When does walking become hiking?

When Does Walking Become Hiking? (Explained)

Walking and hiking are both great ways to connect with nature, enjoy the outdoors, and improve your physical fitness. But when exactly does walking become hiking? Is it the distance covered, the terrain, or perhaps the level of exertion? Or maybe all 3?

In this article, we will explore the factors that make walking different from hiking and help you determine when your stroll becomes a full-fledged hiking adventure. Let´s go!

The Definitions

The definition of a walk

Dictionary.com defines walking as: To advance or travel on foot at a moderate speed or pace; proceed by steps; move by advancing the feet alternately so that there is always one foot on the ground in bipedal locomotion and two or more feet on the ground in quadrupedal locomotion.

The definition of a hike

The Cambridge dictionary defines a hike as: To go for a long walk in the countryside

From the definitions above we can summarise that hiking is essentially walking but longer and in the countryside. But as walkers and hikers will tell you, it´s not as simple as that.

Let´s explore some more factors and delve deeper into “When does walking become hiking?”


While distance can be a consideration, it is not the sole determining factor between walking and hiking.

Walking is often associated with shorter distances, typically within urban or suburban areas, where the focus is on a leisurely pace and exploring the surroundings.

On the other hand, hiking tends to involve more substantial distances, often covering trails or paths in natural landscapes such as forests, mountains, or national parks.

hikers going us a hill

Terrain and Difficulty

The terrain you traverse plays a crucial role in distinguishing walking from hiking.

Walking usually takes place on relatively flat or gently sloping surfaces, such as sidewalks or paved paths. Hiking, on the other hand, typically involves more challenging terrain, such as uneven trails, rocky surfaces, inclines, or descents.

Hiking will usually require greater physical exertion and the use of hiking boots or appropriate footwear to navigate through different landscapes.

Time and Duration

Another factor to consider is how long your walk or hike will take.

Walking often implies a more relaxed pace and can be done within a shorter timeframe. It may involve strolling around a park or neighborhood for an hour or two.

In contrast, hiking often entails longer durations, ranging from a few hours to multiple days. Hiking adventures often include planning for rest stops, meals, and even overnight camping if the trail requires it.

Equipment and Preparation

The equipment used and the level of preparation needed can also help to differentiate between walking and hiking.

Walking typically requires minimal equipment, such as comfortable shoes and some money for snacks along the way. Hiking on the other hand requires additional gear like backpacks, water bottles, navigation tools (e.g., maps, compass, or GPS), appropriate clothing for the weather, and possibly camping equipment for multi-day hikes.

Hiking usually requires more planning and preparation. This is due to the potential challenges presented by the natural environment.

The intensity and Physical Exertion

While walking can offer health benefits and is a great form of exercise, hiking generally involves a higher level of physical exertion.

The inclines, uneven terrain, and longer distances covered during hikes require more effort and can significantly elevate heart rate and engage various muscle groups. Hiking can be a more demanding activity, often resulting in increased endurance, strength, and cardiovascular fitness when compared to walking.

when does walking become hiking?


Essentially hiking is just walking, but the advanced version. Both activities are an enjoyable way for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise.

Many hikers do a lot of walking to keep themselves fit for longer hikes and many walkers push themselves a little harder at the weekend by going on a hike.

Ultimately, the transition from walking to hiking is a gradual one. It depends on individual preferences, abilities, and the desire for a more challenging outdoor experience. Whether you choose to take a leisurely walk in your local park or embark on a thrilling hiking adventure in the wilderness, both activities offer incredible opportunities to connect with nature and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle.

After delving deeper into the subject of when does walking become hiking? We conclude that the lines are blurry but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you have a good time and are prepared for the journey ahead.

Happy hiking, walking, or whatever you want to call it!

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Why walking is the most underrated form of exercise – NBC

What is hiking? – Explore share

Hiking resources – American Hiking Society