Fall hiking among the changing leaves on Isle Royale, the only Michigan National Park
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Are you looking for an outdoor adventure that challenges your physical and mental limits? Do you want to explore the great outdoors with a sense of purpose and direction? Should you choose hiking or trekking? Have you ever wondered what exactly is the difference between these two seemingly similar activities?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to dive deep into the similarities and differences between trekking vs hiking – from distance and duration to terrain and destination – so that you can make an informed decision as to which activity best suits your needs.

So grab your maps, pack up your gear, and let’s get ready to go on an exploration of what makes trekking and hiking unique!

Does this even matter?

Does it really matter what we call the activity of walking outdoors? Does it make a difference if we call it trekking or hiking? Well, for the most part… No, it doesn’t!

The aim of each and every one of these activities is to get you out to experience nature, whether you call it walking, hiking, backpacking, or trekking. There’s no reason for us to sweat the terminology and all the more reason for us to just get out and explore the outdoors.

That being said, shifting terminology can be frustrating and confusing, to say the least. In order to make sure everyone is on the same page when discussing outdoor activities – and so that you know which activity best suits your needs – let’s take a look at what makes trekking and hiking unique.

After all, knowledge is power!

Read More: Flying with Backpacking Gear

Fall hiking among the changing leaves on Isle Royale, the only Michigan National Park
Backpacking is one of the most popular things to do in Isle Royale National Park.

Hiking vs Trekking

When it comes to getting out and walking among nature, there are a lot of terminologies that can get confusing. Is it trekking, or is it hiking? Is there really any difference? Well, the answer is yes! Though they are both forms of outdoor activities, there are some key differences between trekking and hiking.

Hiking typically refers to shorter trips on well-maintained trails with a lighter load than trekking. It usually doesn’t involve difficult terrain and is best suited for those who are just beginning their outdoor adventures.

Trekking, on the other hand, requires more physical strength, mental endurance, and navigation skills as it often involves more difficult terrain and longer trips with heavier loads. Often, adventurers travel off the trail while trekking. This type of adventure is best suited for the experienced hiker or backpacker looking for an extra challenge.

No matter what you call it — hiking, trekking, or backpacking — these activities all require some preparation and planning in order to ensure that you have an enjoyable time outdoors and you’ll be out experiencing nature at its finest!

Trekking vs Hiking: Distance

The great thing about hiking and trekking is that there’s no set distance that determines which is which. A hike can be as short or long as you want it to be, depending on your goals and the amount of time you have.

Trekking, however, usually involves longer distances with heavier loads and more difficult terrain. Treks can take days, weeks, or months to complete.

If you’re just starting out with your goals for outdoor adventure, then a hike might be the better option for you. Hiking typically involves shorter trips on well-maintained trails with lighter loads. This allows for a relatively easy and enjoyable experience while still getting to enjoy nature at its finest, and getting some great exercise!

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced hiker or backpacker looking for a challenge, then trekking might be the way to go. It’s also important to plan ahead when embarking on a trek so that you are adequately prepared and have everything that you need with you throughout the journey.

There are plenty of great day hiking opportunities in state parks all over the country.

Trekking vs Hiking: Duration

While there isn’t a strict definition, generally speaking, if you’re planning on traveling for more than a couple of days it’s likely to be a trek.

Hikes tend to involve shorter trips that can take anywhere from an hour or two to a few days depending on your destination and goals.

Trekking covers longer distances and more challenging terrain involved.

So how long should you plan for your hike or trek? Again, this depends on where you want to go, how long your journey will be, and how much time you have available.

A trek might require 4-5 days, but could span months for some people. It’s important to plan ahead so that you’re adequately prepared throughout the journey. Knowing your fitness level and average hiking speed can help you better plan your hike or trek.

Regardless of whether it’s a hike or a trek, get out there and make the most of every adventure!

Trekking vs Hiking: Terrain

When it comes to terrain, hiking is typically done on trails and footpaths, while trekking can also take place on a designated trail – such as the Appalachian Trail – or in more remote areas with no set trails.

While you may have a local mountain that you love to walk up without an official path, if it’s only a few miles, you wouldn’t call it a trek.

