Is Hiking Walking? 13 Profound Differences Between Casual Walking and Serious Hiking

At a glance, hiking seems quite similar to ordinary walking. You put one foot in front of the other and get from Point A to Point B.

So, is hiking walking? what specifically differentiates hiking from pedestrian walking?

Although hiking involves walking, upon closer inspection major differences emerge in terms of terrain, purpose, gear, fitness, and overall outdoor experience.

This comprehensive guide examines the key variances between casual walking and hardcore hiking.


Is Hiking and Walking the Same?

Is it worth hiking or is hiking just walking? In order to truly answer the question, “Is hiking is walking?”, I will need to take you through some of the peculiarities of hiking.


1. Hiking Often Covers Rougher, More Challenging Terrain

Perhaps the most obvious distinction is that hiking frequently involves following paths through rugged wilderness areas rather than paved sidewalks or manicured trails within a city park.

Hikers must navigate obstacles like rocks, roots, fallen trees, and stream crossings along narrow dirt trails. Maintaining footing and balance becomes an integral part of the activity.

Inclines and declines are sharper and more plentiful. Hikers utilize techniques like switchbacks traversing steep mountainsides. Miles gain thousands of feet in elevation change.

Walking on city streets or through a forest preserve does not compare to the diversity of terrain and elevation found on a remote hiking path. Hikers require agility and awareness.

Also Read: What is Unparalleled Hiking and 5 Benefits It Gives


2. Hiking Happens Over Vast Distances

While a typical walk around the block or between offices might be 1-3 miles, hikers think little of covering 5, 8, 12 or more miles continuously over 4-8 hours carrying a pack.

Weekend warriors knock out hikes up to 15 miles roundtrip with thousands of feet elevation gain. Serious hobbyists and thru-hikers log 20+ mile days for months.

This endurance factor separates hiking from a walk to the corner store. It becomes a sustained activity requiring cardiovascular stamina and strength.


3. Hiking Blends Appreciation of Nature with Physical Exertion

Hiking combines enjoying beautiful natural surroundings with the action of walking. The physical aspect gets you deep into wild settings.

The sights, sounds, and smells of environments like forests, mountains, deserts, and seashores become a key part of the hiking experience. Getting exercise joins with immersing in nature.

Casual walking lacks this intentionality to witness the splendor of mother nature by traversing through untamed landscapes. Hiking thus blends outdoor appreciation with activity.

4. Gear and Supplies Needed for Hiking

Given the potential remoteness, changeable weather, and rigor involved, hikers utilize specialized clothing, footwear, navigation tools, and provisions optimized for comfort and safety in the backcountry.

Sturdy, supportive boots suited to ankles twisting on uneven terrain prevent injury.

Packs carry ample water, food, layers, emergency supplies, and first aid kits in case issues arise miles from help.

Other potential items include trekking poles, firestarters, camping equipment, and wildlife deterrents.

You won’t see pedestrians walking the mall food court equipped with such gear. The need to carry provisions and emergency items for self-sufficiency in the wilderness differentiates hiking.

Also Read: Is Hiking Spiritual? Why it is and 7 Spiritual Benefits of Hiking


5. Physical Conditioning Makes Hiking Enjoyable

Walking casually around town utilizes about the same effort as daily life. Hiking often requires increased fitness, endurance, and joint flexibility to cover distances without pain and injury.

Serious hikers condition with strength training, intervals, hill workouts, and long weekend back-to-back mileage.

This allows them to summit peaks, complete 100-mile wilderness treks, and carry packs over mountain passes without destroying their bodies.

Walking between subway stops does not demand such preparation. The athletic element of hiking needs intentional honing.

Also Read: Why is it Called Hiking: Find out the Origins, Evolution and Meaning of Hiking

6. Risk Management is Key for Hiking

From lightning strikes to snake bites, the potential hazards encountered moving through remote country on unreliable trails warrant caution. Hikers must constantly assess dangers and prepare accordingly.

Few walkers in the city consider mudslide risk, packing emergency locator beacons, or watching for mountain lion tracks. But managing risks responsibly allows hikers to venture into the wild.

This need for enhanced safety awareness separates hiking from a routine neighborhood stroll.


7. Hiking Often Happens “Off Trail” on Unmarked Routes

While pedestrians stick to sidewalks and walking paths with signage, hikers frequently blaze their own routes navigating by map, compass, and landscape.

Bushwhacking up streambeds, navigating boulder fields, and exploring uncharted ridges requires orienteering skills.

Judgement and comfort leaving maintained trails expands possibilities enormously for wanderlust hikers.

Urban jaywalkers aside, walkers generally don’t leave established paths. But exploring untamed areas defines hiking’s adventurous spirit.


