Close this search box.
HomeHikingTypes of Hiking (24 Different Variations EXPLAINED)

Types of Hiking (24 Different Variations EXPLAINED)

Types of Hiking

Wilderness Times may receive commissions for links included in articles to Amazon and other affiliate partners. We take pride in our testing and research, and recommendations are not given out lightly.

Ready to hike for the first time?

Congrats! Which type of hiking do you plan on getting started with?

If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry. That’s why we’re here today.

In this article, we’ll go over different types of hiking, as well as everything else you need to know about this amazing activity.

Without further delay, I present to you different types of hiking!

Types of Hikes

In order to figure out which type of hiking is the best for you, you need to know what different types of hiking are.

Day Hiking

woman day hiking along a trail on a mountain

As the name suggests, day hiking means going for a hike while it’s daylight. Now, there aren’t strict rules as to what’s considered a day hike.

Really, it can be a simple walk outside – even if that means doing it in your local city park. Of course, it can also be more difficult, like climbing up and down a hill or a small mountain.

Now, there are a few different types of day hikes, depending on the type of trail.

Loop Hikes

A loop trail starts and ends in the same place. But you’re not actually going back and forward the same route.

A loop hike is, more or less, going in a circle until you reach the same spot you started at.

This type of hike is great for beginners, as you don’t have to plan your ride back.

Out and Back Hikes

This type of hike also starts and ends at the same point, but unlike a loop trail, you’re going back the same way you came to the specific point.

For instance, the trail from A to B is 2 miles long. For an out and back hike, you’re going from A to B, then back to A, walking 4 miles in total.

Multi-trail Hikes

multi trails hikeing

As the name implies, this type of hike consists of different trail paths done in sequence.

Multi-trail hikes can be loop hikes as well, but more often than not they start and end in different points.

Overnight Hiking

Overnight hiking basically includes sleeping out in the wild and continuing your trail when you wake up. While similar, overnight hiking isn’t the same as backpacking.

Well, to be frank, the only real difference between the two lies in the length of the trail. Overnight hiking lasts no more than a day or two, and usually means going over a relatively short trail.

Summit Hiking

If what you’re after is a sense of accomplishment and reward, then summit hiking is right up your alley.

This type of hike is exactly what the name says it is – reaching the summit of a mountain.

And while completing any hike can and should be fulfilling, there’s something different about the hype reaching a peak gives you.

It also helps that the views of the nature around you are 100% of the time breathtaking when you’re up there.

If summit hiking ends up being your thing, consider taking up hill bagging. That basically means turning climbing up as many peaks as you can as an objective. And it’s extremely rewarding.

Long-Distance Hiking (Backpacking)

backpacking the Arizona trail
Backpacking the Arizona trail (Photo Credit: Justin Hikes)

If you’re physically and mentally ready to commit to a long trail, then backpacking is next on your list of activities.

Now there’s no clear definition as to what counts as a long-distance hike, but generally, it should be more than 100 miles long, with routes passing mainly through rural areas.

Backpacking is a real commitment because you’re traveling for weeks and even months with just the essentials packed on your back.

And because you’re out in the wilderness, you’ll get hot, cold, wet, bitten by bugs, and quite dirty.

But, if you can adapt and go with the flow, reaching the final destination is a real fulfillment that you’ll never forget.

Hikers swear it changes you as a person, and they’re not exaggerating. Living on a trail with just the bare minimum can really change your perspective on life.

Now, there are a few different versions of long-distance hiking:

Thru-Hiking or Trekking

If you’re willing to “go all in,” then thru-hiking and/or trekking might be your thing. This type of hike is, on average, a 5 to 7 months long journey across a long-distance trail.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Appalachian or the Pacific Crest Trail.

Both are more than 2000 miles long and are passing through several states and many gorgeous sceneries.

Section Hiking

Not all of us can go thru-hiking, whether for lack of free time, equipment, or fitness level… and that’s okay. You can still enjoy any of the trails, but by doing them in sections.

The beauty lies in the fact that you don’t have to finish a trail in a specific order.

In most cases, there are certain parts of the trail that are more interesting than the others, so you can do them first.

And then you can complete those more boring parts some other time. Or never, who cares!

Also See: How Many Miles Can You Hike In a Day?


