Hiking and Nature Quotations

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Last Updated: December 06, 2022
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If you’re a hiker this collection of hiking quotations may be just the thing to get you amped up for your next hike.

Appalachian Trail Quotations

I was beginning to appreciate that the central feature of life on the Appalachian Trail is deprivation, that the whole point of the experience is to remove yourself so thoroughly from the conveniences of everyday life that the most ordinary things—processed cheese, a can of pop gorgeously beaded with condensation—fill you with wonder and gratitude. ― Bill Bryson

Some people think they’re out there to conquer the Trail. And most of those people either change – or go home. A few of them even make it to Katahdin – but they’ve still failed if they haven’t learned, or changed, or grown—or adapted. For those people, the Trail was just fresh air and exercise – and they could have gotten that a lot cheaper and easier without ever leaving home. Those people are rare – but they do exist. I know of several people, both singles and couples, who went all the way – but never learned anything about tolerance or love or flexibility or happiness. Their hearts and their minds were closed – and they failed to learn what the Trail could have taught them.Spirit Eagle (Jim and Ginny Owen)

Remote for detachment, narrow for chosen company, winding for leisure, lonely for contemplation, the Appalachian Trail beckons not merely north and south, but upward to the body, mind, and soul of man. – Harold Allen

There is no substitute for an at-home support person while on an extended AT thru-hike adventure. Select someone who is both excited about your hike and trustworthy to handle your affairs at home. A multitude of situations can arise while you are on the trail and you need someone assigned to take care of them in your absence, so you don’t have to get off the trail.Now is the time to pick that person, if you haven’t yet, and also start prepping a list of potential circumstances that may come up while you are on the trail. Consider granting power of attorney if your situation is complicated enough that such will be required. Your support person is the one you will call on to mail gear and possibly some hard-to-get food items that you are craving, in addition to handling your bills and mail.Andy Somers

If you think of the trip as a journey to Katahdin, the goal is too far out. You’ll have an easier time remaining motivated if you make short-term goals for yourself – the next town, a major point of interest, a state line. Reward yourself as you meet your goals (a night in a hotel, a new piece of gear, a special meal, etc.). Remember, this is really just a series of four-day-long backpacking trips done back-to-back-to-back-to-back… Just concentrate on the next leg, and put Katahdin way in the back of your mind.Andy Somers

I have seen dozens of gung-ho hikers (typically, young males) start out at a sprinter’s pace, only to be sidelined early on with stress fractures, shin splints, or other overuse injuries, some of which force them to abandon their hikes less than a month into them. So don’t try to do big days until you’ve been on the trail for a while. Your body should start giving you signs after a few weeks that you’re ready to turn up the miles. Pay attention to your body, take rest days when you need them, and cut yourself plenty of slack at the start. The AT thru-hiking season is long enough for anyone, no matter your fitness level at Springer, to complete the trail by October with a March/April start.Andy Somers

Your hike isn’t over when you climb Katahdin. When you go home you’ll be different. For some the changes are minor – but they are there. For others the changes are literally life-changing. In either case, you’ll live with those changes for the rest of your life, so in a purely pragmatic sense, your hike will never end.Spirit Eagle (Jim and Ginny Owen)

So, what’s your motivation? Why do you want to thru-hike? I can’t even begin to guess at what any particular person’s motivation is. But I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that their present life is good, that they’re happy or settled or content or even “mature,” but they still want to thru-hike the AT. And one thing I know for sure is that those people have yet to take a long look at themselves and their motivation. Happy, contented, settled people rarely, if ever, thru-hike. If they were really happy, contented and/or settled they’d stay home, build a career, buy a home, start a family, go fishing, play golf, cuddle their grandchildren, bake cookies and be happily and contentedly settled. But they wouldn’t be dreaming of six months on the Trail with all the attendant rain, pain, uncertainty and disconnectedness from “normal life” that goes with a thru-hike.

Thru-hiking is for those who want more out of life – for those who are restless and discontent – for those who hurt and need something in which to submerge their pain – for those who are bored or burned out at work – for those who have something to prove to themselves or to others – for those at transition points in their lives – and for those who feel the need for a reconnection with the natural world.Spirit Eagle (Jim and Ginny Owen)

Treat the first 100+ miles of the trail like a pro athlete treats pre-season. Nobody needs to be crushing miles. There’s no argument that unless you live in S. Appalachia or the Whites, or at 10,000 feet out west there is no “training” that will prepare you for 10 to 15-mile days out of the gate. Even if you’re able to go do 15-mile days on a weekend or a week-long shake-down… there’s a big difference between that followed by DAYS of recovery vs. actually being northbound and doing this every day, day-in, day-out. For perspective, most NOBO’s should be getting to us (Outdoor 76, mile 110) in about 10-14 hiking days. Most southbounders cover the same distance to finish in 4-5 days. That’s a testament to the bio-physical development your body will encounter with responsible acclimation.Rob Gasbarro

Stretch. No words can describe how many hikes could be saved by simply starting later in the day, with proper warm up and stretching and focusing on muscular release to counter all the tension you guys and girls are storing up. You guys are essentially pro athletes. You wake up, perform, eat, sleep and do it all over again. There’s no life outside of this. NO different than a pro athlete other than the pay sucks for you guys. Treat yourself like an athlete. Respect recovery, respect your output intensity, respect your output durations and consider that your frequency is EVERY DAY!! That’s a lot to ask of a human body that is new to this. Each year gear gets better, lighter and more innovative …but 75% fail every year. One day someone will make the connection that gear might make things more comfortable but your BODY is what gets you to Maine. — Rob Gasbarro