8. Hiking Happens Regardless of All Weather Conditions

From blizzards to scorching heat, dedicated hikers adapt clothing, gear, and itineraries to hit the trail in any forecast. Foul weather earns bragging rights.

Strolling through the park picks optimal sunny days and rarely ventures out in rain, snow, or darkness. Hikers embrace the elements as part of the beauty and challenge. Adapting to unpleasant conditions allows more hiking time.

Also Read: Is Hiking a Hobby? 17+ Key Criteria to Consider Hiking as a Passionate Pastime


9. Hiking Often Involves Primitive Camping or Overnight Stays

Hikes may stretch multiple days and nights in the backcountry, requiring carrying camping gear and provisions. Even day hikes base from remote trailheads with no services.

Walking odds are you’ll return home to a comfy bed vs. sleeping on the ground. Overnights in the wilderness add another dimension.

Camping skills like site selection, food storage, and navigation distinguish hiking culture. Walking does not incorporate primitive camping.


10. Solitude and Escape Are Major Hiking Motivations

A driving purpose in hiking is escaping society’s hum and finding inner peace. The remote trails lead hikers away from crowds into cathedrals of quiet natural splendor.

People stride neighborhood streets for exercise or transportation. But hikers value disconnecting from the human commotion and sensory overload of modern life.

Time alone in nature offers restorative spiritual respite. Companionship with the woods rejuvenates the soul.


11. Hiking Builds Self-Reliance and Survival Skills

When miles from the nearest road and help, hikers depend solely on their preparation and training in the case of emergencies. Knowledge of first aid, navigation, and emergency survival greatly benefits.

Walking well-trodden paths within sight of aid, you need minimal gear or outdoor skills. But hiking safely develops critical self-reliance.


12. Distinction by Regulators and Land Managers

Government agencies draw clear delineations between walking and hiking based on remoteness and risk levels.

Permits, fees, reservations, and strict regulations apply to hikers occupying backcountry areas. Walkers in front country parks and neighborhoods see few such rules.


13. Hiking Happens for Fulfillment, Not Just Transportation

People hike primarily for recreation, adventure, and inner rejuvenation – not just to reach a destination. The journey through nature matters most. Hiking constitutes the main event versus a means to an end.

Walking often serves the utilitarian purpose of reaching offices, shops, or parked cars. Hikers embrace wandering for its inherent rewards.

Also Read: Is Hiking a Skill? Develop These Top 13+ Skills Through Hiking


Final Thoughts: Key Differences Summarized

So, is hiking walking?

In summary, while hiking utilizes the mechanism of walking, major differences set it apart:

  • The wilderness settings and distances covered.
  • Need for specialized equipment and fitness.
  • Self-reliance in the face of uncertainty and risk.
  • Escape to nature as the primary motivation.
  • Spiritual and mental rewards taking precedence over convenience.
  • Enduring rugged trails vs. urban smoothness and safety.
  • Deep connection to the natural world.

So while every hiker goes walking, not every walker can claim they go hiking! The nuances warrant hiking’s special designation as more than a routine walk.


FAQS on Is Hiking Walking


Is it possible to go hiking in a city or local park?

Certainly! Any walking trail that gets you immersed in nature and away from development can constitute hiking, even if just for a couple miles. What matters most is the spirit of adventure and separation from urbanity.

Which activity burns more calories, hiking or walking?

Due to the challenging terrain, elevation changes, and heavier packs, hiking generally burns more calories per hour than casual walking. A 180 pound hiker can burn around 550 calories per hour hiking uphill with a pack, versus just 300 calories walking on level ground.

Can you prepare for a big hike just by walking every day?

Unfortunately plain walking does not condition you fully for the intensity, distance, and elevation gain involved in serious hiking. Supplementing walks with strength training, hill repeats, and weekend hikes with a loaded pack offers better training.

What footwear works best for both hiking and walking in cities?

Light hikers or trail runners with sturdy traction work well for both easy natural trails and sidewalks. They provide support without the bulk of full backpacking boots. Models like Merrell Moab Edge or Salomon X Ultra 3 are popular options.

Is it safe to hike alone if you regularly walk alone?

Generally not – hiking comes with additional risks like getting lost, falling, and wildlife encounters that warrant extra precautions. Leaving word of your route, bringing emergency communications devices, and hiking with a friend are best practices.

Can you use walking distance apps to track hikes?

Apps like MapMyWalk work okay for casual hikes but lack the topo maps, landmarks, and trail tagging that hiking-specialized apps like AllTrails provide. Gaia GPS offers the most advanced off-trail navigation features for hikers.

Are Nordic walking poles and trekking poles the same thing?

Nordic poles for fitness walking on roads have smaller baskets and tips and focus on enhancing upper body workout. Trekking poles are lighter, telescoping, and have larger baskets designed for stability, distributing effort, and traction on variable natural terrain.

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