Last Updated on 27/08/2023
Hiking facts and statistics are fascinating to me. In this article, I share over 100+ fun and interesting facts and statistics and hiking, walking, trekking, and hoofing it. You will learn all kinds of crazy hiking facts and interesting hiking statistics from scientific studies and textbooks without having to do any of the research.
Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities worldwide because it’s accessible to everyone and gives you a purpose to explore nature. Hiking clears the mind and gives your thoughts a chance to wander as you place one foot in front of the other through beautiful landscapes. When I’m hiking, I think about all kinds of wonderfully weird things, like how many people might have walked this path or touched this rock…
Here are some of the best facts about hiking I found as I went down the rabbit hole of walking statistics data.
Hiking Facts and Statistics in the US
Here are some hiking facts and statistics specifically pertaining to the United States:
- Hiking Popularity: In the US, more than 58.7 million people reported going hiking in 2021.
- National Parks Visitors: In 2022, the National Park Service received 312 million visitors, which is up 5% from the previous year.
- Age Group: The majority of hikers fall in the age group of 25-34 years.
- Trail Count: While there are officially around 192,000 miles of trails, there is estimated to be somewhere around ten to twenty times this number when you add all the shorter local trails together..
- Search and Rescue Operations: The National Park Service conducts about 3,000 search and rescue missions each year.
- Injuries: Around 13% of these search and rescue operations are due to injuries from falls.
- Deaths: On average, there are about 160 deaths per year in National Parks, with about 23 of those being related to hiking.
- Bears Attacks: Bear attacks are incredibly rare, with chances of being injured by a bear on a hike being around 1 in 2.1 million in North America.
- Heat-Related Illnesses: In Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, around 20% of deaths are due to heat-related illnesses.
- Economic Contribution: Outdoor activities, including hiking, contributed 1.9% ($454.0 billion) of current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) for the nation in 2021.
- Between 2019 and 2020, there was an increase of 10 million (16.3%.) hiking participants but only a 1 million increase in 2021.
- Hiking has grown in popularity almost every year since 2006, when just under 30 million people participated in hiking.
- The Bureau of Land Management manages more than 16,000 miles of hiking trails in the US.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture manages more than 158,000 miles of hiking trails within its 175 National Forests and Grasslands of America.
- The U.S. National Park Service owns more than 18,000 miles of hiking trails.
- In 2020, hiking surpassed fishing as the second most popular type of outdoor recreation, behind only jogging/trail running.
- The leading motivator for people to go hiking is to get exercise followed by being around friends and family.
- Observing scenic beauty is the fourth biggest motivator to go hiking, followed by getting closer to nature.
- When the US National Trail System was established in 1965, it tripled the total length of trails on state lands.
- Every year, the US National requires over 1 million hours of volunteer work to maintain them.
- The National Trails System Act of 1968 was the direct result of the Trails for America report and was brought to Congress by President Lyndon Johnson.
- There are five categories of hiking trails in the US: National Scenic Trails, Park and Forest Trails, Metropolitan Trails, National Recreation Trails, and National Historic Trails.
- There are a total of 11 Scenic National Trails and 19 National Historic Trails in the US.
- There are 1,244+ National Recreation Trails that account for over 24,800 miles of hiking trails in the US.
- The National Trails System does not include tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of miles of state, regional, and local trails.
Hiking Facts and Statistics Worldwide
Here are the worldwide hiking facts and statistics:
- Rise in Global Hiking: The popularity of hiking is on the rise globally.
- Billion-Dollar Industry: Hiking and trekking tours represent a significant portion of the billion-dollar global adventure tourism market. In 2017, it was estimated at $446 billion.
- Oldest Hiking Club: The world’s oldest hiking club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, was founded in 1876 in the United States. However, European hiking clubs have a longer history, with the British Fell & Rock Climbing Club and the Austrian Alpine Club both established in the mid-19th century. (source: Appalachian Mountain Club)
- Pilgrimage Hiking: Spain’s Camino de Santiago is not just a hiking trail; it’s also a pilgrimage route. Each year, more than 300,000 people hike this trail as a spiritual journey. (source: American Pilgrims on the Camino)
- Worldwide Hiking Participation: According to the Outdoor Industry Association, around 34% of the global population aged over 14 participated in hiking activities in 2020. This represents a substantial increase from the previous years, showcasing the growing interest in outdoor activities. (source: Outdoor Industry Association)
- Global Outdoor Apparel Market: The global outdoor apparel market is projected to reach $17.1 billion by 2025, with hiking gear as a significant portion.