There’s a bumper sticker that reads – “No Rain, No Pain, No Maine.” So what gets us through the rain and the pain? Sometimes it’s optimism – after 6 days of rain, at least you know the springs won’t be dry. After 3 weeks of drought, at least you won’t have to put on wet socks in the morning.Jim Owen

Growing up, I had always thought that nature was beautiful, but I had never seen myself as a part of nature. I had never seen myself as a part of all that beauty—until I hiked the [Appalachian] trail. — Jennifer Pharr Davis

There are moments when you cannot help but feel that your life is being controlled by some not-entirely-benevolent god. You skirt down a ridge only to climb it again; you climb a steep peak when there is an obvious route around; you cross the same stream three times in the course of an hour, for no apparent reason, soaking your feet in the process. You do these things because someone, somewhere, decided that that’s where the [Appalachian] trail must go. — Robert Moor

By following it [Appalachian Trail], we streamlined to its conditions: we lost weight, shed possessions, and increased our pace week after week. The same rule applies to our life’s pathways: collectively we shape them, but individually they shape us. So we must choose our paths wisely. — Robert Moor

The key to my success in completing the entire [Appalachian] trail was due to never overestimating my own abilities and rarely underestimating the difficulty of the trail. — Bill Walker

This Trail might well, instead of “Appalachian Trail,” have been termed, “The Anonymous Trail,” in recognition of the fact that many, many people … have labored on [it]. They have asked for no return nor recognition nor reward. They have contributed to the project simply by reasons of the pleasure found in trail-making and in the realization that they were, perhaps, creating something which would be a distinct contribution to the American recreational system and the training of American people. — Myron Avery

…the [Appalachian] trail is a human community, comprised not just of hikers but also of the people they encounter along the way. The trail is maintainers and trail clubs, hostel managers, outfitters, forest rangers, ridge runners, hut crews, and country store clerks. In the center is the hiker culture, sometimes entirely self-absorbed, sometimes strongly interactive with the business and organizations outside the official trail corridor. — Susan Power Bratton

After more than two thousand miles on the [Appalachian] trail, you can expect to undergo some personality changes. A heightened affinity for nature infiltrates your life. Greater inner peace. Enhanced self-esteem. A quiet confidence that if I could do that, I can do and should do whatever I really want to do. More appreciation for what you have and less desire to acquire what you don’t. A childlike zest for living life to the fullest. A refusal to be embarrassed about having fun. A renewed faith in the essential goodness of humankind. And a determination to repay others for the many kindnesses you have received. — Larry Luxenberg

Because the trail is indeed a life changing experience for everyone if they’ll open up and talk to you about it.  One of the mysterious things about hiking the Appalachian Trail is the impact it has on people’s lives.  But the real demand is being able to live with yourself out there for days and weeks and months and deal with the reality that you’re frail and that you have faults.  In the normal day to day activities we can put that aside and when we start thinking about it we can turn the TV on or get in the car and go downtown. We can do any number of things to distract ourselves from having to deal with the reality of who we are.Nimblewill Nomad (Meredith J. “Sunny” Eberhart)

We had learned the Appalachian Trail parallels life. It has peaks and valleys, joys and sorrows, exhilarating times and ordinary times, sunshine and rain, laughter and tears, healing and pain, and, as in life, the trail has a beginning and an end. Likewise, the end is a new beginning. — Madelaine Cornelius

The trail was designed to have no end, a wild place on which to be comfortably lost for as long as one desired. In those early days nobody fathomed walking the thing from beginning to end in one go. Section hikes, yes. Day hikes, too. But losing yourself for five months, measuring your body against the earth, fingering the edge of mental and physical endurance, wasn’t the point. The trail was to be considered in sections, like a cow is divided into cuts of beef. Even if you sample every slice, to eat the entire beast in a single sitting was not the point. Before 1948, it wasn’t even considered possible. — Ben Montgomery

Be sure to check out my massive collection of Appalachian Trail Resources also.

Pacific Crest Trail Quotations

How fabulous down was for those first minutes! Down, down, down I’d go until down too became impossible and punishing and so relentless that I’d pray for the trail to go back up. Going down, I realized was like taking hold of the loose strand of yarn on a sweater you’d just spent hours knitting and pulling it until the entire sweater unraveled into a pile of string. Hiking the PCT was the maddening effort of knitting that sweater and unraveling it over and over again. As if everything gained was inevitably lost. — Cheryl Strayed

I’d read the section in my guidebook about the trail’s history the winter before, but it wasn’t until now—a couple of miles out of Burney Falls, as I walked in my flimsy sandals in the early evening heat—that the realization of what that story meant picked up force and hit me squarely in the chest: preposterous as it was, when Catherine Montgomery and Clinton Clarke and Warren Rogers and the hundreds of others who’d created the PCT had imagined the people who would walk that high trail that wound down the heights of our western mountains, they’d been imagining me. It didn’t matter that everything from my cheap knockoff sandals to my high-tech-by-1995-standards boots and backpack would have been foreign to them, because what mattered was utterly timeless. It was the thing that compelled them to fight for the trail against all the odds, and it was the thing that drove me and every other long-distance hiker onward on the most miserable days. It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.

