2020 was a breakout year for hiking. An additional 8 million Americans hiked in 2020, sixteen percent more than in 2019. When the world shut down, hiking as a hobby skyrocketed.
Since the great outdoors is a short drive from nearly every major city, hiking is a convenient hobby for anyone wanting to connect with nature.
It’s no surprise hiking grew exponentially in popularity during the pandemic. With the opportunity to leave the house, feel the wind in your hair, and breathe fresh air, hiking was the perfect answer to escape from the harsh realities.
So, why should you pick up hiking as a hobby now?
Life’s stresses never go away. And spending time in nature decreases anxiety and stress, while hiking strengthens your heart, lungs, and muscles. But the benefits don’t end there.
This article provides five thoughtful reasons why we believe hiking is the best hobby, and you should start hiking today.
Hiking as a hobby. 5 Reasons you should start hiking today
Hobbies are an opportunity to unplug from daily life. They reduce stress and enhance well-being while improving social connections and mental health — which is why hundreds of hobbies exist.
It’s easy to forget life is more than work and hectic errands. Hobbies are your reminder to enjoy the activities you love.
One positive outcome of the pandemic was a renewed interest in physical and mental health. In March 2020, the google search “list of hobbies” increased by 137%, and today still averages over twenty thousand searches a month.
And hiking tops many “best hobby” lists, including ours. So, Here are our five reasons you should start hiking as a hobby today:
1. The opportunity to explore new cities
New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami always make the most traveled city list. That’s because most vacationers choose a city based on food and attractions.
But have you ever considered Asheville, NC? Asheville offers breathtaking hikes with the Great Smokey Mountains to the West and two national forests along its borders. With thousands of miles of hikes — and hundreds of waterfalls to see — Asheville has become a destination for outdoor adventure seekers.
You can even hike to the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home, built by the Vanderbilts in 1889.
But if you only wanted to be outdoors, you would go camping.
Asheville features live music and tons of restaurants to enjoy when you aren’t hiking. They even have two James Beard award winning restaurants.
And that’s just one city. What sounds like an Asheville commercial illustrates how many incredible cities many miss — and hikers enjoy.
Hiking opens up a new world of adventure travel. And you can still enjoy great food and attractions.
2. Hiking is an inexpensive hobby
As a woodworker, I know a thing or two about expensive hobbies. Hiking is one of the few hobbies you can enjoy with no money.
Of course, not everyone is fully prepared for a hike today, and you may not have the appropriate gear. But you can complete an easy hike on a well-maintained trail in gym clothes and cross-trainer shoes.
If you’re a serious hobbyist who wants to jump right in, here’s a breakdown of potential costs you can expect when starting hiking as a hobby.
The cost of hiking:
- Hiking boots: $60 to $150
- Hiking backpack: $50 to $250
- Hiking socks: $12 to $20
- Hiking pants: $25 to $50
- Hiking shirts: $20 to $50
- Trekking poles: $70 to $150
- First aid kit: $10
- National park annual pass: $80
It costs between $325 to $750 to visit REI and buy most of the quality gear you need. But a great pair of boots, some thick hiking socks — and the occasional $5 to enter a national park — should cost you $100, and last you hundreds of hikes.
Don’t run out and buy all the gear today. As your hikes become more challenging, you can slowly accumulate new hiking gear on an as-needed basis.
You can always get by wearing gym clothes on hikes. Just avoid denim jeans on hikes, since they absorb sweat, making for uncomfortable, soggy, chafing pants.
3. Choose your own adventure level
When hiking, a 5-mile trail can take two hours or five. The challenge of the hike is for you to decide.
Pick an intermediate uphill hike to work your calves and glutes, or an easy, flat hike to spend time in nature.
And a short hike doesn’t mean a boring one.
Some of the most beautiful hikes in the world are only an hour or two. And as your conditioning and hiking abilities grow, you can work up to more demanding hikes with bucket list endings.
The Havasu Falls and Havasupai Falls hike in Arizona is a 6-hour out-and-back hike through the Havasupai Indian Reservation to the stunning Havasu Falls. Most choose to camp or stay at the lodge before making the long trek back.
You can even climb Mount Whitney, a 21.5-mile hike up the highest summit in the lower 48. Summiting Mount Whitney takes 7 to 8 hours.
These hikes are incredibly tough, yet both yield entirely different results; The highest summit in the contiguous U.S. with breathtaking panoramic views or a historic trail to a hidden turquoise oasis of waterfalls in the desert.
Choose your adventure.
4. Improve physical and mental health
Nature has a profound effect on our minds. The American Psychological Association found that just two hours of recreation in nature each week improves health and well-being. Regardless if it’s one day or along many.
The study showed nature decreases depression, relieves stress, and eases anxiety. It also improves cognitive abilities, such as:
- Cognitive flexibility
- Attentional control
We all need to exercise, so why not take a long beautiful walk in nature? After all, it is the best way to walk.
If you haven’t walked around your block recently, go for a stroll. It’s surprisingly uninteresting, and you just want to get home.
On a hike, the sights and sounds, along with the focus and challenge of trails, make time pass. Hiking allows you to cover a longer distance and get a better, more enjoyable workout.
A hobby that enhances your well-being while burning calories and strengthening your heart.
5. Build friendships and bonds
It’s a proven fact that the flavor of chicken wings enhances 4x when consumed with friends after a hike. It’s science.
There’s something about replenishing burned calories while reminiscing about the treetop views from the summit, sharing photos of a deer, and joking with the newest hiker who didn’t talk for the entire trek back.
A great hike forms bonds. Camaraderie is built from sticking together as a group, encouraging each other when the steep hill slows you to a crawl.
Then basking in the glory of conquering that hill.
It may sound dramatic, but hiking is an excellent way to spend time with friends and meet other friendly hikers. Finding hiking groups on Facebook can be a perfect way to start your hiking hobby.
Hiking with your partner is a fun way to catch up on the week’s craziness and download on the latest office drama. On hikes, you have the opportunity to unplug and be present.
You don’t have to choose hiking as a hobby. All you need to do is lace up your best gripping, most comfortable shoes and hit the trail.
If you enjoyed your hike, go again next week.
Then, find your zen feature, like waterfalls, views, wildlife, or petroglyphs, and hike to that. Then find the next biggest waterfall and go hike to it.
We are blessed to have stunning nature around us. The more you search, the more you find extraordinary adventures awaiting.
I loved turning pieces of walnut lumber into furniture, but that hobby can’t leave my garage.
Did you decide to pick up hiking as a hobby? Share this story and ask your friends to join you.