- Hiking in Asia: Countries in Asia such as Nepal and China are popular hiking destinations, particularly due to their famous mountain ranges: the Himalayas and the Karakoram.
- Hiking in Europe: Countries like Norway, Switzerland, and Italy are famous for their hiking trails, with the Alps being a popular destination.
- Impact on Local Economies: In regions where hiking is popular, there can be significant economic benefits. For example, the Appalachian Trail in the USA contributes around $200 million annually to local economies along the trail.
- Environmental Concerns: Hiking can have an environmental impact. Overuse of trails can lead to soil erosion and damage to local flora and fauna, which is plants and animals to you and me.
Hiking Demographic Facts and Statistics
Here are some fun facts about the diverse demographics of the hiking community.
- Gender Representation: According to the Outdoor Industry Association, as of 2019, approximately 46% of outdoor participants in the United States were female, while 54% were male.
- Age Groups: It was reported that the majority of hikers fall within the 25-34 age group, accounting for 19.8% of all hikers in the United States in 2019.
- Ethnic Diversity: Data from the Outdoor Foundation’s 2019 Outdoor Participation Report indicates that 72% of outdoor participants were Caucasian, 11% were Hispanic, 10% were African American, and 7% were Asian.
- Education: Hikers tend to be well-educated, with 45.7% having a college degree or higher, according to a survey by Statista.
- Income: According to the same survey, 40.2% of respondents who went hiking in the last 12 months had a household income of $75,000 or more.
- Geographic Distribution: The American West leads in outdoor participation, with 65% of its residents participating in outdoor activities, hiking included.
- Family Involvement: Nearly 50% of families with children went on a hike in the U.S. in 2018.
- Veterans: Veterans are also represented in the hiking community. Groups like Warrior Expeditions provide therapeutic long-distance outdoor experiences for veterans.
- People with Disabilities: Numerous organizations and initiatives, like the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Fund, aim to make trails more accessible for people with disabilities.
- Youth Participation: The Outdoor Foundation reports that youth participation in outdoor activities, including hiking, has been gradually increasing in the U.S.
Popular Hiking Destination Facts
Here are some of the world’s most popular hiking destinations, each offering its unique allure to the global community of hikers.
- Appalachian Trail, United States: Stretching over 2,200 miles across 14 states, the Appalachian Trail is one of the longest and most popular hiking trails in the world.
- Milford Track, New Zealand: This 33.5-mile-long trail in New Zealand is renowned for its stunning landscapes. It’s referred to as the “finest walk in the world.”
- Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru: This 26-mile-long trail is popular for its stunning mix of Inca ruins, mountains, and cloud forests. It’s considered one of the most iconic treks in the world.
- Tour du Mont Blanc, Europe: Spanning three countries (France, Italy, and Switzerland), the 110 miles long Tour du Mont Blanc is one of Europe’s most popular and challenging hikes.
- Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: As Africa’s highest peak, the climb to Mount Kilimanjaro is a popular bucket-list adventure for hikers worldwide.
- Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal: This challenging high-altitude trek offers some of the most breathtaking mountain vistas on the planet.
- Pacific Crest Trail, United States: This 2,650 miles long trail runs through California, Oregon, and Washington, offering diverse and stunning landscapes.
- The Overland Track, Australia: Located in Tasmania, this 40.4-mile-long trail is known for its beautiful alpine plains, glacial valleys, and ancient rainforests.
- Fitz Roy Trek, Patagonia, Argentina: This trail is famous for its epic mountain vistas, including the iconic view of Mount Fitz Roy.
- John Muir Trail, United States: This 211-mile-long trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California is celebrated for its incredible wilderness and stunning mountain peaks.