It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way. That’s what Montgomery knew, I supposed. And what Clarke knew and Rogers and what thousands of people who preceded and followed them knew. It was what I knew before I even really did, before I could have known how truly hard and glorious the PCT would be, how profoundly the trail would both shatter and shelter me. — Cheryl Strayed

Already, this little-walked gigantic trail through my country’s Western wilderness held in my mind the promise of escape from myself, the liberation only a huge transformation could grant me. This walk would be my salvation. It had to be. — Aspen Matis

Living in the woods, building my little shelter each night, a silent shadow, drifting in and out of mountain towns, a ghost, I was entirely self-reliant. On the trail I had persisted despite fear, and walking the Pacific Crest had led me deeply into happiness. I felt amazing now. In this body that brought me twelve hundred miles, I felt I could do anything. — Aspen Matis

Fires will rage in California. And I’ll wake from nightmares of lions at my tent. And I’ll feel like a crazy person when I talk to people about the trail. And I’ll ache to come back. — Luke Healy

Hiking and Thru-Hiking Quotations

It’s a long hike and at the end of it all we either become hugely more aware of who we already were and just didn’t realize… or we change entirely… and that’s probably an OK outcome too huh… either way the trail will provide… it’s just up to us to listen. — Gabriel “Pay It Forward” West

It took me almost two thousand miles in the woods to see I had to do some hard work that wasn’t simply walking—that I needed to begin respecting my own body’s boundaries. I had to draw clear lines. Ones that were sound in my mind and therefore impermeable, and would always, no matter where I walked, protect me. — Aspen Matis

I walked, floated, lighter—forty miles, my biggest day yet. I’d lifted the burden of guilt and shame off my body. I held my new hard-won wisdom, the gift three months of walking in the wilderness had carried me to: compassion for my younger self—forgiveness for my innocence. — Aspen Matis

If you manage to stay together and stay friends, hiking with a good partner can make a big difference in the quality of your hike because you’ll have someone to share the rain and the pain and the beauty and the laughter and the tears.Spirit Eagle (Jim and Ginny Owen)

Being on the Trail together can create unbreakable bonds – or it can break a bond that’s already weak. Don’t try to do the Trail as a way to “fix” your marriage. The probability is that the Trail will break it because the little flaws that you haven’t been able to deal with at home will be magnified and become major flaws in the Trail world. If you couldn’t deal with them at home, you’re not likely to deal with them on the Trail. Spirit Eagle (Jim and Ginny Owen)

You need to sleep dry and warm, drink water, eat food, use your smartphone, and shit. Strip your pack down to the essentials that permit only that. — Source Unknown

Lightweight backpacking is not about sacrificing safety for weight. It is about paring down gear to what is needed for safety and comfort. No more. No less. The first step though is letting go of what you are supposed to need and taking what you really need!Paul “Mags” Magnanti

If you want to increase your safety on the Trail, don’t look to your first aid kit. Take a first aid course.rickb

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know. — Rene Daumal

The Trail is. It’s hard. It’s a trial. And it won’t change for you, it won’t get easier for you, it won’t be anything but what it is. If you’re gonna be happy on the Trail then you’ll have to change. You’ll have to accept the Trail for what it is. You’ll have to flow with it rather than fighting it. You’ll have to earn whatever you get from it. You’ll have to embrace the Trail, not try to conquer it. I had to learn this the hard way – let’s hope that you’re smarter than I was.Spirit Eagle (Jim and Ginny Owen)

Injuries can be divided into penetrating (stab/cut) and blunt (bruise/abrasion/fracture). Severe injuries in either category are beyond the ability of any hiker to treat with a “medikit.” Really minor stuff doesn’t NEED treating either. The only things besides common sense and a knowledge of first aid you NEED are: Duct tape for the penetrating stuff and blisters […] bandana and hiking pole or sticks for splint. A cell phone or fellow hiker to call for help in the event of more severe injury is your best option. NOTHING ELSE IS NEEDED. Now, you can say you want antibiotic creams, potions, lotions, bandaids, etc., but actually, when a town is no more than a few days away (and closer if you hitch from a road crossing) you don’t need anything except what will get you through a few hours to the road. […] So use the common sense, the duct tape, and for anything else, get the heck out of the woods to the Doctor or Hospital if it’s that bad!cutman11

The time needed to begin to adapt to trail life is hiker-dependent. At most, though, a month should be ample time. Two weeks should suffice for most people. When planning your destination each night, begin to increase your mileage per day until it is slightly higher than your calculated average miles-per-day. By doing this, it will automatically readjust your schedule so that it fits into the total number of days you plan on being on the trail. Remember to take into account terrain difficulty when planning. Steeper climbs and tricky terrain conditions have a tendency to hinder your progress. […] Experience plays a major role here. The more hiking you have under your belt, the more you know your own capabilities and limitations.Jacob L. Cartner

The single biggest determining factor in the success of your hike is your mental state entering it. An unwavering desire to complete your journey, no matter the hardship, will make or break it, so consider carefully your reasons for taking on the challenge. Are they worth being hot, cold, wet, thirsty, hungry, mosquito-bitten, dirty and stinky for days and months on end? Can you realistically handle those rigors and is it worth the price?Andy Somers

There are three basic components to physical preparations for long distance hiking: Hiking-specific leg muscles, long duration endurance, and hardening the body. Stated in another way, you need power for hills, energy all day, and the ability to hike day after day after day. Chris “Suge” Willett

