Types of Hiking

Rilor Staff
Update: September 7, 2020
Table of Contents

Did you know that there are different types of hiking? 

Of course, hiking can be defined by many things. Most of the time, the activity itself is viewed on how it is done and the level of difficulty. 

The parlance remains the same, regardless. They all fall to the category of hiking. But for starters, it is essential that you can identify the kind of hikes that you can do. 

Here are them! 

5 Major Types Of Hiking

Day Hiking

The name of this hike speaks for itself. Day hiking is any type of hike that only takes place when the sun is up. When there's no daylight, the hike concludes, and there's no negotiating that. 

Day hikes are usually done for leisure. But it can also be extensive. Most people do this for relaxation; when you want to escape the urban jungle for a little while, a short hike on your favorite trail is a good solution. 

You can also hike in challenging terrains, especially if you have your guide with you. You can actually spend the day on a hike. As long as it doesn't last until night, you can still call it a day hike.

Fortunately, day hikes are not strictly limited to your local hiking spots. You can always take your vehicle or hop on a bus so that you can visit trails in other areas. It is a form of transfer hike. Just make sure that you can go home before the sun sets down. 

Multi-Day Hiking

When it comes to extensive hiking, there's almost nothing that comes close to a multi-day hike. This form of hiking doesn't last overnight; it actually lasts for several days. Sometimes, it can endure for more than a week. 

A multi-day hike is a type of expedition. While it is true that beginners are allowed to take it, a multi-day hike is always suitable for experienced hikers who want to test their grit and skills. 

There are different terrains that a person can take in this particular kind of hiking. Most are taking up trail parks, mountain ranges, and protected landscapes as their destination. As long as the trail requires multiple days of walking and trekking, then it is a perfect place for this activity. 

Of course, serious preparation is necessary to ensure that you can complete the journey. From your clothing down to your food and shelter, these things should be accounted for before you do a multi-day hike. 

Summit Hiking

For me, there's nothing that can top a summit hike when it comes to the "feels." It lets you experience something that no other adventures can give. 

A summit hike is definitely rewarding. By being able to scale the peak of a mountain or summit, you are giving yourself the chance to witness the grandeur of nature. It makes you feel that you are on the top of the world, and that's a sensation that is truly intoxicating. 

Summit hikes are for those who have sincere love for adventure, excellence, and reaching new goals. It is challenging at first, especially traversing harsh terrains, jagged routes, and steep cliffs. But once you are on the top, all of the pain and strain that your body feels will all be gone. A sense of euphoria will take place. It is downright exhilarating.

Just like a multi-day hike, summit hikes require extensive preparations. Your body is your main arsenal, so you need to train it. Just imagine the preparations being done by those who want to conquer Mt. Everest. I am not saying that you are going to do the same. It is just the concept that counts. 

Section Hiking 

There's also the section hike, which involves a long trail that you need to cover. But unlike long-distance hikes and multi-day hikes, the trails in a section hike should be traversed in different stages. 

There are different methods on how you can do a section hike. Some people try to cover a trail on a weekly basis. They take one part of the trail in the first week, then complete the rest in the succeeding weeks. Others do this monthly or yearly.  

Interestingly, section hiking doesn't require you to complete a trail in a specific arrangement or order. There are hikers that choose to go on selected parts of the trail and leave the rest uncovered. 


Thru-Hiking is an extensive type of hiking. It necessitates a person to be committed to the jaunt. It does not only take a day or a week. It usually takes multiple months. And keep in mind that the trail should be completed within a single calendar year. 

There are multiple trails that can be involved in a thru-hike. In the United States, the applicable trails for this particular activity are the Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. 

Is Hiking A Sport?

There's a lot of debate when it comes to this matter, and honestly, it is quite difficult to take sides. I am a fan of hiking, but it doesn't mean that it is a reason I will be irrational in defining things. 

Let's define sports, first, before we delve into this matter. According to a quick Google search, sports is defined as the following: an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

We can already see the answer to our question in the definition given above. Hiking is a sport if we are going to include physical exertion as our primary condition. However, it will not become one if there's no "competition" involved. 

And when there's competition, there are rewards and rules. There are players, and there are several policies that would regulate it. 

Strictly speaking, hiking doesn't have those things. It is only a physical activity that is done for leisure. Surely, there are hiking races out there, but they are just an exemption. In general, hiking will just remain as an outdoor endeavor. 

It is simply there for you to relax, take a break, or train your body. So don't fret. You are not competing with anyone here. 

What Type Of Hiking Is Best For Weight Loss?

When it comes to this matter, a lot of you would say that summit hikes or multi-day hikes are the best means to lose some pounds. Of course, they can help you burn calories and lose fats in the process. But when it comes to efficiency, I don't think that they come close to day hikes. 

Are you surprised? You shouldn't be. 

You see, day hikes can be done on a regular basis. This means that it is entirely possible that you can do it every single day. You can see it as similar to jogging and walking. You can do it in your daily regimen. 

Always remember that day hikes don't actually consume an entire day. You only need a couple of hours here, and the adventure is already complete. If there's a short trail near you, you already have an excellent means of scrapping your weight. 