You may need to confront rocky mountainsides, wade through creeks, scramble over boulders, or navigate through dense forests on a trek. Trekkers usually carry heavier backpacks for longer periods of time than hikers do.

This can be a great adventure for those who are looking for something more challenging than just walking down a footpath!

No matter which type of journey you choose, hiking or trekking, make sure to plan ahead so that you properly prepare yourself with the right gear and supplies for your outing. Enjoy your time outside – whether it’s an hour-long hike or a multi-day trek – and explore what nature has to offer!

Trekking vs Hiking: Destination

Hiking and trekking both involve exploring the outdoors and experiencing nature, but they’re different activities with different objectives.

When it comes to destinations, hiking typically doesn’t involve a specific destination while trekking usually does. You can go on a hike to explore local trails and footpaths without having any particular destination in mind. You’re just exploring a trail, usually over a few miles or so.

With trekking, you tend to have a goal such as reaching the summit of a mountain or completing a long-distance trail like the Appalachian Trail or El Camino de Santiago.

No matter which type of journey you choose make sure you plan ahead so that you have the right gear and supplies for your outing. Whether it’s an hour-long hike or a multi-day trek, being prepared helps you more easily enjoy your time outside and explore what nature has to offer!

hand rails enclosing the rocky path to the Whiteface summit
hiking & trekking to Adirondack summits in upstate New York, like the easiest to reach, Whiteface Mountain

Trekking vs Hiking: Enjoyment

When it comes to the enjoyment factor, hiking and trekking have different definitions.

Hiking is usually done for pleasure, while trekking typically requires more physical effort and has a greater emphasis on achieving a goal. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy trekking, though! So if you’re looking for an adventure that’s equal parts challenging and rewarding, you might want to consider trekking instead of just hiking.

However, no matter which activity you choose, there are plenty of ways to make your experience enjoyable. For example, pack a picnic lunch or bring along a few friends so you can chat and enjoy the scenery on your hike as you go.

If you’re trekking for an extended period of time, make sure to take breaks at scenic spots along the way and take in your surroundings. Or if you’re up for an extra challenge, set yourself some goals – like reaching the summit of a mountain – so that your journey feels even more rewarding when you reach your destination!

Trekking vs Hiking: Equipment Differences

When it comes to the differences in equipment for hiking versus trekking, the most significant difference is in the type of footwear you will need. Hiking generally requires a lighter pair of basic hiking boots or trail runners, whereas trekking typically calls for sturdier boots with a thicker sole and good ankle support.

Beyond footwear, you should include a navigation device, a compass, and a first aid kit that contains essential supplies to keep you safe on the trail every time you head out into the outdoors. Additionally for your hikes, make sure to bring a lightweight day pack so that all your gear can fit comfortably as you traverse the terrain.

When trekking, you’ll be carrying all the gear you need to survive for days or weeks. This may include a tent or sleep system, cooking equipment, multiple meals, and extra clothes.

No matter which activity you choose – hiking or trekking – having the right gear is essential for an enjoyable experience. Take some time before setting out on your journey to make sure that all your equipment is in working condition and that it’s appropriate for the conditions you’ll encounter during your excursion.

That way, you can hike or trek with peace of mind knowing that you’re prepared!

Trekking vs hiking vs backpacking are popular activities in the US national parks, like this hike to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park.
hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking vs Backpacking

It’s understandable if you find it hard to tell the difference between hiking, trekking, and backpacking. After all, each of these activities involves walking long distances across changing terrain, but there are some key distinctions that set them apart.

A backpacking trip requires much more planning than a day hike. You’ll need to bring your own shelter, food, cooking equipment, and other supplies for surviving in the wilderness for multiple days or even weeks at a time. It also requires more preparation and fitness levels as you’ll be carrying all this gear on your back!

In contrast, hiking trips are usually shorter—perhaps no longer than an entire day—and they don’t require any special camping equipment or supplies. Of course, you should always bring water and snacks along with you but that’s about it.

Both activities can make for great outdoor experiences but make sure you’re prepared for whatever type of adventure awaits!