The Trail isn’t about equipment, it’s a head game—and a heart game. If you start the Trail with that realization, you’ll increase your chances of finishing immeasurably. […] Too many people get on the trail with their brand-new ultra-modern high-tech equipment and expect the equipment to carry them through the rough spots. But it doesn’t work that way. Even if the equipment works faultlessly, it doesn’t walk the miles in the rain and snow and heat—YOU do that. And YOU get to carry the equipment while you’re walking those miles.Spirit Eagle (Jim and Ginny Owen)

The problem with “only a couple ounces” is that it tends to have an exponential effect on total pack weight. The candle only weighs a couple ounces, the tent is only 6 ounces heavier than that “other” tent, the 0 degree sleeping bag is only 10 ounces heavier than the 20 degree bag, the really comfortable pack is only 22 ounces heavier than the “other” one, the Crazy Creek chair only weighs a pound, the Thermarest only weighs 15 ounces more than the Ridgerest – and on and on and on. No single item will overload your pack – but the sum of all those extra ounces just might. How much weight do you really want to carry? The bottom line here is that the extra weight for every one of those items is directly related to “comfort.” How much are you willing to pay—in sweat and effort and pain—for your “comfort?” That’s a personal choice.Spirit Eagle (Jim and Ginny Owen)

It’s no sin to not finish the Trail—a lot of people don’t. But if your intention is to thru-hike, not finishing will have an effect on your life. I don’t know what it would be for you. […] I have the kind of pride that won’t let me quit because I won’t give “them” the satisfaction of “poking” me about it for the rest of my life. I’m not saying that kind of pride is good – just that it’s one of the things that keeps some of us on the Trail. Even worse would have been facing myself in the mirror every morning for the rest of my life and wondering what I’d missed by not finishing. Then there’s that question again – if it doesn’t matter – why do you want to do it? Why not do something that DOES matter to you?Spirit Eagle (Jim and Ginny Owen)

Backpacking forces one, by necessity, to walk the balance line, the edge of the sword, between disciplined deprivation and hedonistic gratification: a tiring, sweat-soaking day ends with a plunge into a cool stream; an arduous, lung-bursting climb is followed by a magnificent panoramic sweeping view; and there is the continuous contrast between life on the trail and civilized pleasures—a warm meal, a hot shower, clean dry clothes. It is by walking this line between sacrifice and satisfaction that one finds fulfillment. — Robert Browne

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking, that is, of taking walks – who had the genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked for charity, under the pretense of going à la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. — Henry David Thoreau

We [Outdoor 76] see an unimaginable number of hike-ending injuries every year. “Hike your own hike” gets laid over top of the methods and principles used for planning, prep, gear, etc. and too rarely talked about when it comes to physical output. The difference between an 8-mile day and a 10-mle day is 20% output. For two people that appear in similar condition, that can seem nominal but for people trying to hang with hikers outside their performance envelope it is hike-fatal all too often.Rob Gasbarro

Best advice I got for long distance hiking was “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Whether it be that you are hot, wet, sore, cold, tired, etc, embrace it as part of the experience and get comfortable with it.Tammy Stemen

Before you leave, split your gear into three piles – Essential, Might Want, and Nice To Have. Get rid of the last two piles—you’ll never miss them. Less gear means less to buy, less to carry, less to keep dry, and less to repair.Johnny Swank 

Watch lots of videos of lots of different people. Read as much as you want. Bring as much knowledge as you can… it weighs nothing and you will need some of it!Janet Hensley

Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits. — Cindy Ross

We also come out here to learn about ourselves. The biggest prize in long-distance hiking is the gift of time. Time to look. Time to think. Time to feel. All those hours you spend with your thoughts. You don’t solve all of your problems, but you come to understand and accept yourself. — Cindy Ross

Long distance hiking is not a vacation, it’s too long for that. It’s not recreation, too much toil and pain involved. It is, we decide, a way of life, a very simplified Spartan way of living … life on the move … heavy packs, sweating brow; they make you appreciate warm sunshine, companionship, cool water. The best way to appreciate these things that are precious and important in life is take them away. — Cindy Ross

One thing to keep in mind here is that getting off the Trail may not be cause for celebration, but it’s not always reason for mourning and wailing and gnashing of teeth either. There are a lot of reasons why people get off the Trail. And it’s kinda like a horse race – there’s no way to predict exactly which ones will make it to the finish line. But, again like a horse race, there are ways for each individual hiker to improve their odds of being a “finisher.”— Unknown

I will probably never get to go by this particular spot again for the rest of my life. I will, therefore, observe all I can, and commit all I can to memory, about this spot and this unique experience. I will cherish the discomfort, fatigue, depression and monotony as well as the views, elation, and opportunities I have for harmony with myself and the environment. Keeping on will teach me something that I cannot anticipate at the moment, but which will be worthwhile nonetheless, as I look back on it from the future.Phil Heffington

You are not normal for trying to do this, but you will not be crazy until afterwards.Phil Heffington

Lightweight is better understanding your true needs in the backcountry and making educated choices to carry the lightest gear that will meet those needs without exceeding them; Ultra-lightweight is where I see some hikers making trade-offs that significantly affect their comfort level in the backcountry. Ultra-lightweight backpackers are the ones that may decide to hike through the night to stay warm because they didn’t bring a warm enough bag, etc. I believe you must have a much better knowledge of backcountry and survival skills to go ultra-lightweight than lightweight. […] Another way to think about it is this way… Novice hikers will be just as safe with lightweight gear as with heavy options but sending novices out with an ultra-lightweight setup without teaching them the extra coping/survival skills for tough situations could easily get them into serious trouble.Mara Factor