Longest Hiking Trails
Here are some of the world’s longest hiking trails which can take months and sometimes years to complete.
- The Great Trail, Canada: Previously known as the Trans Canada Trail, it’s the longest recreational trail in the world, spanning over 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers) from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans.
- The Grand Italian Trail, Italy: Known as Sentiero Italia, it’s a whopping 3,831 miles (6,166 kilometers) trail network covering the entire country of Italy.
- The Australian Bicentennial National Trail, Australia: The longest marked, non-motorized, self-reliant multi-use trekking route in the world, extending 3,312 miles (5,330 kilometers) from Cooktown, Queensland, through New South Wales to Healesville, Victoria.
- The Continental Divide Trail, United States: Running for about 3,100 miles (4,988 kilometers) from Mexico to Canada, it crosses five U.S. states: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
- The Pacific Crest Trail, United States: This trail spans over 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers) from the Mexican to the Canadian border, traversing through California, Oregon, and Washington.
- The Appalachian Trail, United States: This famous trail stretches approximately 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers) across 14 U.S. states, from Georgia to Maine.
- The Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand: This “long pathway” stretches 1,864 miles (3,000 kilometers) from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south of New Zealand.
- The Via Dinarica, Western Balkans: This mega trail is approximately 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) long, spanning seven countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, and Macedonia.
- Lands End to John O’Groats, England: At approximately 1,200 miles (1,931 km), it’s the longest hiking trail in the UK, running from The top of Scotland down to the bottom of Cornwall.
- The TransPanama Trail, Panama: This is a 700-mile (1,130 kilometers) trail crossing the entire country of Panama, from Colombia in the east to Costa Rica in the west.
Thru-Hike Facts and Statistics
Here are some thru-hiking facts and statistics for ya:
- The Appalachian Trail (AT): Every year, about 3,000 people attempt to thru-hike the AT. However, the completion rate is around 25%, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
- The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT): According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, about 700 hikers complete a PCT thru-hike each year.
- The Continental Divide Trail (CDT): This trail is often considered the most challenging of the “Triple Crown” (AT, PCT, CDT). Approximately 150-200 people complete the thru-hike annually, with 700 people failing to complete it every year.
- The Triple Crown of Hiking: This award, bestowed by the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West, honors those who have completed the AT, PCT, and CDT. As of 2020, fewer than 400 people had earned this distinction.
- Gender in Thru-Hiking: Women are well-represented in the thru-hiking community. On the AT, about 30% of thru-hikers are female. On the PCT, the number is even higher, with women comprising about 40% of thru-hikers. Interestingly, women make up the majority of day hikers, while men make up the majority of thru-hikers.
- Low Completion Rates: According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, only about one in four who set out to thru-hike the entire trail succeeds. The Pacific Crest Trail Association also reports a similar completion rate of around 25%.
- Fastest Thru-Hikes: The fastest known time for a supported thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is 41 days, 7 hours, and 39 minutes, set by Karel Sabbe in 2018. The fastest known time for the PCT is held by Timothy Olson, who completed it in 51 days, 16 hours, and 55 minutes in 2022.
- Average Daily Mileage: On the Pacific Crest Trail, thru-hikers usually average about 20 miles per day. This figure varies based on the hiker’s physical condition, experience, and terrain.
- Trail Angels: Many long-distance trails have communities of “Trail Angels” – individuals or groups who assist thru-hikers with food, water, and sometimes a place to sleep. Their generosity is a significant part of the thru-hiking experience.
- Zero Days: “Zero days” are days when thru-hikers choose to hike no miles and instead rest, recover, and resupply. On average, a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail might take a zero day about once a week.
Health and Fitness Facts
Regular physical activity, such as hiking, can bring about several health and fitness benefits. Here are some intriguing facts and statistics about the impact of hiking on health and fitness:
- Calorie Burn: On average, a person can burn between 430-550 calories per hour while hiking, depending on the person’s weight and the hike’s difficulty.
- Heart Health: According to the American Heart Association, hiking can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and increase heart and lung fitness.
- Mental Health: Research shows that spending time in nature, including hiking, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also boost mood and improve overall mental health.
