Is Hiking A Sport

Adventurer hiking

If you watch or compete in sport and also enjoying a bit of hiking, you may wondering ‘Is Hiking A Sport’? Simply put, hiking is not a sport for many reasons, with the main one being that hiking is a recreational physical activity and not a competitive event.

But there are many ways to make hiking more competitive should this be something that appeals to you. This article will also cover many other factors that point out differences between sports and hiking so lets dive in.

Why hiking is not a sport

The dictionary definition of ‘sport’ is that it’s an organized physical game or physical activity. The event can involve participants, individuals, a team competes and attempts to best one another in a casual or competitive match.

Activities that pertain to ‘sport’ are usually bound by rules and regulations and overseen by a governing body or committee that upholds a sports rulebook.

Hiking on the otherhand does not involve any competition. Hikers have fun together, enjoy physical training but no individual or team competes against each other.

Hiking is enjoyed worldwide by individuals and groups of people who want to enjoy nature outdoors. And due to the popularity of hiking, there have been many records set during hiking expeditions

These records include, the fastest timed hike up a mountain, the most miles, or fastest time set on a particular thru-hike appalachian trail. There have even been records set for the longest single-day hike or the most people hiking together.

You may be thinking if hiking is a hobby and activity involving physical exertion and so are mountain biking and fishing. How come mountain biking and fishing are also classed as sports.

In the example of mountain biking and fishing, both activities have competitive calendar events, governing bodies and set rules during a competitive event.

When people compete in these hobbies more often than not it can be labelled as a sport. 

Adventurer hiking

If hiking is not a sport, what is it?

Quote: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” John Muir, Father of the National Parks.

Bushwalk, tramping, rambling, hill-walking, and fell walking are a few universal terms used to describe a long, challenging walk on a backcountry appalachian trail or as we know it ‘hiking’. 

The first use of the word ‘hiker’ dates back to 1880, is derived from ‘hängen,’ the German verb for ‘hang.’ But many argue that the word ‘hiker’ could have originated from ‘haiere,’ a Middle English term for ‘to go about.’

Most people associate the term ‘hiking’ with weekend physical activity. An opportunity to get away from our urban lives and go for a long and physically pleasing walk in the countryside.

Hiking requires stamina and endurance and is a great hobby to improve overall physical fitness, cardiovascular health, and mental clarity. 

One can enjoy nature while hiking, and at the end of a long hard hike, you can pitch a tent and camp or stay overnight in a wilderness cabin.

Hiking is a great social hobby and builds community. It’s common for groups of hikers to conquer a steep trail together.

Many hiking clubs and societies exist that organize winter hiking expeditions for all experienced hikers to get together and share tips and stories.

What is a sport?

Harley Vague, an Australian Football and Commentator, details that ‘Competition’ differentiates most sports from recreation and hobbies. 

In contrast to popular belief, a sport doesnt have to be based on physical dexterity or athleticism, such as a boxing match.

Organizations such as the Council of Europe and The International Olympic Committee recognize activities and games such as chess, go bridge, xiangqi, and checkers as non-physical sports.

Whether or not physical, most sports are completed and competed within a framework of rules and governed by an over-ruling committee that can determine a winner through judging, point scoring, or timekeeping.

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What is the difference between hiking and a real sport?

The differences between hiking and sport are illustrated in the table below. Of course, there are many differences between both activities, but these are the main points to contend with.


Most sports are a competitive activity

There is an objective winner or first place

There are rules to abide by within a sports game or match

Sports are goverened by Committees or organisations

There is a time limit imposed on a Sports competition


Hiking is a recreational leisurely activity

Hking is not competitve is a social activity

There are no rules when hiking but safety measures

Hiking is not governed but have social clubs and societies

There are no time limits when hiking, you can walk forever

Why do many people consider hiking as a sport?

Have you ever had a curious friend ask you what time did you complete a specific trail that you have recently finished? 

Many competitive nature hikers believe in timekeeping records of completed trail route attempts.

But hikes dont generally happen one after another and therefore cannot be compared. Rain delays are a real thing that could last for months when hiking in backcountry.

In contrast, individuals or teams competing in a sport do so within a brief window of opportunity under the same rules and conditions.

For example, a rugby game might be played during the first week of April between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South African Springboks at Auckland stadium. And then the following week, Australia might play Fiji in Sydney the following week. 

The two teams playing against each other are doing so under the same conditions. New Zealand is playing South Africa in Auckland.

However, in hiking, it isn’t easy to measure a hike that happened in the summer of January against another hike on the same trail completed in the winter of October.

The time passed is too great, and hiking as a hobby is done for leisure and when people have to take time out of their daily lives to go hiking.

This does not stop from counting hiking as a leg of a competitive nature event like an adventure run. People during ultra-marathons might hike a portion of the event.

