15 Types of Hiking: Different Kinds of Hikes Explained

Hiking is not just a simple walk in the woods—it’s an adventure that takes many forms. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging trek, there’s a type of hiking that fits your needs. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the 15 most popular types of hiking, each offering a unique way to experience the great outdoors.

1. Day Hiking

Day hikes are the perfect introduction to the hiking world, offering a chance to explore nature without the commitment of an overnight stay or packing lots of hiking gear. These hikes can vary from short, local trails to more strenuous full-day excursions, often leading to stunning viewpoints or serene picnic spots.

  • Gear Needed: Comfortable footwear, a daypack, water, snacks, and weather-appropriate clothing.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: National parks, local trails, and nature reserves.

2. Backpacking

Backpacking is an immersive experience that combines hiking with wilderness camping, allowing you to carry your life on your back as you traverse through diverse landscapes. It requires careful planning and self-sufficiency, as you’ll be spending one or several nights under the stars, far from modern conveniences.

  • Gear Needed: A backpack, tent, sleeping bag, food, water purification system, and a stove.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and other long-distance trails.

3. Thru-Hiking

Thru-hiking is the ultimate endurance test for hikers, entailing months of walking long-distance trails from end to end. This transformative journey not only challenges your physical limits but also offers a unique, introspective experience as you navigate through varying terrains and climates.

  • Gear Needed: Similar to backpacking but with more emphasis on lightweight and durable gear.
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: The Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and the Camino de Santiago.

4. Section Hiking

Section hiking allows adventurers to complete a long-distance trail in segments, which can be tackled over weekends or vacation days spread out over months or even years. It’s a flexible approach that lets you experience the thrill of a thru-hike without the extensive time commitment.

  • Gear Needed: Varies depending on the section and duration of the hike.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Any long-distance trail can be section hiked.

5. Urban Hiking

Urban hiking turns cityscapes into adventurous trails, encouraging explorers to discover the hidden gems and iconic landmarks of an urban environment on foot. This type of hiking often reveals the historical and cultural layers of a city that might otherwise go unnoticed.

  • Gear Needed: Comfortable walking shoes and a city map or GPS.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner.
  • Popular Destinations: San Francisco’s stairways, the Freedom Trail in Boston, and the High Line in New York City.

6. Mountain Hiking

Mountain hiking takes you to the higher altitudes, offering breathtaking vistas and challenging climbs. It’s a way to test your stamina and enjoy the solitude of high peaks, requiring a good level of fitness and an appreciation for rugged terrain.

  • Gear Needed: Hiking boots, trekking poles, navigation tools, and layers for changing weather.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: The Rockies, the Alps, and the Himalayas.

7. Summit Hiking

Summit hiking is all about the ascent, focusing on reaching the peak for that unparalleled sense of achievement and panoramic views. It often involves early starts to catch sunrise summits and can require technical skills depending on the mountain’s difficulty.

  • Gear Needed: Mountain hiking gear plus additional safety equipment for higher altitudes.
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Fuji, and Mount Rainier.

8. Scrambling

Scrambling is a thrilling mix of hiking and climbing, often requiring the use of hands to navigate steep, rocky sections where trails fade into rugged terrain. It’s a step up from traditional hiking, offering a hands-on approach to reaching your destination.

  • Gear Needed: Helmet, gloves, and sometimes a harness and rope.
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: The Teton Range, Lake District in the UK, and the Canadian Rockies.

9. Bushwhacking

Bushwhacking is for those who prefer forging their own path through untamed wilderness, often without the aid of trails or markers. It’s a true backcountry experience, demanding a strong sense of direction and a high tolerance for navigating through dense vegetation.

  • Gear Needed: Durable clothing, a machete or hiking pole, and a GPS or compass.
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Remote wilderness areas.

10. Coastal Hiking

Coastal hiking showcases the dramatic interface between land and sea, with routes that hug the shoreline, climb coastal bluffs, or meander through beach and marsh. The sound of waves and the salty air accompany hikers, and the terrain can range from sandy stretches to rocky cliffs. They’re also a popular type for group hiking tours and excursions.

  • Gear Needed: Windbreaker, sun protection, and shoes suitable for sand and rock.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: The Pacific Coast Trail, the South West Coast Path in England, and the Cinque Terre in Italy.

*See our Cinque Terre Hiking & Walking Tour

11. Winter Hiking

Winter hiking transforms familiar trails into wonderlands of ice and snow, offering a serene and stark beauty along with the challenge of colder temperatures and unpredictable weather. Specialized gear is a must to navigate the slippery paths and to stay warm and safe.

  • Gear Needed: Insulated boots, ice axe, crampons, and layers for extreme cold.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Mountainous regions during winter months.

12. Night Hiking

Night hiking offers a unique perspective as the wilderness whispers under the moonlight, and the stars guide your way. It’s a peaceful experience that heightens your senses and brings a new dimension to familiar trails.

  • Gear Needed: Headlamp, reflective clothing, and extra batteries.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: Trails known for nocturnal wildlife and stargazing.

13. Waterfall Hiking

Waterfall hiking is a quest for the mesmerizing sight and sound of water cascading down rocks, often involving hikes through lush forests and across streams to reach these natural wonders. The reward is not just the destination but the refreshing mist and the chance to cool off in the pools below.

  • Gear Needed: Waterproof gear, non-slip shoes, and a camera for the views.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: The Columbia River Gorge, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and Yosemite National Park.

14. Desert Hiking

Desert hiking is an exploration of extremes, where vast, arid landscapes offer stark beauty, silence, and solitude under the expansive sky. Hikers must be prepared for the challenges of heat and scarce water sources, but the rewards are the stunning vistas and unique flora and fauna.

  • Gear Needed: Sun protection, ample water, and layers for temperature shifts.
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate.
  • Popular Destinations: The Mojave Desert, the Atacama Desert, and the Sahara.

15. Eco-Hiking

Eco-hiking emphasizes the importance of conservation as you tread lightly on the earth, often on trails that are maintained to minimize environmental impact. It’s a responsible way to enjoy the outdoors while also contributing to the preservation of natural habitats.

  • Gear Needed: Eco-friendly gear, reusable water bottles, and biodegradable soap.
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to advanced.
  • Popular Destinations: Eco-trails and sustainable nature reserves worldwide.


Hiking is a versatile and accessible activity that can cater to a wide range of preferences and abilities. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, there’s a type of hiking out there for you. So lace up your boots, pack your gear, and set out on a journey that will lead you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes the world has to offer.