- Bone Density: Hiking is a weight-bearing exercise that can help improve bone density and fight off osteoporosis.
- Weight Management: Regular hiking can help with weight management by burning calories and building muscle, which in turn increases metabolism.
- Improved Balance: Navigating uneven terrain can help improve balance and stability, reducing the risk of falls.
- Sleep Quality: Physical activities like hiking can improve the quality of sleep by promoting deeper sleep cycles.
- Longevity: Studies suggest that individuals who regularly engage in physical activity like hiking may have a lower risk of early death compared to those who are inactive.
Hiking World Records
Here are some of the most impressive hiking World Record facts:
- Fastest Ascent of Mount Everest: Kami Rita Sherpa, a Nepalese mountain guide, holds the record for the fastest ascent of Mount Everest. He made his 25th successful ascent in 2021, breaking his own record.
- Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits: Jordan Romero, an American mountain climber, became the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, at the age of 15 in 2011.
- Oldest Person to Climb Mount Everest: The oldest person to climb Mount Everest is Yuichiro Miura of Japan, who reached the summit at the age of 80 in 2013.
- Most Peaks Above 8,000 Metres Climbed by a Woman: Spanish mountaineer Edurne Pasaban was the first woman to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter-plus peaks, a feat she completed in 2010.
- Youngest Person to Hike the Appalachian Trail: Juniper “The Beast” Netteburg was the youngest person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. She completed the entire 2,190-mile trail with her family in 2020 at just 4 years old.
- Oldest Person to Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail: Dale “Greybeard” Sanders is the oldest person to have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. He completed the hike in 2017 at the age of 82.
- Most National Parks Visited in One Day: Danny “Constantine” Gysin holds the record for the most U.S. National Parks visited in one day. On September 6, 2020, he visited six parks in 24 hours.
- Highest Altitude Reached on Foot: Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner and Austrian mountaineer Peter Habeler hold the record for the highest altitude reached on foot. They climbed Mount Everest without oxygen in 1978.
- Longest Journey on Foot (Backwards): Achim Aretz holds the record for the longest journey walking backward. Between March and October 2011, he walked backward for 678.50 km (421.24 miles) in Germany.
Hiking Accident Statistics
Hiking can come with risks, and it’s essential to be aware of the statistics related to accidents and fatalities to be able to hike safely:
- Deaths per Year: In the US National Parks, an average of 160 visitors die each year, and of these, about 23 fatalities are related to hiking.
- Common Causes of Death: Among the most common causes of death in the backcountry are falls, drowning, and heat, cold, and altitude illnesses.
- Search and Rescue Operations: The National Park Service conducts about 3,000 search and rescue operations annually.
- Injuries: Of the search and rescue operations, about 13% are due to injuries sustained from falling.
- Heat Exposure: Heat exposure is a leading cause of death in Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, with around 20% of deaths in the park resulting from heat-related illnesses.
- Bears Attacks: Despite common fears, bear attacks are incredibly rare. In North America, the chances of being injured by a bear are approximately 1 in 2.1 million.
- Altitude-related Illness: At high altitudes (above 8,000 feet), between 25% to 85% of travelers may experience some form of altitude sickness. This condition can range from mild symptoms to life-threatening conditions like High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
- Snake Bites: In the U.S., about 7,000 to 8,000 people per year receive venomous snake bites. However, thanks to quick medical intervention, only five of those bitten died.
- Bear Attacks: Between 1900 and 2009, 63 people were killed in 59 incidents due to bear attacks in North America. While the chance of an encounter is relatively low, caution and proper behavior are crucial when hiking in bear-populated areas. Meanwhile, there have only ever been two reported deaths from coyote attacks.
- Lightning Strikes: The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 1,222,000. On average, 49 people are killed by lightning each year in the U.S.
- Hypothermia: Each year, hypothermia accounts for about 1,300 deaths in the U.S. It’s important to dress appropriately for the weather and be prepared for unexpected changes in conditions.
Remember that many of these risks can be mitigated with proper preparation, awareness of surroundings, and understanding of one’s limits.
We hope you found these hiking facts and statistics fun and interesting. Let us know of any cool facts about hiking you know in the comments.