It has been proven over and over again that a trail with an organized constituency will succeed while others may not. Without public awareness of and involvement in it, there is no trails system. — Steve Elkinton

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.— John Muir

In every walk with nature, one received far more than he seeks.— John Muir

Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.— John Muir

Peregrination charms our senses with such unspeakable and sweet variety that some count him that never traveled—a kind of prisoner, and pity his case: that, from his cradle to his old age, he beholds the same still, still, still, the same, the same. — Robert Burton

In a world of constant change and flux where being in the moment seems increasingly harder to attain, there is also something about the notion of traveling along a pathway–under our own power–that reconnects us, and indeed binds together all humanity… — Robert Searns

If you are walking to seek, ye shall find. — Sommeil Liberosensa

It has been said that there are landscapes one can walk through, landscapes which can be gazed upon, landscapes in which one may dwell… Those fit for walking through or being gazed upon are not equal to those in which one may dwell or ramble. — Kuo Hsi

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering. — St. Augustine

Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other. — M. C. Richards

The fascinating quality of all sorts of wilderness and backcountry travel lies in the reduction of life to its essentials: food, shelter, beauty; the confrontation with forces and circumstances which are at once comprehensible, mysterious, and so powerful that they will not be denied.— Raymond Bridge

Walking brings out the true character of a man. The devil never yet asked his victims to take a walk with him. You will not be long in finding your companion out. All disguises will fall away from him. — John Burroughs

Hiking is a hobby that meets you at every phase of life. If you’re searching for answers, look to the woods. If you want a challenge, then Mother Nature can—and will—provide one. If you desire community, the trail can foster deep bonds and uninterrupted conversations. And if you simply need a beautiful place to sit and be still, the wilderness is there for you. — Jennifer Pharr Davis

I never imagined that existence could be so simple, so uncluttered, so Spartan, so free of baggage, so sublimely gratifying. I have reduced the weight of my pack to 35 pounds and yet I can’t think of a single thing I really need that I can’t find, either within myself, or within my pack. — David Brill

To walk well, you hike light—light on yourself, light on your budget, light on the land. — Marlyn Doan

Every morning, the [thru] hiker’s options are reduced to two: walk or quit. Once that decision is made, all the others (when to eat, where to sleep) begin to fall into place. — Robert Moor

Why do we hike? I have asked many hikers this same question, and I have never received a fully satisfying answer. It seems there are many overlapping reasons: to strengthen our bodies, to bond with friends, to submerge ourselves in the wild, to feel more alive, to conquer, to suffer, to repent, to reflect, to rejoice. More than anything, though, I believe what we hikers are seeking is simplicity—an escape from civilization’s garden of forking paths. — Robert Moor

On a trail, to walk is to follow. Like prostration or apprenticeship, trail walking both requires and instills a certain measure of humility. — Robert Moor

Complete freedom is not what a trail offers. Quite the opposite; a trail is a tactful reduction of options. — Robert Moor

My most successful backpacking trips have been those for which I had honest, accurate, and well-informed answers to three questions: 1) What are my objectives, in terms of the time I will spend hiking relative to camping? 2) What environmental and route conditions will I likely encounter, such as temperatures, precipitation, and biting insects? 3) What gear, supplies, and skills will best help me achieve my objectives and keep me safe and comfortable in those conditions? — Andrew Skurka

More backpacking trips are ruined by sore feet than by all other causes combined. Pounded by the ground below and the weight of you and your pack above, your feet receive harsher treatment than any other part of your body. — Chris Townsend

Hiking for weeks or months at a time in an unspoiled natural environment is a simple, repetitive activity that leads to calmness and psychological well-being, a feeling of wholeness, of being a complete person. Each day follows the same pattern, linking in with natural rhythms—walk in the light, sleep in the dark, eat when hungry, take shelter from storms. Only the details are different. I get a great pleasure from this simplicity, from the basic pattern of walk and camp, walk and camp. It is good to escape the rush of the modern world and for a period of time to live a quieter, more basic life. Problems and worries subside as the days go by; they are put into perspective by the elemental activity of putting one foot in front of the other hour after hour, day after day. And on returning from the wilds, restored and revitalized by the experience, I find civilization can be much easier to deal with; indeed, aspects of it can seem very desirable. — Chris Townsend

Although the real threats to the wilderness come from industry—not hikers—those of us who walk the wild places should do so as lightly as possible, leaving little trace of our passing. — Chris Townsend

Trails have multiple values and their benefits reach far beyond recreation. Trails can enrich the quality of life for individuals, make communities more livable, and protect, nurture, and showcase America’s grandeur by traversing areas of natural beauty, distinctive geography, historic significance, and ecological diversity. Trails are important for the nation’s health, economy, resource protection and education. — American Trails, Trails for All Americans report, 1990

Mountains have a decent influence on men. I have never met along the trails of the high mountains a mean man who would cheat and steal. Certainly most men who are raised there or who work there are as wholesome as the mountains themselves. Those who explore them on foot or horseback usually are open, friendly men. — William O. Douglas

