Have you ever gone hiking alone? If someone had asked me this question a few months ago, I would have looked at them like they were crazy. A female hiking alone in the woods, all by herself? Are you nuts? Now that I have four solo hikes under my belt, my only question now is, “Why didn’t I try solo hiking sooner?” I realize there are number of things that can go wrong. What if I fall and hurt myself? Who would call for help? What if I get lost? What happens if I run into a creepy person or a bear on the trail? With any situation, no matter where you are, there’s always the possibility of something going wrong. Keep in mind, something can go horribly wrong whether you’re hiking in the forest by yourself or walking on the street to catch a bus. It’s life and it’s the risk you take for living it. Do you really want to spend your life living in a bubble?
For all of the bad things that can happen, I can think of a lot of positive reasons why one would want to go on a hike alone. For me, the number one reason why I love hiking alone is because of all the “me” time I get out on the trail. I love spending time outside in nature by myself. When it’s just me in my hiking boots on the trail, I tend to get a lot of inner stuff sorted out.
I also love the physical aspect of a hike. I can push myself as hard as I want to or go as slow as I need to. There’s no one else’s pace I have to keep up with other than my own. Plus, lifting weights in a gym or running on a treadmill has got nothing on the vast beauty of Mother Nature and the abundant sips of fresh air you get to take along the way.
My biggest challenge is always on the way up. It’s my least favorite part of the hike, which probably makes it the most important for me. This is the time on the trail where I have to dig deep within myself in order to make it to my final destination. It’s a constant mental and physical struggle for me the entire way. Along my way up, my inner cheerleader always seems to appear at just the right time, talking me out of turning around and giving me countless pep talks, saying things like, “Just get to that log and you can take a sip of water” or “Next switchback, pull over to catch your breath so you can enjoy the scenery.” By the time I get to top of whatever I’m hiking up, I’m always overwhelmed with a huge sense of accomplishment. Not only was I able to conquer my own inner challenge, but I finished the damn hike on my own two feet. And let’s be honest, depending on the hike, the view from the top of the mountain, lookout or lake can be pretty sweet.
Once the hard part of the hike is over, I can finally enjoy my favorite part – coming down. This is the part of the hike where I sort my life out and get answers to important questions that might be on my mind. By the time I reach the trailhead, I’ve usually got a solid answer AND even know what I want to eat for dinner. Hiking solo is way cheaper than therapy. I’m not above having a good cry out in the forest or busting into a spontaneous dance party on the trail. I wholeheartedly practice the “Leave No Trace” hiker code of conduct, unless it comes to releasing some unwanted emotional baggage. No need to take that stuff home with me.
When I tell people how much a love hiking alone, their first question is usually, “Aren’t you scared?” followed by “Isn’t it lonely hiking by yourself?” The trails I choose to hike alone on are always well travelled. I never really feel like I’m hiking alone. I see plenty of other solo hikers out on the trail, which is nice and somewhat comforting because then I don’t feel like such a weirdo being out there by myself.
So before you knock it and come up with a million excuses on why you shouldn’t do it, give solo hiking a try. Pick a popular trail. Tell a couple of your friends where you plan on going and give them a timeframe of when you plan on doing your solo adventure. Pack some snacks and water. Bring a first aid kit and a base layer or two for the way down. Wear a comfortable pair of hiking boots or trail runners. Put together an epic playlist and hit the trail. You might be pleasantly surprised of how much fun you can have hiking by yourself.