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Hiking popularity has exploded in recent years.
The pandemic rekindled our love for the great outdoors and — as you’ll see from these hiking statistics — the trend only seems to be strengthening.
That said, more hiking also means more hiking accidents, which is a growing concern we’ll cover in this report.
We’ll also look at:
- Insightful hiking demographics
- The latest hiking trends
- The most popular trails
- Hiking health benefits
- And much more
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- Quick hiking statistics (2022)
- Is hiking dangerous?
- Is hiking good for you physically?
- Does hiking improve mental health?
- What are the most popular hiking trails?
- How many people hike the Appalachian Trail each year?
- Other hiking trends and demographics
Quick hiking statistics (2022)
- There are 57.8 million active hikers in the United States.
- 59.4 percent of hikers are male; 40.6 percent are female.
- There are 4 deaths per 100,000 hikers each year.
- 50% of all unintentional fatal hiking accidents result from drowning and falls.
- Hikers can burn well over 400 calories per hour.
- Hikers use up to 28% more energy when hiking on uneven terrain versus flat surfaces.
- There are over 88,600 miles of trails in the U.S. National Scenic Trails System.
- The Appalachian Scenic Trail is the longest in the world, running for 2,193 miles.
- Over 4,000 people attempt the Appalachian trail yearly, but nearly 75% fail.
Is hiking dangerous?
Hiking can improve your life in many ways. But before diving in headfirst, there are some important things to know, namely:
Is hiking dangerous?
It certainly can be.
From animals to falls to dangerous weather — exposing yourself to the elements always comes with risk.
That said, you can minimize these risks with proper preparation and a healthy dose of fear. The following hiking stats should give you a proper dose.
Hiking deaths statistics: How common are hiking deaths?
- Experts calculate that there are 4 deaths per 100,000 hikers per year.1
- Traumatic brain injury is one of the leading causes of death among hikers.2
- Falls and drowning account for 50% of fatal accidents, and drowning is the leading cause of death in national parks.3
- 49% of national park medical-related deaths occurred during physical activity, like hiking.3
- Sudden cardiac death is the most common non-traumatic cause of death in males over 34 years of age.4
- Black bears kill less than one person per year on average in North America.5
- Men make up 72% of hiking fall-related fatalities, while women make up 28% (Austrian Alps).6
- At 652 deaths per 10 million visitors, you’re more likely to die at North Cascades National Park than any other park.7
Hiking injuries statistics
- Women suffer 55% of non-fatal hiking fall accidents, while men make up 45%.6
- Most fall-related accidents occur in hikers over age 61 and involve defective vision.1
Lost hiker statistics
- Day hikers account for 42% of national park search and rescue cases, which is four times great than the next biggest group.8
- National parks don’t release the official numbers of hikers and visitors who go missing within their parks, so the lost hiker statistics may be much higher.
- Thousands of hikers get lost every year, and while most are found, there are currently 29 cold cases of hikers who’ve gone missing in national parks.
What is killing and injuring hikers?
Human error and national disasters (or a mix of the two) account for the majority of hiking accidents.
The most common unintentional, causes of hiking deaths unrelated to a prior medical condition are drowning and falls.
While wild animal attacks do occur, the fatality rate is minimal compared to human error.
Lightning strikes are another concern when hiking on unprotected mountain peaks during storms.
Lastly, there’s the grim reality of suicide-motived hikers who seek remote locations to end their life.
Now, to put your mind at ease, one study shows that many hiking deaths occur off of official trails and result from a lack of proper equipment.2
So if you stick to the trails and take time to properly prepare, you can significantly reduce your risk.
If you’re loved one is a hiking fanatic, consider one of these gifts for outdoor lovers to keep them safe.
Is hiking good for you physically?
Everyone has different reasons for hiking. But no matter your motivation, all hikers enjoy health benefits.
- In fact, several studies investigate the surprising health benefits you get from regular blood-pumping hikes.
- Hikers can burn well over 400 calories per hour.
- Hikers burn up to 28% more energy when hiking on uneven terrain versus flat surfaces.
- Hiking on uneven terrain activates muscles that help improve balance.
- Hiking lowers feelings of anxiety.
- Hiking increases bone density, which helps prevent and treat osteoporosis.9
- Regular hiking helps control blood glucose levels and fight diabetes.10
- Regular hiking can lower blood pressure for those with hypertension.11
- Hiking lowers the chance of developing heart disease.12
Does hiking improve mental health?
We know hiking can benefit you physically, but what about mental benefits?
It’s great to be fit, but you’re not truly thriving in life unless you’re healthy in both mind and body.
Fortunately, hiking has you covered here as well.
- Hiking mountains with higher elevations can make induce feelings of happiness.13
- Hiking decreases cortisol levels, which helps alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression.14
- Studies show that a 90-minute hike reduces rumination (incessant negative thoughts and emotions).15
- Regular hiking is a type of exercise that can reduce insomnia.16
- Ninety minutes in nature can help shut off the area of the brain associated with depression.15
- Spending time walking in nature can increase directed-attention abilities and increase creativity.17
- More doctors are prescribing hikes as a type of “nature therapy.”