Fastpacking essentially means covering more ground while carrying less weight.

The goal here is to carry as little as possible so that the bulk isn’t slowing you down.

Ideally, this means your pack should be under 20 pounds, with food and water weighing no more than 4 pounds.

Trail Running

trail running

Want to step up your fitness game? Consider trail running. Running on the trail means running over changing terrain and surfaces.

Compared to it, road running is a piece of cake. But while very technical and physically demanding, trail running can be quite beneficial and rewarding.

Other Hiking Variations

We’re not done here! There are plenty of other hiking variations out there, that are not that popular but still very interesting and adventurous.

Glacier Hiking

Hiking on the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, Canada
Hiking on the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, Canada

That’s right, walking on a glacier. Now, this is quite a dangerous activity, and should never be done alone.

The risk of slipping on ice and falling down is just too big, and there won’t be anyone around to help you.

But in a pair or as a group, glacier hiking can be just as amazing.


This type of hiking sounds more extreme than it is in reality. But, it’s nothing short of fun. Heli-hiking basically means reaching a remote area that is not accessible via any other means of transportation.

Although more expensive than some more traditional forms of hiking, heli-hiking gives you a chance to enjoy the views from the sky as well.

Winter Hiking

winter hiking

Hiking in winter requires much more preparation and practice than hiking during other seasons. You need to know how to dress in layers, pack properly, walk over snow and just generally stay safe while you’re out in the wild.

Naked Hiking

Yes, this type of hiking is exactly what you think it is – walking the trail while wearing nothing but your “birth suit.”

Naked hiking has become quite popular in recent years, and that’s not surprising. After all, you’re exploring the outdoors in your most natural form.

In case you’re wondering, going au naturel in most national parks is absolutely fine, as there are no federal laws addressing nudity.

As for the state land, it depends on the location. But in most cases, there are risks of misdemeanor or felony charges.

But this sounds scarier than it actually is. Basically, someone has to report you for indecent exposure.

So, as long as you’re trying to stay away from people not participating in the same type of hike, you’ll be fine.

Relaxed (Mindful) Hiking

Who said hiking has to be physically and mentally challenging? You can go out in the wild and have a relaxed walk, without pushing yourself to do harder.

Picnic Hikes

Ending a trail with some tasty picnic food and drinks, sign me up! Reaching a nice picnic destination is a good enough reason for a hike, and the meal at the end of the trail is even more enjoyable and satisfying.

Hiking at Night

Hiking at night can be a great chance to see nocturnal animals and enjoy some amazing stargazing.

Not to mention that the trails are emptier and you have the ability to beat the heat during hotter months.

Night hikes can be great group experiences and tons of fun!

Who to Hike with?

Ahh, the age-old question. Who to invite with you on a hiking trip? Well, the possibilities are practically endless.

Solo Hiking

Not everyone wants to go on a trail with a companion, and that’s okay. A hike is a perfect activity to improve both your mind and body.

From lowering your blood pressure to reconnecting with yourself, there are numerous ways that going for a solo hike can be good for your health.

Group Hiking

group hiking

Depending on where you’re going, hiking in a group can be a much safer option. But aside from that, there are plenty of ways group hikes can be beneficial – social connection and mutual assistance are just a few.

Family Hiking

While sometimes chaotic, family hiking with kids is a great way to unplug and spend quality time together. You get to turn off the technology and catch up with everyone.

These types of hikes might not be the most physically challenging ones, but are definitely heart-fulfilling.

Hiking Clubs

Your friends aren’t fond of hiking? No problem. Nowadays you can find tons of clubs you can join.

These are people of all ages and backgrounds that share your enthusiasm about hitting the trail.

By hiking with a group of like-minded people, you not only have something to talk, but someone to learn from as well.

And most importantly, safety in numbers. Whether you encounter wild animals or experience a medical situation, a group can respond to it much easier.

Hiking with Dogs

hiking with dogs

Arguably the best trail companion is your furry friend (and dogs can go camping too). We don’t say that a dog is a man’s best friend for no reason.

They understand us even when we’re not uttering a word, and sometimes you just want to hike in a company, but without having to talk.

Of course, that is assuming that your canine companion is trained to be a good citizen. You should also know that dogs should always be on a leash, even if they’re very obedient pooches.

