The Best Hiking Quotes
At heart, I am a journaler. Recording thoughts, inspirations and events in written form is an urge that comes from deep within my soul, I can feel it.
But, while I am very organized in some aspects of my life, I have yet to put together any type of organized journaling system.
As a result, I have jottings and notes and reminders all over the place. On my phone. On napkins. On pieces of paper torn off other pieces of paper.
Until today. Today I begin anew, collecting my favorite quotes in one place. Here. Where I can find them when I need inspiration. Where you can find them when you need inspiration.
This growing post will catalogue quotes whose inspiration I can’t bear to lose when I finish reading a book on hiking. Not a recycling of the same old hiking quotes found all over the internet, but quotes that I encounter organically in a life focused on the outdoors.
I hope you will drop me a line in the comments if any of these quotes resonates with you, or if you have another great one I should add to my collection!
And please feel free to share these quotes on social media if they speak to you. I specifically designed the quote graphics below to be twitter- and facebook-friendly, to share the love of hiking far and wide! (and a Pinterest-friendly, 2:3 aspect graphic at the very end, too)
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A hiking observation from Harold Allen, Appalachian Trail planner and volunteer
“[The trail] leads not merely north and south, but up to the body, mind and soul of man.”
Although somewhat debated, general consensus holds that early Appalachian Trail planner, and eventual long-time trail volunteer Harold Allen said these words at a planning meeting with Myron Avery, Chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference in 1934.
Regardless of who spoke this and when, I think every hiker would agree that it perfectly encapsulates what calls us to the walk.
The eloquently stated, longer quote reads:
Remote for detachment, narrow for chosen company, winding for leisure, lonely for contemplation, it leads not merely north and south but upward to the body, mind and soul of man.
A hiking quote from Rebecca Solnit, author and activist
“A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape…”
In context, author Rebecca Solnit is actually reminding readers that when hiking in another’s footsteps, we’re actually engaging with them, even becoming them to a degree.
I appreciate that aspect, but the implication of the first half of her quote (shown in the graphic) is even more powerful to me. Which probably doesn’t surprise you if you’ve read my thoughts on backyards and understood that piece’s implied challenge to blaze our own life paths.
In context, the quote reads:
A path is a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape, and to follow a route is to… reiterate something deep; to move through the same space the same way is a means of becoming the same person, thinking the same thoughts.
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way implying that hikers should create their own paths by stepping off-trail and undermining the patency of fragile biosystems. I am merely admiring the life challenge that this quote inspires.
A walking pilgrimage quote from Andrew Forsthoefel, writer and activist
“[A journey] requires a catalyst of existential urgency and curiosity that a lifestyle of constant comfort and consumption suppresses.”
Comfort and consumption suppress. Full stop.
I can’t think of any better way to summarize modern-day, middle income life.
Of course, this is a generality; there certainly are people who live in comfort and enjoy consumption while still managing to seek and explore and discover.
But you don’t have to be a keen observer of human nature to notice the inverse relationship between contentment and curiosity. I mean, we’ve known since the 1680s that a person sitting in comfort will continue to sit in comfort until acted on by an outside force. Thank you, Sir Isaac Newton for pointing that out. Now don’t you feel inspired to get a little uncomfortable and live out a journey!
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An observation on the hiker’s spirit from Paul Molyneaux, AT hiker
“There are two kinds of utopias: one of creative action where you make your own dreams come true; the other of effortless escape, like going to the movies to watch others make their dreams come true.”
When discussing the vision of Benton MacKaye, conservationist and conceiver of the Appalachian Trail, Molyneaux has this conversation with his 8-year old son who is hiking the AT with him:
“But what’s utopia?” he (Molyneaux’s son) asks.
“According to MacKaye… there’s two kinds: one is the utopia of making your pipe dream come true, like us here on the trail. The other is to go to the movies and identify with the characters who make their pipe dreams come true.”
Elsewhere, Molyneaux uses MacKayes’ terms for those two types of utopia: “creative action” and “effortless escape.”
When Molyneaux asks his son which he prefers, the answer is, “I like both.”
I am inclined to agree. It’s all about balance.
A quote contrasting city life to trail life from “Lady Mustard Seed,” AT hiker
“Your whole life in town is focused on sustaining your life in town.”
When asked by researcher Fondren what barriers kept her from finding the answers she was searching for at home, Lady Mustard Seed replied:
Your whole life in town is focused on sustaining your life in town. We work 40+ hours a week to sustain a certain lifestyle and the lifestyle is exhausting. After I work… I don’t have the energy… Retreating into the woods, leaving all of these obligations, specifically to seek and to be with nature is a complete shift in focus… whereas I feel like I’m spinning my wheels in town, always rushing, always tired.
Or, put another way, our whole life in town can become focused on getting a backyard. And maintaining the backyard. And raising kids to get their own backyards.
I kind of like thinking of the entire planet as a backyard. Don’t you?
A quote on knowing yourself as a hiker from Joan Bishop, boarding house owner
“Well, it’ll still be there, boys, when you’re ready for it.”
In this moment, Bryson and Katz are talking with Mrs. Bishop just after quitting their hike about 100 miles from their goal:
“I read in the paper the other day that a man from Portland hiked Katahdin to celebrate his seventy-eighth birthday,” she said conversationally.
“I expect I’ll be ready to try again by then,” Katz said.
“Well, it’ll still be there, boys, when you’re ready for it,” she said. She was right, of course.
Anyone who’s ever challenged themselves gets this one. It’s all about knowing how much to push ourselves. And knowing when to push ourselves. And even knowing when to stop pushing.
Important self-awareness in hiking. In kayaking. In life.
Like Mrs. Bishop, I say: if today is not the day for your mountain, wait for another day. Or another mountain.
Do you have a favorite hiking quote?
We’d love to hear it! Drop us a line in the comments below!
And if your family enjoys reading non-hiking books together, too, check out some of our family faves in Open Wide the World Through Books!