In short, day hikes are meant for exercise because they can be repeated in short and regular intervals. You can't do the same to multi-day hikes as these trips are extensive but irregular. You might only want to do them once or twice a year. 

What Types Of Hiking Might Be Bad For Your Knees?

Hiking will test your feet, no matter what type it is. As long as you are grinding your feet, chances are, your legs and knees will suffer from it. 

Trust me. Even the most experienced hikers do suffer from bad knees. Keep in mind that you are carrying your entire body weight during the journey. One wrong move and the lower part of your body will surely sustain wounds and damages. Your knees, specifically, are prone to these mishaps because the weight and force are focused on them. 

Fortunately, there are means to protect your knees during a hike. Here are some of them:

  • Do warm-ups - Before you hike, make sure that you have to condition your body properly. Warm-ups are essential for hikers and athletes alike. They ensure that the body is "heated" and "geared" up for the adventure. Sprains and fractures happen when you simply rely on your strength and vitality. 
  • Wear the right shoes - Another thing that you need to do is to invest in the right hiking footwear. If your knees have issues, make sure that your footwear can provide good support. Their soles should be thick and must conform to your gait. Of course, don't forget that they should be comfortable, too.
  • Wear knee braces - Having a knee brace to your knees is essential, especially if it is too sensitive to injuries. Those who usually wear these braces are individuals who suffered from knee injuries in the past. There are different types of knee braces, but the best ones for hiking are functional and rehabilitative.
  • Don't carry too much weight - Again, let me remind you that your feet are always under constant pressure during hiking expeditions. Therefore, you should try to be as kind to it as possible. If you can, minimize the weight that you will carry. In this way, your knees won't be abused.

Hiking vs. Trekking: What's Their Difference

Most of the time, hiking and trekking are terms used interchangeably. In fact, I am pretty guilty of that. It seems that these are bound to be intertwined like they are some forms of synonyms. 

However, keep in mind that these two have separate distinctions. When it comes to technicality, it is proper that you know their respective nuances. 

Main Traits Of Hiking

  • Done for pleasure
  • Usually done in established footpaths and trails
  • It can be completed overnight
  • Trails can range from 2.5 miles to 30 miles
  • It can be a day hike or multi-day trip
  • Only use lightweight equipment and amenities

Main Traits Of Trekking

  • It is also done for pleasure and relaxation
  • Destinations usually cover dirt roads, established trails, and areas that have no paths at all
  • It always lasts for multiple days
  • Travel can range from 30 miles to 15,000 miles
  • Requires large packs and multiple amenities for survival

Do Different Types Of Hiking Require Different Equipment? 

There are multiple considerations when it comes to choosing your hiking equipment. The weather, the terrain, and the nature of the adventure will account for the type of things that you should bring and wear. 

One cannot say that there's a one-size-fits-all solution in every type of hike. That's not true. 

Even a day hike will require different types of clothing, depending on the weather. On a sunny day, you can just wear a casual shirt and shorts during the hike. You might also want to wear visors and hats to defend yourself from the heat. Sandals and light shoes will fit the condition, too. 

But during the winter, you can't wear them already. As much as possible, you need to cover yourself in layers. You got to wear pants and thick shoes, too, to ensure that you can combat the low temperatures. 

The tools and utilities in a day hike also differ from more extensive forms of hiking. For instance, it is not necessary anymore to bring a tent to a short excursion in your favorite trail. But on section hikes and summit expeditions, you will really need a tent, tarp, and other forms of shelters. Moreover, you are required to bring a myriad of essentials such as cooking wares, survival gear, and navigational equipment. 

I have made a checklist for these items on my separate posts. You might want to check them out. 

As of now, you just have to be clear that there's a need for you to plan the kind of items that you are going to bring in your hike. 

Types Of Hiking Trails

  • Foot trails - These are the trails that come into your mind whenever the word "hiking" is mentioned. The distance and terrain of these foot trails vary. Some are meant for beginners, while others will challenge those who want to conquer them. Some are located in the heart of national parks, while others are just near cities and urban conurbations. There are numerous foot trails in your vicinity. You might want to explore them one by one!
  • Bikeways - These paths are made for bikers and cyclists. But at the same time, hikers and people on foot can use them during their travel. If you are planning to traverse a bikeway, make sure that you practice the proper right-of-way. Give way to cyclists, as that path is made for them. 
  • Boardwalks - Boardwalks serve as a bridge so that you can traverse ponds, rivers, and marshy terrains without getting wet. Sure enough, there are terrains that are teeming with these water bodies. Boardwalks serve as a convenient choice for hikers since there are no obstacles that you can encounter on them. 
  • Interpretive trails - These trails are pretty interesting, as they tell a story about the area. When going to such trails, you will not experience their natural beauty. You will also learn about the history of the place, its wildlife, and the cultures and traditions that embrace it. These trails are not extensive; usually, they are just short and quite accessible. They are littered with signs that tell all the information about the area. 
  • Multi-use trails - These trails are for everyone--from hikers to animals. They can lead to various destinations such as forests, mountains, and hills. When using these trails, you have to mind your etiquette. Observe the right-of-way and always be polite to everyone encounter. 
  • No trail - Some of the best destinations have no paths or routes. You might want to try heading to these off-trail places, as they can give the thrill and excitement that you want. 
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