Hiking vs Walking – Differences and Benefits

Walking and hiking are two great exercises. In fact, you could say that humans were made for walking. And the good news is that hiking even has greater benefits. But what is the difference between hiking and walking, and what are the benefits of each? Is one necessarily better than the other? Let’s take a closer look.

The difference between hiking and walking is that hiking is described as a long walk, often done for pleasure on trails through the woods or country. Hiking can be done over multiple days, called backpacking. Walking is the term used to describe the everyday activity for short distances.

What is Walking?

Walking in the city
Walking in the city

Walking is traveling by foot using your feet as transportation while keep in contact with the ground at all times. There is no minimum distance of travel that defines a walk. A walk can be as little as a few feet or as long as a few thousand miles. Walking can be done out of necessity or for exercise. It’s usually done in urban settings, though walking in the woods or along the beach.

Why Walking is Better

One of the main benefits that walking has over hiking is that walking can be done anywhere. Unlike hiking, you don’t need to plan your hike, have proper gear, and travel to the trailhead. This make walking much more convenient compared to hiking.

Walking can also be done indoors or outdoors. While walking outdoors in nature has more benefits than walking indoors, walking indoors allows you to avoid harsh weather or busy cities. Walking on the treadmill can be a great convenience and offer assistance that normal hiking typically doesn’t provide.

Walking can be considered safer than hiking. Hiking typically requires more experience and safety. Some of the dangers associated with hiking include falls, dehydration, getting lost, and insect bites to name a few.

Another benefit of walking compared to hiking is that walking requires little or no equipment. Walking in your local park or neighborhood doesn’t require essential gear like first aid kits, multiple layers, headlamps, or even a backpack.


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What is Hiking?

Hiking in the forest
Hiking in the forest

Hiking is the activity to describe walking in natural environments, usually done for pleasure. It usually takes place in the countryside, woods, our mountains on trails and footpaths. Hiking is a “catch-all” term to describe many outdoor walking activities including nature walks, trekking, and backpacking.

As the hiking is just walking quote goes, “if you can walk, you can hike”.


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Why Hiking is Better

While taking a walk through your local park or along the beach can be quite convenient, hiking also has its many benefits as well.

The main benefit hiking has over walking is that you are surrounded by nature. This is one of the main reasons why people go hiking in the first place – to get away from the busy city and the noise.

While hiking is more strenuous, it also offers better exercise. Hiking uphill in nature is one of the best exercises you can do. If you’re looking to get fit faster and burn more calories, then hiking will be much better than walking.

Yes, hiking does require more planning. You’ll need to find a hiking spot, have the proper gear, understand how to navigate, and know how to plan a hiking trip. But all of those hiking skills are part of the fun. While hiking is not a sport, it’s a fun hobby that you can grow into a lot more compared to walking.


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When Does a Walk Turn into a Hike?

While all hiking is a form of walking, not all walking is a form of hiking. A walk is considered a hike when it’s done outdoors along a footpath. Hikes are usually done with the intention of enjoying nature. While there is no minimum distance for a hike, hikes usually longer than a mile.

Hiking vs Walking Calories Burned

Hiking burns significantly more calories than walking. Walking burns approximately 100 calories per mile, while hiking burns over 250 calories per hour. Of course, there are many different factors to consider how much more calories are burned when hiking. Things like incline, uneven terrain, and pack weight all play a role.

If you’re looking for a more scientific way to determine how many calories are burned, Outside Online has a handy explanation and calculator.

Two reasons why hiking burns more calories than walking are:

  • Steeper inclines are quite common
  • More pack weight requires more energy
  • Hikes are often longer

So if you’re looking to optimize for weight loss or fitness, hiking is the way to go. Make sure you start slow and safe. As you increase your fitness and gain experience, you can then start hiking harder trails.


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When it comes to walking vs hiking, while both are a form of healthy exercise, they are slightly different. Walking can be done anywhere for any amount of time. It’s often easier and more convenient than hiking. Hiking, on the other hand, requires more experience and is only done outdoors in nature. Hiking burns a lot more calories and is an exciting hobby.

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