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Great Hiking and Outdoor Memoirs

Appalachian Trail - Massachusetts

I really like reading hiking and outdoor memoirs because they combine personal insights and emotions with the writers’ experience of everyday routine, physical trials, town encounters, and natural wonder. There’s a richness in them that you don’t often find in autobiographies or more episodic trail journals and trip reports.

I was working on my holiday gift lists this weekend and thought I’d pull together a list of my favorite hiking memoirs for you. I’ve read many of these and can recommend them. The rest – I hope someone will buy me!

Appalachian Trail

New Hampshire Appalachian Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

Start of the Long Trail at the Massachusetts Border

Other US

Canada Border Marker - Long Trail in Vermont


If you have any other hiking or outdoor memoirs you’d like to recommend please leave a comment below.

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  1. Great list – thanks.

    I just started reading a new book, so I cannot definitely recommend it, but you might check out Getting High by Edna Erspamer. She started out climbing So Cal mountains with the Sierra Club, graduated to peaks around the world, and is now trying to visit as many different countries as possible – over 200 so far.

  2. I have always enjoyed "Give Me the Hills" by Miriam Underhill. No longer in print, but available used for a song.

  3. Thank you for the recommendations! I’ve read a few of these already, but am constantly on the outlook for more memoirs about long-distance hiking, mostly of the AT and PCT (one day I hope to do my own). I have trouble finding some of the titles at the local libraries though, I wish they were more easily available.

  4. For a glimpse of the 19th century experience, (i.e. before Goretex and Polyester), try Treasury of the Sierra Nevada, edited by Robert Leonard Reid,and Exploring the Highest Sierra by James G. Moore. The latter selection contains some interesting information on the evolution of mapping techniques, and quite a lot about geology. The author did geological fieldwork in the high mountains every summer.

  5. These are great suggestions – thanks. I love getting feedback like this.

  6. I also like Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. I thought it was hilarious. I know many scoff at him, but he never really intended a thru-hike. He got what he went out there for, and that's really what it's all about, isn't it?

    • I completely agree. Why would anyone scoff at him? Because he doesn’t fit the profile of a young, fit, I’m immortal type of hiker!? I think he’s braver than most.

    • A walk in the woods is 1) not true – complete fictions and 2) try reading the second half of the book. It sucks.

    • Yes, I agree that it should be on here! I’m also surprised that “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed wasn’t on here. Both books may not be thru-hikers or even people who have ever hiked before. But they still accomplished much and had experiences that are more relatable to the average person. Plus, both of these books did much to draw attention to these trails and get people out there and interested. Maybe you don’t love them, but they are important to at least list to give people a full sense of what books are out there.

  7. With poetry in the mix, add something by Gary Snyder Mountains and Rivers Without End is small enough to take along. The first section of Danger on Peaks is the wonderful sequence about Mount St. Helens. Left Out in the Rain is a "best of" collection.

    Your choice.

  8. Add The Seven Mountain-Travel Books by H. W. Tilman and The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan by Alex Booth.

  9. Monosodium Glutamate

    Some good ones there.  I've read several of them myself.  But one that is consipicuous by its absence is Walking with Spring by Earl Shaffer. He was the first person to thru-hike the AT, and his telling of it is still one of the best, I think.

  10. new old backpckr

    I LOVE good reading lists.  My most recent AT read was IN Beauty May She Walk.  It's not high literature but it's an enjoyable enough read. I totally liked A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson. I love stories about imperfection and he hits that nail solidly on the head.

    This is not a hiking recommendation, instead a nature recommendation.  I love Mary Oliver (just about any of her collections will do).  I think for people who love spending time immersed in nature she writes about it with clarity. A tiny collection is a perfect pack companion.  Each poem can be read over and over.  I carry a collection in my car for moments when I need to remember what life is all about.

  11. Thanks for the awesome list! I read THE LAST SEASON years ago and couldn’t remember the title. What a great book! Another book I loved is called THE WILD TREES. Not about hiking, but about a group of crazy, wonderful people who become obsessed with free-climbing the redwoods. Highly recommended!

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