The Differences Between Solo Hiking & Hiking in a Group

Wondering whether to go solo or join a group for your next hike? Hannah K. highlights the benefits of each.

A group of hikers walking in a forest
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Hiking is a very personal and vulnerable experience. We all hike for different reasons—exercise, to escape the city, for some epic views, a sense of accomplishment, to self-reflect, or possibly to meet people from all walks of life who share a common thread of hiking. Solo hiking and hiking in a group are completely different experiences, both with great benefits. Here, I will lay out my top reasons why both solo hiking and group hiking are fantastic options.

A sunset over a mountain forest

Photo by Sergei Akulich

Solo Hiking

A Time for Personal Growth and Self Reflection

Solo hiking is what Thoreau and Emerson imagined when they helped form the transcendentalist movement. It is a time to connect with nature, self-reflect, and continue to learn about yourself. Solo time in nature offers a space to process your emotions and trauma on a deeper level and encourages personal growth.

Learn How to be Independent and Resourceful

When you are on your own in the wilderness, you must be prepared for any situation. You are the only person who can protect yourself and ultimately keep yourself safe. With this, however, comes a sense of independence, empowerment, and accomplishment. Regardless of if it's a day hike, multi-day trek, or a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking alone will teach you more about yourself than you thought there was to know.

Becoming Comfortable on Your Own

Hiking alone will also help you be more comfortable alone in other situations, from taking yourself out to dinner to going to a movie alone. When you hike endlessly by yourself, you learn to enjoy your own company (as you should—you are all amazing).

A woman walking among grassy rolling hills

Photo by Holly Mandarich

Sense of Freedom

Hiking alone gives you the freedom to go at your own pace, stop whenever you want, and stop wherever you want. You don’t need to compromise with others on how far to go that day or how fast or slow you want to go. You make all the decisions!

Peace and Quiet

Hiking alone is often quieter, as there is less talking and fewer loud footsteps. Listen to the birds sing instead! This means you won’t scare away wildlife as easily. Look out for foxes, coyotes, deer, elk, moose, and any other critters native to the area. But this also means look out for wild animals and stay safe when you see them. Don’t get too close and have that bear spray ready just in case.

Catch Up On Podcasts and Ebooks

Hiking alone gives you a great opportunity to catch up on podcasts, ebooks, and new albums that the city life hasn’t given you time to listen to. Keep your mind occupied while enjoying the great outdoors. Check out this article if you need some recommendations.

Improve Your Selfie Game

Hiking alone also means that there is no one around to take your picture, if you want to be in the frame. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen your selfie game, learn how to prop up that phone against a rock on the ground, set the timer, jump in the air—go crazy!

Group Hiking

Have Help

Group hiking is a totally different experience than solo hiking. One of the top reasons to hike with people is that you always have help. Whether you get hurt or aren’t feeling too hot—or see a bear—you will always have someone to rely on. This can offer a sense of security and relief if you’re feeling scared or overwhelmed, and can help you enjoy your time outside. Want to run off trail to wilder-pee but don’t want to bring your pack? Easy, just ask your hiking buddy to watch it for a minute.

Share Resources

Don’t have a band-aid? Need some toe tape for that blister? But did you forget it at home? Well, maybe your hiking buddy didn’t! Sharing resources is another great reason to hike in a group. You can also split up your weight in your packs to help lighten the load. Heavier packs are not fun, my dudes.

Three hikers on a hill looking out at expansive mountain scenery

Photo by Ac Almelor

Meet New People

Maybe you are joining a hiking group or “tramily” on the trail. Great! Meeting new people on the trail will open up your world to new cultures and people from different walks of life. If they live in a different part of the world, you will always have a couch to crash on for free if you want to travel. Double great! Learning about new cultures through people is what life is about.

Bond More with Old Friends

Maybe you and an old friend are just starting to hike together. Experiencing new trails, new views, and new situations are great ways to get closer to friends. There is nothing like the great outdoors to help you bond with people and strengthen your relationships.

More Laughs

Hiking with people will inevitably lead to a louder and laughter filled experience. Fun times, happy memories, and big smiles are all part of this and that sounds amazing. I love those laughs when your abs hurt and you cry a little because something is so funny—truly the happiest moments.

A group of hikers walking down a rocky slope

Photo by Robert Bye

Before you head out on your hike, think about the experience you want to have on trail. Solo hiking and group hiking will create different vibes and situations, both of which are great. Whereas solo hiking will be more about self-reflection and learning about yourself, hiking with friends will potentially teach you about new cultures, share some experiences, bond, and have some major laughs. It is always okay to start alone, meet some people, separate, meet new people, go off again… part of hiking is knowing your limitations, needs, and wants and listening to your body. But most importantly, whatever you choose, know that it is always okay to change your mind and regardless, you’re going to have a good time!

Have other fun tips for solo or group hiking? Want to share your experiences? Hit me up through my profile and let me know.

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Written By
Although I've been hiking for most of my life, I didn't start backpacking and camping until college when I joined the University Outdoors Club at my school. My first backpacking trip was ambitious, the Batona Trail in the Pinelands in New Jersey done in two days. To do that, we had to walk a maratho...

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