The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her. We have crept out of our close and crowded houses into the night and morning, and we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The trail compels you to know yourself and to be yourself, and puts you in harmony with the universe. It makes you glad to be living. It gives health, hope, and courage, and it extends that touch of nature which tends to make you kind. — Enos Mills

Trails management is 3 things: 1. Managing the water (off the tread) 2. Managing vegetation 3. Managing users. Of these, managing users is certainly the hardest. — Woody Keen

A trail offers its users awareness of surroundings. Trails preserve vistas. Trails preserve ecosystems which allow natural sounds to drown out urban sounds. Trails invite touch and discovery. Trails protect and preserve fragrance. The trail experiences offer users feelings of bigness and connection with the earth. Trails unfold mystery, offer surprise, preserve the detail. In fact, well designed trails offer the hikers, bicyclists, skaters or other adventurers new sensations each time they are used. — Dan Burden

Most of the trouble a man finds in the mountains is when he tries shortcuts or leaves a known way. — Louis L’Amour

If the reason for taking a hike (if indeed a reason be necessary!) is the hope for mental-spiritual-physical rejuvenation, or to take time to contemplate where you’ve been and where you’re going in this confusing world, then a hike in nature can help make sense of it all. — John McKinney

The traditional hiking community had relied on clubs as net producers of hiking culture but evolved into a loose gathering of millions of Americans consuming equipment, information, and physical trails produced by private businesses, professional environmental groups, and government. — Silas Chamberlin

How can a book describe the psychological factors a person must prepare for … the despair, the alienation, the anxiety and especially the pain, both physical and mental, which slices to the very heart of the hiker’s volition, which are the real things that must be planned for? No words can transmit those factors, which are more a part of planning than the elementary rituals of food, money, and equipment, and how to get them. — Chuck Long

The trail knows neither prejudice nor discrimination. Don’t expect any favors from the trail. The trail is inherently hard. Everything has to be earned. The trail is a trial. — Warren Doyle

Any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you. — Carlos Castaneda

If we only focus on the path and where it leads, we miss the beauty and joy all around us. — Jeffrey H. Ryan

The most important piece of equipment you have on the trail is your mind. You can’t walk tens of miles, let alone thousands, if you aren’t wired for perseverance. You either have it, develop it, or go home. — Jeffrey H. Ryan

To me, complaining about the rocks on a mountain trail would be like going sailing and complaining about the existence of water. — Jeffrey H. Ryan

One thing I absolutely believe is this: you are entirely responsible for your actions in the wilderness. That means constantly assessing everything: your health, your gear, the trail conditions, “plan B” routes in case you need to change plans, your food and water situation, your itinerary (are you still on pace to make your destination without putting yourself at risk?), the current weather and forecast and yes, even what to do if you encounter someone on the trail that needs help. — Jeffrey H. Ryan

Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence. — Hermann Buhl

We ate like fat kids, partied like rock stars, and looked like athletes. We climbed mountains for breakfast and then beat the sun to the horizon. We trusted our lives to strangers and called them family. We changed our socks weekly and our minds courageously. We believed in magic and would often laugh at the moon. — Mathew “Odie” Norman

The trail is a great leveler of humanity. It brings us all down to that same point as far as day to day life, who we are, what we are, our status in the social aspects of our life. …the trail is the one common thing we all have and it’s so intense and we focus so intently on it on a day to day basis that it becomes our life and that’s the crux of what the community is.Nimblewill Nomad (Meredith J. “Sunny” Eberhart)

After a day’s walk, everything has twice its usual value. — G.M. Trevelyan

A walk in nature walks the soul back home. — Mary Davis

To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles. — Mary Davis

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it. — Andy Rooney

Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb. — Greg Child

Each fresh peak ascended teaches something. — Sir Martin Conway

Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other…again and again and again. And if you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit. — Unknown

When you unconditionally enjoy backpacking, the inevitable challenges that one encounters during a thru-hike – boredom, loneliness, physical discomfort, dodgy weather – are usually blips rather than potential reasons to quit your hike… when you enjoy something unconditionally – you are in for the long haul. The “novelty” doesn’t wear off after a few weeks or a couple of months. As a result, you are always looking to improve and grow as a hiker. — Cam “Swami” Honan

Walk so that your footprints bear only the mark of peaceful joy and complete freedom. To do this, you have to learn to let go. Let go of your sorrows, let go of your worries. This is the secret of walking meditation. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Packing for the trip is an exercise in values clarification. — Belden C. Lane

Don’t go into thru-hiking with an expectation of a result. The whole beauty of thru-hiking is learning how to give up control. So many things could go wrong – you have to let go of what the situation could be or should be and accept what is. — Adrian “Felix Felicis” Harrison

There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. — Ed Abbey

HYOH is a healthy attitude to have about the wide-ranging trip objectives that backpackers have. But on the issue of tactics or methods in achieving those objectives, HYOH’s inclusivity reaches its limit. Actually, there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to backpack. In this sense, backpacking is like driving a car, learning to play the violin, baking a cake, or installing a toilet. I suppose you could do it your own way, but you may get hurt, you will not improve as quickly as you should, you may be unsatisfied with the end product, and you may have to mop up sewage that leaked through the wax gasket. What is the right way to backpack? Ready for it? Here it is: Backpackers should have gear, supplies, and skills that are appropriate for their trip objective and the conditions. Period. Andrew Skurka

Outdoors and Nature Quotations

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. […] I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. — Henry David Thoreau

