Should women hike solo?

It’s always been natural for me to be alone, including on the trail. Sadly, society has conditioned us to think that it is unsafe for women to recreate outdoors solo. This attitude is wrong and perpetuates negative stereotypes about women– hiking, running, and camping alone can be both safe and rewarding. So it’s time to put it to rest, if you’ve ever wanted to venture out on a solo outdoor adventure, I’m here to tell you that you can and you should. 

solo woman and dog hiking on overlook

For most of my childhood, I was left alone at the foot of the Grand Tetons in a three-room cabin with no running water. No, I wasn’t being held captive — it’s just how life was with divorced parents and a mountain guide for a father. When I was really young I had babysitters, but supervision was still minimal. Sometimes there were other kids to play with, but most of the time it was just me and my husky, exploring the woods and creek behind our cabin. Being alone in nature was just a natural part of life for me and still is. 

Even though I have been on the trails solo for most of my life, I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been stopped and asked by other trail users if I was hiking alone and if I was okay. Friends have asked if I ever felt unsafe. Ex-boyfriends worried for my well-being and even suggested that I didn’t know what I was doing. While these comments and microaggressions may have come from a place of genuine concern, they were usually unwanted. 

solo woman gazing at sunset in the desert

Solo Hiking Is Good For You  

Something changes in me each time I hit the trail alone. While it takes more mental effort to go without a companion, my mood shifts and I instantly feel better as soon as I reach the trailhead. Research has proven to us that spending time in nature is good for our mental health, but something even greater happens when you hike alone:

Say buh-bye to self-doubt! 

Most of the time our self doubt is mental, but it can also stem from society and media. With each step on the trail you are crushing your insecurities and disproving negative societal stereotypes. 

Improve your skills! 

When you’re alone, you have to depend fully on yourself, since you’re making all of the location, preparation, and navigation decisions. These are invaluable skills that are not as easily developed in a group. 

Gain confidence and strength! 

It takes strength, both physical and mental, to prepare for a trip that no one else will be on. Confidence and strength come from the preparation and completion of a successful outing. 

Face your fears! 

What are you afraid of? Bears, being cold, starving, heights? Without any distractions or assistance, hiking solo forces you to face these fears head-on.

Gain enhanced self-awareness! 

When you’re doing something alone in nature you have the time to reflect on yourself and life without the distractions of other people. Hiking alone gives you a chance to clear your head and just let your thoughts flow.

How to Minimize Risk 

I have rarely felt unsafe on the trail or found myself in a dangerous situation while hiking alone. But, like most things we do, there is an element of risk. I would argue that hiking alone as a woman is no more dangerous than a man hiking alone. 

To stay safe, I always try to:

  • Notify someone of my plans and when I expect to return
  • Know my limits and don’t push them in unfamiliar settings
  • Carry my cell phone and/or a satellite messenger
  • Stay alert, including by not hiking with with headphones
  • Trust my gut — if something doesn’t feel right, I turn around
solo woman and dog at sunset

Hiking alone doesn’t mean that you will dissolve any fears that you have — it’s more about facing those fears and not letting them limit you. Society feeds us loads of negative content all day long, from the news to expectations from the media on how a woman should be and act. Don’t let society dictate how you adventure – you are capable.

When we don’t try new things because of fear, we live a stagnant life, not moving forward and not reaching our full potential. So, I encourage you to give solo hiking a try. You might love it, or not — but either way at least you know that you tried.

Posted in on April 28, 2020
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11 Comments

  1. Terri on April 28, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    “I would argue that hiking alone as a woman is no more dangerous than a man “. Really? Obviously, you haven’t read about the murders on the Appalachian trail. I think this is an irresponsible article.

    • Ann on April 29, 2020 at 3:23 am

      You can read every day in the news about a murder in your city, does this cause you stay at home? If you venture out, are you irresponsible? The previous comment isn’t rational.

    • Mars on April 29, 2020 at 3:59 am

      I think this is an irresponsible comment. The AT is much safer for everybody than a city. Do you know how many persons die each year because they fell out of their beds? This may sound funny at first but if you have a certain age, even your own bed is more dangerous for your well being than the AT.

    • Cathy on April 29, 2020 at 2:54 pm

      How many women have successfully hiked on the AT? How many have been murdered? The odds are very long against anything bad happening.

      The real issue is our fear, not the actual risk.

    • Katherine on April 29, 2020 at 11:16 pm

      (Exactly on cue, there’s always one…)

      Most of our female-specific safety risks are civilization-based. Pull us further out of civilization and the risks start to level out with the guys’ risks.

      fwiw, parts of the AT are far less removed from civilization than the many, many wilderness areas where one might solo hike in the U.S. I generally try to make camp beyond day-hiker range from trailhead parking.

    • Sandie on April 30, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      Which were either murders of M/F couples or most recently perpetuated against both sexes when a year ago it was a man who was killed while a woman escaped. It’s way more dangerous to drive a car to the trail. I hike and travel the world solo with no problems.

  2. Terry on April 29, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Good for you, Alexandra! I am a man who has been solo hiking for over 40 years and find it to be a highly spiritual exercise. As long as one knows what one is doing in the wild (which disqualifies a huge portion of people) and pay attention to the surroundings (which disqualifies even more people) solo hiking is much safer tha walking in a city and very rewarding.

    But I see you are not quite alone in your photos with your furry four-footed friend.

  3. Cathy on April 29, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    Great article, Alexandra, and exactly what I need to hear–and do!

    I have done a lot of hiking and a moderate amount of backpacking with my husband. But I’ve only attempted solo backpacking twice. The first time, I bailed out before reaching camp for no good reason, just discomfort. The second time I camped only a short distance from road head and spent a very pleasant night alone on the ridge, but instead of continuing in and spending a second night deeper in the wilderness, I went home the next morning.

    This is especially silly because I was a rural kid who grew up where I could and did take long bike rides alone, well before the era of helicopter parenting. I’m not sure where the fear came from. I’ve never been afraid of the woods. It’s other people that I fear, and I know it’s just silly overreaction.

    I had planned to do several solo trips this summer, though we’ll have to see what happens with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

    Thanks for encouraging me to get out there and do it!

  4. Katherine on April 29, 2020 at 11:22 pm

    I started solo out of necessity. Since then I’ve discovered it’s incredibly important for me to do these trips. There is something very different and wonderful about following your own pace and rhythm. Good things happen to my brain when I hike solo. Even better things happen when I backpack solo for several days.

  5. Mary Ann on April 30, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Sound advice. Please take advantage of the time when you can do it. Life has a way of changing our plans and you always say “I wish I had”. Anything SOLO outdoors is wonderful. Thank you for a wise article.

  6. Sarah on July 28, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    I’d love to backpack solo, but I need to convince my parents to let me first though.

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