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Choosing Your Adventure: Different Styles of Hiking

Styles of Hiking

Hiking is a fantastic way to get outdoors, enjoy nature, and get some exercise. But there’s more to hiking than just hitting the trails. There are many different types of hiking, each with its unique challenges and rewards. Here are some of the most popular types of hiking:

Day Hiking

Day hiking is the most common type of hiking, and it’s a great form of recreation. Day hikes are typically short, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a full day. They’re a great way to explore a new area, get some fresh air, spend time with friends, and enjoy the scenery.


Backpacking is an overnight hiking adventure. Backpackers carry all of their gear with them, including food, water, shelter, and clothing. Backpacking trips can range from a few days to a few weeks, or even longer.

Hut-to-Hut Hiking

If you don’t want to camp outside or carry a heavy backpack, you can hike from one overnight hut to another along a predefined route, sleeping and getting meals along the way, typically for a few days to a week at a time. This is popular in the Swiss Alps and Europe, so you only need to carry a day pack during the day. Some tour companies take this to the next level, providing daily baggage transfers from one Inn to another, so you can bring along clean clothes and more creature comforts while staying in plusher overnight lodgings.


Thru-hiking is an extended type of backpacking trip. Thru-hikers hike an entire long-distance trail, such as the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. These trails can be hundreds or even thousands of miles long, and it can take months to complete a thru-hike. The goal of thru-hiking is to finish the trail within a set period, usually before the onset of winter. Some thru-hikes like the Appalachian Trail are backpacking trips where you sleep outdoors most nights. On others, like the Camino de Santiago which is a pilgrimage, hikers spend the nights in towns and hostels.

Section Hiking

Section hiking is a great way to experience a long-distance trail without committing to a thru-hike. Section hikers hike a portion of a trail, such as a particular state or national park for a few days to a few weeks at a time. They can then return to hike another section of the trail at a later date. Section Hiking is great for people who work and want to hike on their vacations. It’s also a great way to hike during the best seasons of the year, like autumn, when insects or

List Hiking

List hiking is, you guessed it, focused on hiking up all the mountains on a list or all of the hiking trails in a specific region. For example, thousands of hikers climb the 48 peaks over 4000 feet in elevation in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest or the 50 mountains exceeding 14,000 feet in Colorado, known as the 14ers. There are also trail lists where people hike all of the trails in a region like the 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Forest or the 166 miles of side trails leading to Vermont’s Long Trail in the Green Mountain National Forest. While hiking a trail list is similar to section hiking, the trails are usually non-contiguous requiring exploration of many new areas which is fun in its own right.


High-pointing is a popular type of list hiking where you hike to the highest point in all 50 states in the USA.


Bushwhacking, also called off-trail hiking, involves hiking through wild areas that don’t have trails running through them and provides an opportunity to develop good compass or GPS navigation skills. It’s called bushwhacking because you often encounter vegetation that whacks back, tearing your clothes and scratching your skin. Bushwhacking often involves hiking up mountains that don’t have trails leading up to them but can also encompass lower-level terrain through forests or canyons.

Winter Hiking or Backpacking

Winter hiking and backpacking build on and adapt your day hiking and backpacking skills when temperatures get colder. It often involves snowshoeing or winter traction aids including microspikes or crampons and learning how to stay warm whether you’re moving or at rest. There’s no reason you have to quit hiking when the days get cold and the wind begins to blow, provided you’re willing to learn the skills to stay safe in potentially hazardous situations.


Hiking is a versatile activity that caters to a wide variety of ages, physical types, and levels of ability. If you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there’s always something new to learn, new places to go, and new hiking partners to meet. Hiking is a wonderful hobby that you can grow into and that never gets old. So pick a trail, set your eye on the horizon, and take the first step into the great beyond. You’ll never look back.


  1. Night hiking is another one. It avoids the heat and the crowds, which can be a big deal in popular state parks. You can see more of your surroundings if you keep your flashlight off as much as possible. If you go a few nights before the full moon, then the already-large moon will already be above the trees and providing light, as soon as the sun goes down. Park rangers like you to leave a note on your dashboard, so they won’t think you have failed to return from a daytime activity.

  2. ^^^^ I second night hiking provided you don’t mind humongous bugs and sometimes bats diving at you and your headlamp. You could swear moths are inbound airplanes almost. I love it despite it can interfere with circadian cycles with some people.

    I’ll toss in warm coastal beach hiking like on Pacific islands and you pack a mask, fins and snorkel (dangerous admittedly). You can do this in the Great Lakes and other water sources. The quagga mussels have rendered the water extremely clear. A problem is beach sand can flow through the no-see-um mesh and clog your nose once you sleep. Ask me how I know.

  3. Could it be an east-west thing that what you call “bushwacking,” in California we call “cross-country hiking.” Unless we really do have to bushwack.

  4. After a knee injury , which I thought would end our spring break section hike , we were able to “slackpack” the planned 60 mile section. It was great- the hostel told us which roads were open, we got a shuttle at the end of each day back to the hostel . Being able to hike with just a day pack for multiple days was the best rehab ! Met so many thru hikers at the hostel and several joined us hiking without the full packs.

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