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. — Henry David Thoreau

If you want to sound wise, go to school. If you want to be wise, go to nature. — Unknown Source

I understood at a very early age that in nature, I felt everything I should feel in church but never did. Walking in the woods, I felt in touch with the universe and with the spirit of the universe. — Alice Walker

…we cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well—for we will not fight to save what we do not love (but only appreciate in some abstract sense). — Stephen Jay Gould

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home, in towns and cities. — G. W. Sears

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like falling leaves. — John Muir

As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but Nature’s sources never fail. Like a generous host, she offers her brimming cups in endless variety, served in a grand hall, the sky its ceiling, the mountains its walls… — John Muir

Society speaks and all men listen, mountains speak and wise men listen. — John Muir

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. — John Muir

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness. — John Muir

The trail leads not merely north and south, but up to the body, mind, and soul of man. — Harold Allen

If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends and nature: and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature. Nature we always have with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination—health to the body, stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul. — John Burroughs

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.— John Burroughs

Life involved dialogue between us and nature. We communicate through our actions, and nature responds—sometimes angrily, as with droughts or floods, sometimes tenderly, as with singing birds or leaves dancing in the breeze. By bringing us close to nature, trails promote kinder, gentler conversation. Nature has no quarrel with trails. — David Burwell

Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries. — Jimmy Carter

We need some contact with the things we sprang from. We need nature at least as a part of the context of our lives. Without cities we cannot be civilized. Without nature, without wilderness even, we are compelled to renounce an important part of our heritage. — Joseph Wood Krutch

It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy. — Horace Kephart

In the school of the woods, there is no graduation day. — Horace Kephart

Always in big woods, when you leave familiar ground and step off alone to a new place, there will be, along with feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. You are understanding the first experience, not of the place, but of yourself in that place. It is the experience of our essential loneliness, for nobody can discover the world for anybody else. It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that it becomes common ground, and a common bond, and we cease to be alone. — Wendell Berry

Going to the woods and the wild places has little to do with recreation, and much to do with creation. For the wilderness is the creation in its pure state, its processes unqualified by the doings of people. A man in the woods comes face to face with the creation, of which he must begin to see himself a part—a much less imposing part than he thought. And seeing that the creation survives all wishful preconceptions about it, that it includes him only upon its own sovereign terms, that he is not free except in his proper place in it, then he may begin, perhaps, to take a hand in the creation of himself. — Wendell Berry

When we are distressed, going outside for some fresh air, taking a walk in the park, or wandering deep into the woods quickens our attention, bringing us instantly into the present. Being outdoors provides mental space and clarity, allowing our bodies to relax and our hearts to feel more at ease. Putting ourselves in the midst of something greater than our personal dramas, difficulties and pain—as we do when we walk in the open plains, hike in rarefied mountain air, or ramble on an empty beach—can give us a sense of space and openness, lifting us out of our narrow selves. Similarly, gazing up at the vast night sky helps us see our problems and concerns with greater context and perspective. The natural world communicates its profound message: things are okay as they are; you are okay just as you are; simply relax and be present. — Mark Coleman

The noise of wilderness is varied; it has no monotony; it is the music of the earth of which man is an integral part whether he knows it or not. The healing effects of wilderness are well known. Cares slough off; the conscious springs that create tension are relaxed; man comes to an understanding of his relation to the earth from which he came and to which he returns. — William O. Douglas

The influence of fine scenery, the presence of mountains, appeases our irritations and elevates our friendships. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there. — Robert Pirsig

Wilderness holds more answers to more questions than we yet know how to ask. — Ansel Adams

The wilderness is a place of rest—not in the sense of being motionless, for the lure, after all, is to move, to round the next bend. The rest comes in the isolation from distractions, in the slowing of the daily centrifugal forces that keep us off balance. — David Douglas

It is commonplace of all religious thought that the man seeking visions and insight must go apart from his fellows and live for a while in the wilderness. If he is of proper sort, he will return with a message. It may not be a message from the god he set out to seek but even if he has failed in that particular, he will have had a vision or seen a marvel and these are always worth listening to or thinking about. — Loren Eiseley

The exquisite sight, sound, and smell of wilderness is many times more powerful if it is earned through physical achievement, if it comes at the end of a long and fatiguing trip for which vigorous good health is a necessity. Practically speaking, this means that no one should be able to enter a wilderness by mechanical means. — Garrett Hardin

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength. — Jack Kerouac

One function, at least, of true wilderness is to provide a refuge from the crassitudes of civilization—whether visible, intangible, audible-whether of billboard, of pavement, of auto horn—all of these are urban essences; all are negations of wilderness. — Benton Mackaye

For me, and for thousands with similar inclinations, the most important passion of life is the overpowering desire to escape periodically from the clutches of a mechanistic civilization. To us the enjoyment of solitude, complete independence, and the beauty of undefiled panoramas is absolutely essential to happiness. — Bob Marshall

To countless people the wilderness provides the ultimate delight because it combines the thrills of jeopardy and beauty. It is the last stand for that glorious adventure into the physically unknown that was commonplace in the lives of our ancestors and has always constituted a major factor in the happiness of many exploratory souls. — Bob Marshall

…it is really not the wilderness that needs management (it has been doing quite well, after all, for a couple of billion years), but people. — Roderick Nash