Beautiful Destinations for Hiking, Trekking, & Backpacking Adventures

There are so many fantastic spots to get out and explore in the US alone. Some of our favorite spots so far have included:

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. We’re just hoping to spark some ideas and looking to get your creative adventure-planning juices flowing!

Special Long Distance Hiking & Backpacking Terminology

If you’re looking to take your backpacking experience to the next level, then why not consider one of the special subsets of backpacking? These include thru-hiking and section hiking, and they can offer you an even more intense outdoor experience.

Thru-hiking is a long-distance journey on foot, typically along a marked hiking trail such as the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail in the US, for example. It requires significant planning as you’ll be out in the wilderness for weeks or months at a time. You’ll need to bring all your own supplies including food, cooking equipment, and shelter.

Section hiking is similar but instead of doing one continuous hike on the trail from one end to the other, it involves breaking down a much longer trail into smaller sections over multiple trips. This way you don’t have to spend quite so much time in the wilderness at once!

Whichever type of adventure you choose, special subsets of backpacking offer a unique challenge that will push your skills and endurance levels like never before! So why not give it a go?


Thru-hiking is an incredible adventure that can take you to some of the most beautiful places in the world. It requires a lot of planning and preparation, but the rewards are definitely worth it!

Thru-hikers are expected to hike long distances over weeks or even months, often covering hundreds or thousands of miles. To make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible, it’s important to invest in lightweight backpacking gear so you don’t have to lug around a heavy load. You’ll also need to make sure you have enough food and supplies for the entire journey.

Thru-hiking is an amazing way to immerse yourself in nature and take on a new challenge at the same time. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re up for an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime, then consider planning a thru-hike!

Section Hiking

Section hiking is a great option for those who want to enjoy those iconic trails outdoors without committing to an entire thru-hike. The Appalachian Trail (AT) is nearly 2,200 miles long and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is over 2,600 miles long! That’s a lot of hiking!

It’s perfect for the adventurer who isn’t quite ready for such a demanding undertaking, or if you’re limited in time or resources. You can take your time and complete sections of trails at your own pace, allowing for much more flexibility.

You don’t need any special gear or supplies as section hikers as you would for any other trek or backpacking trip. Plus, you have the added bonus of being able to explore different parts of trails before completing them in full. This also allows you to discover exciting new places that you may not have seen before.

Just like “Grandma” Gatewood (she’s well-known in AT history!), section hikers can still experience the joys of nature while pushing their limits on a long backpacking trip. So if thru-hiking doesn’t sound like it’s for you, whether that’s because of time, finances, or attention span, consider trying out section hiking instead!

So, What Do Hiking and Trekking Actually Mean?

While the terms are often used interchangeably, there are actually some subtle differences between them, as we’ve covered.

Hiking is typically defined as a single-day adventure on foot, usually along established trails or paths. It can involve everything from a leisurely stroll through the woods to a more strenuous uphill mountain climb. Hikers often carry less gear and supplies than those who engage in longer adventures, as they expect to return at nightfall.

Trekking is quite similar to hiking, but it involves traveling for multiple days or weeks over more difficult terrain and longer distances. Trekkers typically require more gear and supplies than hikers due to their extended length of stay outdoors, such as tents and sleeping bags for camping overnight in the wilderness. Trekking and backpacking are very similar!

So whether you’re an experienced hiker looking for an afternoon adventure or a budding trekker wanting to take on a multi-day challenge, both activities are great ways to explore nature!

What are the Health Benefits of Trekking and Hiking?

There are plenty of benefits to getting out in the outdoors and being active. Some of our favorite benefits include:

  • Improving overall fitness
  • Improving mental health
  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease

In conclusion, trekking and hiking are two activities that many people love doing in different ways. Trekking is more aimed at adventurers who want a challenging long-distance experience, while hiking is more suitable for casual wanderers who want to take things slow and enjoy the scenery. Short on time? Just plan a quick day hike!

So whatever it is you’re looking for – an adrenaline-filled adventure through rugged terrain or a relaxed walk in nature – both offer unique experiences that will leave you feeling satisfied and inspired by the great outdoors!