Tracing Hiking’s Recent Surges in Popularity


If the most popular hiking trails seem to be far more crowded than they used to be, it’s probably because they are. According to recent reports, the number of people who regularly take to the trails has doubled in some areas, with Seattle being a prime example. While outdoor enthusiasts have long been drawn to the lush green glories of the Olympic range, the opportunities for solitude are becoming more remote by the day. In 2017, history was made when hiking was ranked as the number-one camping activity, according to the North American Camping Report.


What could be behind this sudden influx? As another study has pointed out, the generational factor likely plays a huge role. A whopping 97 percent of polled Gen-Zers believe that spending time outdoors is important for one’s overall well-being (81 percent claimed that it was “very important,” while 16 remained in the “somewhat important” camp). As these young adults move into the workforce and develop routines of their own, the landscape will naturally become more crowded. This is reinforced by the fact that hiking and camping are largely social activities, which heightens the probability of young enthusiasts bringing large groups of friends along. In fact, 43 percent of millennials will readily admit that time spent with friends and family is the main reason why they enjoy outdoor leisure time, and camping in particular.


This is good news for public health overall, but it also means that hikers who are looking to “get away from it all” will find it that much harder to get their wish in the years to come. As these millennials move up in age and raise families of their own, they’re more likely to introduce their children to the wonders of the great outdoors, which could lead to an even greater surge in popularity down the line. Indeed, the grounds are already tilting in that direction: About 60 percent of U.S. households consider themselves active campers, a number that’s been on the rise for the last decade. With hiking being the favored leisure activity during camping trips, it stands to reason that a whole new wave of young outdoorsmen and -women will soon be lacing up their hiking boots as well. Fortunately, it’s also likely that this new generation will be happy to share the trails.