Simplicity in all things is the secret of the wilderness and one of its most valuable lessons. It is what we leave behind that is important. I think the matter of simplicity goes further than just food, equipment, and unnecessary gadgets; it goes into the matter of thoughts and objectives as well. When in the wilds, we must not carry our problems with us or the joy is lost. — Sigurd F. Olson

The more civilized man becomes, the more he needs and craves a great background of forest wildness, to which he may return like a contrite prodigal from the husks of an artificial life. — Ellen Burns Sherman

Wilderness has reminded me of my own humanity. It has stripped me down and made me look at my own frailties. By showing me my weaknesses it has strengthened me. — Walkin’ Jim Stoltz

Mountains inspire awe in any human person who has a soul. They remind us of our frailty, our unimportance, of the briefness of our span upon this earth. They touch the heavens, and sail serenely at an altitude beyond even the imaginings of a mere mortal. — Elizabeth Aston

Those of us who visit wild places the way others visit churches and concert halls visit because we return transfigured, recomposed, exalted and humbled at the same time, enlarged and dissolved in something larger at the same time. We visit because there we undergo some essential self-composition in the poetry of existence, though its essence rarely lends itself to words. Maria Popova


It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt

It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.— Sir Edmund Hillary

Hiking Poetry

Feet blistered, boots frozen, socks wet, treacherous root and rock, you stretch for a foothold, fret about the weather, shouldering essentials.
Miles beyond exhaustion, ascending and descending, you break; toughen, break again, flat is a miracle.
You calculate the time between doubt and town.
On this journey you inventory all it is you carry.
— Tim Conroy

Apostrophe to the Ocean (in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, 1817)
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
Form these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet can not all conceal.
— George Gordon (Lord) Byron

Trails are not dust and pebbles on a hill,
Nor even grass and wild buds by a lake;
Trails are adventure and a hand to still
The restless pulse of life when men would break
Their minds with weight of thinking.
Trails are peace,
The call to dreams, the challenge to ascent;
Trails are the brisk unfolding of release
From bitterness and from discouragement.
Trails are the random writing on the wall
That tells how every man, grown tired at heart
Of things correct and ordered, comes to scrawl
His happy hour down–then goes to start
Life over with new eagerness and zest.
Who builds a trail finds labor that is rest!
— Helen Frazee-Bower

Time Out (1942)
It took that pause to make him realize
The mountain he was climbing had the slant
As of a book held up before his eyes
(And was a text albeit done in plant).
— Robert Frost

The Reward of Nature
If you’ll go with me to the mountains
And sleep on the leaf carpeted floors
And enjoy the bigness of nature
And the beauty of all out-of-doors,
You will find your troubles all fading
And feel the Creator was not man
That made lovely mountains and forests
Which only a Supreme Power can.When we trust in the Power above
And with the realm of nature hold fast,We will have a jewel of great price
To brighten our lives till the last.
For the love of nature is healing,
If we will only give it a try
And our reward will be forthcoming,
If we go deeper than what meets the eye.
— Emma “Grandma” Gatewood

The Poetry Man (1986)
Embark upon this hallowed trail
Prepare the fabric of your life
While some will make it, most will fail
But all will know both joy and strife
Joy of friendship and challenge met
Strife in hardships to endure
And guaranteed you will think yet
Through much of what you’re hiking for
Consider this from one who’s done
Before you move on down this path
For every three days in the sun
You’ll taste a day of nature’s wrath
When pain rears up its ugly head
You have to walk your way right through
Adventures always lie ahead
Each day is altogether new
But no amount of words can tell
Or ever manage to convince
How once you’ve hiked the whole A.T. [Appalachian Trail]
You live your life with confidence.
— Don Hirsohn

It’s the people, the places, the pain and the trials
It’s the joy and the blessings that come with the miles
It’s a calling gone out to a fortunate few
to wander the fringes of God’s hazy blue.
Nimblewill Nomad (Meredith J. “Sunny” Eberhart)

The long distance hiker, a breed set apart,
From the likes of the usual pack.
He’ll shoulder his gear, be hittin’ the trail;
Long gone, long ‘fore he’ll be back.
Nimblewill Nomad (Meredith J. “Sunny” Eberhart)

Another sunset
edges towards the trails end
All brings that opportunity for a rewind ahead
Plug for the recharge,
loosen the laces for needed relief
A beverage, a nutritional morsel,
and a soft pillow
Life is good, thanks once again
— Levi Paul Taylor

The Lightweight Hiker
He’s the Lightweight Hiker!
His pack weighs ten pounds!
He skips down the footpath
In leaps and in bounds!
He cuts down his pack straps!
He jumps and he bounces!
His god is Ray Jardine!
His shoes weigh two ounces!
The hiking’s so easy!
He does as he pleases
He borrows your lighter
At night how he freezes!
Can you vacate the shelter
For the ultra-light fella?
‘Cause he carries no tent —
Just this GoLite umbrella!
He thinks others hate him
‘Cause their packs aren’t as light
His emergency blanket
Keeps them all up at night.
Can you loan him your penknife?
Some coffee in the morning?
Duct tape? Stove? Maps? Headlamp?
Moleskin? Neosporin?
And what’s your reward
If you’re his daily hero?
Why it’s just like his pack weight —
It’s real close to zero.

 — Shane O’Donnell

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Like this content? Interested in hiking the Appalachian Trail or other long-distance hiking trails? If so, check out my book of advice for planning a thru-hike, Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail: A Complete Guide. It covers everything you need to know and more than you probably thought to consider.
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