Difference between Hiking and Walking

If you are someone who has never been hiking before, you might be wondering what the difference between hiking and walking is. Is there a difference, or is it the same thing? That is what this guide will explain to you!

Certain differences set apart hiking and walking. You might not be aware of them now, but once you read through this guide, you will see that they make a lot of sense!

Still, it is good to know that both hiking and walking have a lot of benefits. They can help you improve your mental health as well as get into better physical shape.

After reading this, I bet you want to know more about these two activities, so let’s get right into the guide and see what they are all about!


Is Hiking Basically Walking

Is Hiking Basically Walking? What is the Difference?

Even though the terms hiking and walking are interchangeable in some languages and countries, I can't entirely agree with the idea that hiking and walking are the same. They may have some similarities, but a few differences set one apart from the other. Let’s see what these differences between hiking and walking are!

Difference in elevation

One of the most significant differences between hiking and walking is in the elevation. Usually, hiking trails tend to have a bigger elevation. They can even involve climbing to some mountains' peaks or going on a nice hike on a mountain range. You can also come across the term mountain hiking in some cases.

You do not have to worry about the elevation when going on short walks. They do not involve a significant elevation change. Usually, walking refers to walking around a local park or state park or any urban environment.

You can also go on a long walk in nature, but it will be considered only a walk and not a hike if it does not involve an elevation change. You can also call these types of walks nature walks!

Difference in terrain

There is also a significant difference in the terrain when it comes to hiking and walking. Before you go on your first hike, you have to be aware of this. You will also need specialized gear as well as physical readiness to be able to hike. I will talk about that a while later.

When it comes to the terrain, hikes usually happen on some unpaved or uneven terrain. You have hiking trails and mountain trails, the latter being somewhat harder trails to go on.

In contrast, you have walking trails that are usually in the city or a park. The terrain on the trail will be somehow paved and shorter, and you will not need any special gear to walk it. You can go walking in any comfortable rubber shoes you have at home.

Difference in distance

Hiking trails and hikes, in general, tend to be a bit longer. You have to walk a longer distance that usually has steeper inclines.

Even though you can have a longer walk, walking generally involves short distances in urban areas. You can walk in nature, on beach sand, or anywhere you would like. Still, it will not be as long as a hike.

Difference in requirements

As for the requirements, you should be aware that hiking has a lot of conditions while walking does not. To walk, you only need some comfortable shoes and regular sports clothes. You can take a water bottle, but it is not mandatory.

Hiking requires specialized gear, more preparation before the trip, and a higher level of mental and physical readiness. You will need a bigger backpack that can fit several water bottles, a change of clothes, and some food.

Then, it would help if you had trekking poles to help you out on uneven terrain. Your clothes should be waterproof and breathable, while your shoes should be special hiking shoes. You should also take a first aid kit if you have an accident or suffer some insect bites.

As for mental and physical readiness, that is also something to think about. Depending on how long and demanding the hiking trail is, you might need to do at least some exercise for it. You can try trekking or fast walking as two good ways to get some exercise before you hike.

You have to be mentally prepared for the hike and remember to tell yourself that you can do it. Hikes can lower your anxiety level. They can boost your self-esteem and make you walk a bit taller and be a bit prouder. What is better than that?!

Difference in environment

As mentioned before, the environment of these activities is different. Walking usually happens in urban areas, around the city, and so on. Hiking usually takes place in woods, mountains, or anywhere in nature where you can get some fresh air. So, depending on the type of experience you want to have, you can decide between the two.

hiker on top of the rock mountain

At What Point Does a Walk Turn Into a Hike?

What happens if you go out to walk and your walk starts looking more like a hike after some time? At what point did the change happen?

If you start hiking on unpaved terrain that has a larger difference in elevation and is longer than your general trail, you have gone from a walk to a hike. Both walks and hikes can happen in nature, but a few key points will separate the two.

Walking in a natural environment can turn into a hike. Especially if that walk requires more energy and effort, congrats, you have turned into a beginner hiker!

This is not something that you should worry about. Walking and hiking go hand in hand when it comes to the benefits they provide you with.

You must know that any exercise can have a lot of health benefits and mental benefits. It can help your immune system, help with weight loss, and even lower the chance of you developing heart disease. If you turn hiking or walking into an everyday activity for you and your family, you can even better your life expectancy!

So, I say that you should go for either! Spending time with Mother Nature is always a good idea, and when it involves so many benefits, you should consider doing it even more often!

What is the Individual Speed for Walking or Hiking?

The speed of a walk or a hike depends on the person doing it and their readiness for the activity. You can have someone hiking long distances in a short time and someone walking only a few miles all day long!

As an estimate, I would say that you can hike about 2 miles in one hour. If you have a lot of experience and are in great physical shape, you can go up to 3.5 miles in one hour.

As for walking, you should expect to pass 3 to 4 miles in one hour. Walking is sometimes easier and quicker than hiking. That is because of the even terrain, the fact that there is no change in elevation, and the trails are easier to go over.

With hiking, especially when you are hiking uphill, you will be very slow. There will be more muscle tension, and your feet might start to hurt, but it will still be a lot of fun. Nature hiking is the most fun a person can have, so you are missing out on it if you are not doing it yet!

Hiking vs Walking Calories

Both hiking and walking are great ways to exercise. If you want to get into better shape or lose weight, there is nothing better than walking or hiking. Still, you should be aware that hiking burns a lot more calories a lot quicker!

When you hike, you exercise your entire body as well as the mind. All your muscles activate, your whole body works as one well-oiled machine to burn through the fat. It would help if you were more prepared for hiking, but once you get a hold of it, you will see how enjoyable it can be.

As for walking, it is another great way to exercise and shed off a few pounds. If you do not want to push yourself that much from the beginning, you can start by walking. After a certain time, you can convert to hiking and see if it is a good fit. If you want to get into a better shape quicker, remember that hiking burns everything that the body does not need, and it might be the best choice for you!


I hope that this article helped you realize what the difference between hiking and walking is. They are both great for the body and the soul, so I recommend that you practice them as much as possible!

In the comments below, let me know if you are fonder of hiking or walking. I would love to learn all about your experiences and what you would recommend to people that still cannot decide between the two!

Andrew Mullen

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