example, you might come across a river with a stack of logs in the middle of it. When you’re hiking, you might see that stack of logs as a wrecked pirate ship! It’s totally up to you.
Getting in touch with your sense of adventure and creativity connects you with your childish, fun side, which can help relieve stress and keep you mentally young.
Hiking Can Be a Great Social Activity
Another awesome reason why you should hike is that you can make so many friends from it! You can join a hiking club, or you can bring a group of your friends and make a day out of it. Or, if you prefer, you can take a solo adventure and seek to come across fellow hikers on your trail that may end up being your buddy along the way.
Hiking can be a great experience to share with your partner, your children, or your gang of friends. Regardless if you choose to go with loved ones or solo, rest assured that you’ll find some very friendly hikers along the way.
A Great Way to Stay Fit
Like any form of physical activity, hiking for extended periods will activate almost every muscle in your body. It helps to promote flexibility, strength, and endurance both on and off the hiking trail. On the trail, you’ll be challenged with coordination, balance, and endurance. While off the trail, you may be challenged to commit to body aftercare such as stretching. Hiking can also help with your internal health by reducing blood pressure and increasing your physical endurance.
It’s Free! (Most of The Time)
Most of the time, hiking can be a free activity. You can always look around at your local public parks to see what the options for hiking or any other outdoor adventure are. Sometimes, however, especially if you decide to go to a state or national park, there may be some fees to access certain trails whether it be for parking or for day passes.
Great Way to Connect with Nature
Getting out of the house and making time to connect with nature is vital for us as human beings. Getting in touch with nature and taking in the natural landscape around you can often be a very grounding experience that may help to give you a sobering perspective on life. When you take the time to reconnect with nature, you’re ultimately reconnecting to yourself.
It’s Great for Your Mental Health
It’s been proven that getting physical activity, such as hiking can assist in re-regulating your nervous system, which in turn will help to reduce anxiety and depression. Not only can hiking help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression, but it can also help improve your memory and recollection abilities.
People who spent time in nature and had higher levels of physical activity were found to have an increase in brain glucose metabolism than those who generally did not.
Getting an adequate amount of physical activity is clinically proven to help humans sleep better at night. Spending time out on hikes and in nature has been shown to help regulate your circadian rhythm, which is crucial if you want to get a good night’s sleep. Plus the extra exposure to oxygen from all that time under the trees can help you slip into a more restful and rejuvenating quality of sleep. And you’ll have the added bonus of increased energy level when you wake up.
What’s special about hiking out on the trails specifically is that walking or climbing on uneven terrain is said to use approximately 30% more energy than if one were walking on flat ground. You’ll wear yourself out a bit more out on the trails than out on a downtown sidewalk, which can enable your body to seek a better quality of rest.
Get an Escape from Technology
If you’re anything like me, you probably spend a lot of your time surrounded by technology and screens. Removing yourself and disconnecting from all the distracting stimuli for a few hours every day or every once in a while is incredibly beneficial for your mind and body, so why not spend that time out on a hike?
Let hiking be the way that you escape from the fog of technology and help clear your mind.
If this list wasn’t convincing enough to take up hiking as a hobby, then maybe actually getting out on the trail will do the trick.
Check out the local trails in your area, or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, grab a friend and travel to a more exotic hike for a more immersive experience.
Just be sure to pack your hiking boots and a travel backpack full of snacks and water. Once you do, you’re all set to get out on those trails and make the most out of your exciting new hobby!