- Green outdoor activities like hiking have been shown to help ADHD symptoms in children.18
What are the most popular hiking trails?
Hiking trails come in all shapes and sizes. And the trail you choose not only determines the nature you experience, but also the potential dangers.
Most U.S. hikers stick to America’s National Trail System, which spans over a whopping 88,600 miles.
The 11 most popular trails are:
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail: 2,180 miles through the Appalachian mountains. Completed in 1973, it relies on thousands of volunteers each year to keep up conservation efforts.
- Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail: 2,650 miles spanning three states — Washington, Oregon, and California.
- Continental Divide National Scenic Trail: 3,100 miles winding from the Canadian to the Mexican border.
- North Country National Scenic Trail: Spans 8 states, from Virginia to Colorado.
- Ice Age National Scenic Trail: 1,200 miles in Wisconsin, along the terminal moraine of the last Ice Age.
- Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail: 710 miles in Maryland along the Potomac River.
- Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail: 60-mile foot trail through Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
- Florida National Scenic Trail: 1,500 miles in Florida.
- Arizona National Scenic Trail: It’s 800 miles connecting desert and mountain landscapes from the Mexican border in Arizona up to Utah.
- New England National Scenic Trail: 215 miles through Connecticut and Massachusetts.
- Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail: 1,200 miles through Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
That said, many people make hiking one of their travel hobbies, voyaging around the world to conquer the most epic trails.
How many people hike the Appalachian Trail each year?
The Appalachian Trail is the most popular national trail in the United States. It spans over 2,190 miles and takes four to six months to complete.
This makes it one of the most difficult hiking trails in the U.S. Only about 1 in 4 of the 4,000 hikers who attempt the Appalachian Trail each year actually finish it.
Appalachian Trail statistics:
- Over 3 million people hike a piece of the Appalachian trail annually.19
- 20-25 percent of hikers successfully finish the entire trail each year, earning them a spot in the “2,000-milers” club.19
- 28% of the thru-hikers — those who complete the trail in one uninterrupted journey — are women.19
- Hikers can burn up to 6,000 calories a day hiking the Appalachian Trail.19
Other hiking trends and demographics
According to Statista, there were an estimated 57.8 million hikers in 2020, up from 49.7 million hikers in 2019 and nearly double the amount in 2006. Of these hikers, 59.4 percent were male, and 40.6 percent were female.20
Yes, the number of active hiking participants has nearly doubled since 2006, which had only 29.86 million hiking participants. Since then, there has been a steady increase in hikers each year, and an extra boost in numbers during the pandemic.20
There are no concrete hiking statistics out there about the average hiking frequency. Some go once a month, some go every weekend, and some — like many who take on the Appalachian Trail — hike all day, every day. The more often you hike, the more benefits you’ll experience.
The likelihood of dying on a hike is very low. In U.S. parks, there are approximately 4 deaths per 100,000 hikers per year. That comes out to 0.004%. Falls make up a large portion of these deaths, while sudden cardiac death makes up most of the non-traumatic deaths.
- Faulhaber, M. (2020). Characteristics of Victims of Fall-Related Accidents during Mountain Hiking.
- Zürcher, S. (2020). Circumstances and causes of death of hikers at different altitudes.
- National Park Service. Mortality Dashboard Key Statistics CY2014 – CY2016.
- Burtscher, M. (2017). Risk and Protective Factors for Sudden Cardiac Death During Leisure Activities in the Mountains.
- How Dangerous Are Black Bears? Rogers, L. Bear.org.
- Faulhaber, M. (2017). Fall-related accidents among hikers in the Austrian Alps: a 9-year retrospective study.
- What Are the Odds of Dying In a National Park This Summer? Goldstein, M. (2021). Forbes.
- Day hikers are the most vulnerable in survival situations. Moye, J. (2019). National Geographic.
- Krall, E. A. (1994). Walking is related to bone density and rates of bone loss.
- Jenkins, D. (2017). Hiking with Diabetes Risks and Benefits.
- Lee, L. L. (2010). The effect of walking intervention on blood pressure control.
- LaCroix, A. Z. (1996). Does walking decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease hospitalizations and death in older adults?.
- Niedermeier, M. (2017). Affective responses in mountain hiking—A randomized crossover trial focusing on differences between indoor and outdoor activity.
- Niedermeier, M. (2017). A Randomized Crossover Trial on Acute Stress-Related Physiological Responses to Mountain Hiking.
- Bratman, G. N. (2015). Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation.
- Exercising for Better Sleep. Hopkins Medicine.
- Berman, M. G. (2008). The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature.
- Kuo, F. E. (2004). A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
- The Adventure of a Lifetime: 2,000 Milers. Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
- Number of participants in hiking in the United States from 2006 to 2020. Statista Research Department. (2022).
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered—where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
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Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).