But hiking by itself at present is not considered by any governing sporting body or committee as being a sport.

What sports are the same as hiking?

So now we have established that hiking is not a sport. So let’s look at sports that are like hiking in that they can be classed as recreational, have an outdoor element, and require physical exertion. 

Trail running

Trail running has seen a significant boost in popularity recently, with organized trail races having increased by over one thousand percent in the past five years. 

Trail race distances can vary from 8 miles to 100 miles, and runners can enjoy natural adventure racing circuits instead of the mundane road racing pavements.

Routes include steep mountain ascents, dry dusty canyons or slippery, dense Hawaiian forest hiking trails.

Competitors have also stated that trail running on sand or dirt is low impact on the joints compared to road racing.

Mixed trail competitions and adventure racing allow a more challenging and engaging experience as teamwork and navigation skill involved to complete a successful race.  

Ultra marathons

Similar to trail running, ultra marathons take it a step further. A trail running distance race can be set to a minimum of five miles.

However, ultra marathons distances start from 26.2 miles or 42.16 km, with the average Ultra being 50km’s and can be as long as 200 miles.

Unlike trail running, an ultra marathon can take place on a road circuit, mixed surface, or trail route.

Landmark ultra-marathons races are often set in challenging environmental conditions, such as the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in Italy, the Badwater 135 in Death Valley, California, and the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

While the term ‘marathon’ is associated with the event, a competitor is not expected to run the entire course.

Many racers will opt for a run-hike-run method of completing the task, and the later stages of an adventure racing event are often hiked as injuries and fatigue set in.

Do hiking competitions exist?

Hiking competitions

After researching hiking as a sport and competitive hiking, the so-called hiking competitions were not ‘competitive’ and appear to be more of a social gathering than an actual competition.

Seek The Peak Event, Mount Washington. July.

This event requires hikers (competitors) to register and raise funds for climate change causes.

Hikers are then tasked with ascending the Mt. Washington trail in teams or individually at their own pace, all while enjoying outdoor parties, expos, and food stalls along the way.

Go Fest, Whistler, British Columbia. May.

The Go Fest has several competitive events targeting outdoor enthusiasts. The competitive events include tennis and sailing, unfortunately hiking is not one of the competitive events.

Non-competitive events at the Go Fest include hiking, trail running, and cycling. Participants of the Go Fest can enjoy evening film screenings, art workshops, food stalls, and live music are key aspects during the festival week.

Boulder Ale Trail, Boulder Colorado. March – October.

With dates ranging from March to October, this event is like a pub crawl. Participants’ use hiking trails from one brewery to another in the municipality of Boulder, Colorado. 

The actual trail course ‘Boulder Ale Trail’ is a 12-mile hike that starts at Longmont and features over a dozen microbreweries along the beaten pathway. 

Enthusiasts can opt to hike or cycle the trail, but there is one thing that’s for certain, you’re going to want to keep hydrated during this grueling event.

The pros of hiking versus playing in a sport

Hiking is less competitive

Hiking is not a competition unless friends decide to partake in a friendly wager. No rivalry means no pressure. An individual will often use hiking to find peace with nature and experience increased mental clarity.

Hike whenever you feel like it, on your own schedule

You decide when you want to go hiking. Unlike being comitted to a sporting event, with hiking there are no registration tables you need to go to.

And the only time limit is the daylight between sunrise and sunset and not when the final whisle is blown.

Hiking brings nature and people together

There is nothing more natural than walking outdoors, and hiking does just that. Starting at point A and walking to point B. A hiker can choose to camp overnight and continue hiking the next day when their final destination is reached.

If your in a campervan you can go for a walk after breakfast. In this setting a walk is simply a ‘hike’, pure bliss.

Hiking is just as good as a sport for fitness

Hiking can be experienced and enjoyed by any age group. There are fewer injuries when hiking compared to road running.

You choose the pace, route, weather, and distance with hiking. You can hike during your weekends and slowly build up your cardio fitness by increasing distance and backpack weight.

Hiking is a social gathering

Like other sports, hiking is a very social hobby. It is safer to hike with friends, and what’s better than enjoying the outdoors and having great conversations with friends.

So even if my only companion is my dog, I never hike by myself.

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There are physical requirements between both activities that have begged us to answer the question Is Hiking A Sport? 

Sport is highly competitive and competition is the main difference between hiking and sports. With hiking there is no loser or leader, no governing body that imposes and upholds rules.

And that’s a great thing.

Hiking is the fun thing you do to relax after a long hard week or be used as an ‘active rest/recovery day after exhausting work or a sporting event.

There are no losers when hiking, only winners. Most importantly, if hiking can get you to experience the outdoors, it is a great thing.