No matter how good of a boy (or girl) your dog is, the scent of wildlife can be too tempting for them to resist, and they might run away.

Hiking Classes

If you’ve never hiked before, taking up a class is a great way to get into the matter.

And even if you’re a more experienced hiker, there are intermediate and expert level classes that teach you skills like climbing and mountaineering.

Nature Classes

This type of class is more focused on enjoying the surroundings than physical exertion. Nature classes are great if you’re unsure hiking is your thing.

Guided Hikes

If you want to know more about the trail you’re on, then guided hikes are your thing.

A guide can give you the context of your surroundings that you might not get on your own. Plus, you can’t get lost when you’re guided, which is always great.

Start a search on a site like TripAdvisor or Google to find the type of guided hike you might be looking for.

Benefits of Hiking

Not just enjoyable, hiking can be quite beneficial.

Mental Health

There’s something very calming about being in nature. Research shows that hiking helps with battling the symptoms of stress and anxiety.

And that’s true – it’s hard to think about stressful stuff when you’re surrounded by breathtaking views and the silence of nature.

Plus, all that sun exposure gives you the much-needed vitamin D, which plays a great role in regulating our moods.

Being in Nature

being in nature

When you’re out in the wild, you’re surrounded by nothing but the sounds of wildlife and greenery. And as noisy as they can get, they’re always extremely peaceful. And of course, the beauty of the scenery is hard to ignore.

Staying Fit

Hiking is a great physical exercise. Walking on harsh, changing terrain and on different slopes means your body must work harder against gravity. This improves your muscles, as well as your overall agility and stamina.

Hiking in Weather

Checking the weather forecast is a must prior to any hike. Why? Because the weather you encounter on the trail will have a huge effect on how hard your hike ends up being.

Hiking in Snow


Hiking in snow requires proper gear and skill. You’re walking up and downhill, but now the ground below you is either frozen or packed with snow – or both!

Plus, the days are short and nights are extremely cold. You need to be able to safely hike in both.

Hiking in Heat

Summer weather can be quite oppressive as well.

You need to stay well hydrated, wear light clothes and gear and, most importantly, know when to take a break.

Heat stroke is a serious condition, and you need to know how to prevent and treat it.

Hiking in Rain

To hike in rain, waterproof gear is a must. If you stay wet for too long, you’ll get sick – no matter what time of year it is.

You should also be aware of the safety hazards on the trail, such as slippery terrain and flash floods.

Hiking Safety

I could go for hours when it comes to hiking safety – let’s be real, you can never be too careful. But here are some safety tips every hiker should follow, regardless of their fitness level and hiking expertise.

Research your hiking trail – the best way to avoid possible pitfalls is to thoroughly research your hike before you even head out on the trail!

Don’t walk off the trail – first of all, this is one of the Follow No Trace rules. By straying off the track, we’re eventually destroying the terrain around us. But walking off the trail also poses more risks of getting injured or lost.

Stay hydrated – just because you don’t feel thirsty, that doesn’t mean your body isn’t dehydrated. Make sure to bring enough water for the hike.

Don’t drink from the water sources – as clean as they might appear, lakes and rivers are full of harmful pathogens. Alternatively, you can bring purifying tablets to clean the collected water.

Wear comfortable shoes – the most important piece of your hiking equipment. As we’ve seen above, people go hiking naked. But none of them is barefoot.

Stay away from wildlife – no matter how friendly an animal might appear, it’s always best to stay away as far as possible. Wildlife is unpredictable and might attack you, as you’re invading their territory.

Why Do People Like Hiking?

People might like hiking for various reasons, but they all surely agree that connecting with nature is truly fulfilling. And the big part of the reason is the fact that there are no strict rules about hiking.

Anyone can do it! Young kids, seniors, and even our pets!

You just need to pick a spot and hit the trail.

To Sum Things Up

Hiking is such a broad activity – it can be chill, strenuous, simple, and sometimes dangerous.

But the beauty lies in the fact that you can choose what is going to be.

No matter how much time and effort you want to invest, there’s a type of hiking suitable for your needs.

Interested in learning more about the history of hiking? Check out our comprehensive list of facts about hiking and also be sure to see our in-depth write up on the history of hiking.

Next up: Day Hiking Checklist

Leave a Comment