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Solo women hikers often face pushback from friends and family whose anxiety is triggered by the suggestion that a woman might be heading into the wilderness alone. It’s time to call that what it is.
The idea that a woman might not just survive, but thrive, in the backcountry seems unimaginable for many people, even now — 66 years after December 1, 1955.
Of course it’s sexism.
And, yes, it feeds toxic expectations into our culture.
Photos in this post were supplied by the hikers quoted, and are being used with permission
Hiking Solo as a Woman
Most of my own hikes are solo hikes, even in winter. Of course, I’m a middle-aged cis-gender straight white male. I know it’s different for others.
However, 60% of my followers on social media are women, many of whom have hiked solo regularly for years.
And my hiking besties are all women. They hike solo, too — a lot.
Hiking solo is different for women, of course. As a woman, you have a few extra concerns and, unfortunately, you have to take more precautions.
Even so, hiking is largely an extremely safe pursuit for women, with friends new and old, or solo — with the correct gear, knowledge, skill and experience, of course.
Solo Hikes Today
If you’re just starting out, this is a great era. There’s now an enormous network of women hikers who can help get you there, and who will encourage your growth and independence and mastery.
In short, if anyone tells you “you shouldn’t”…
Here are some amazing women hikers and their thoughts on solo hiking…
“Hiking solo makes me feel confident, capable, & badass! I love alone time in the woods to enjoy nature at my leisure & give myself space to be in the present moment!“
“I never hiked as fast as I did the first time I hiked solo 😂 but once I calmed down, I found I loved the quiet, the ability to stop and examine whatever plant I wanted to, and the feeling of really knowing the power of my physical and mental self.”
“Did a solo of Windham High Peak and never felt more me.”
“Hiking solo is my time to truly be myself. I can hike literally however I want, fast, slow, taking a million pictures, stopping to look at some trees, or take a different route if I so choose. I can appreciate the silence and stillness of the forest, or take a dive deep into my own thoughts, or not think about anything at all! Solo hiking is like meditation for me. It feels so good for my soul.”
“I have only been taking hiking seriously since 2020 and I started hiking solo in 2021, but my limited experience has added so much confidence in myself. I have bad anxiety and often find myself staying home for fear of trying new things. Hiking, specifically hiking solo has shown me my ability to take care of business! Having enough faith in myself and my knowledge to keep myself safe alone in the wilderness has been great for my self efficacy overall in my life. I never thought I’d hike by myself but it’s become some the most cherished moments I have. Starting small and with familiar trails is my biggest advice to anyone starting solo hiking. It can be scary as a woman but being prepared for all situations at least make me feel better. I recommend it to anyone, even if they’re scared. ESPECIALLY if they’re scared!”
“The first time I solo hiked was only a couple of summers ago and I was scared shitless. I kept thinking of all the mountains and miles I had done before that hike but this one was truly uncomfortable because I was scared and I was challenging myself – by myself. I kept thinking that a bear would be just around the bend. Then I feared someone would accost me on the trail because, well, I am a woman. Nah, it would be a bear. Or mountain lion (which happened to cross my path but a few days later hiking with a friend). All these thoughts were racing through my head and they were ruining my hike. As I kept walking, I focused on my breath and each step. I started to notice all of the different leaves and beloved low humidity. Before I knew it, I eased my way up to this spot and took it all in. I had the whole place to myself. I felt stronger, more confident and grateful that I was able to put my fears to rest and enjoy this sweet spot. I didn’t let my fears win. This is why we do it and this is why we sometimes we do it solo.”
“Hiking solo is incredibly empowering. It shows me that I can do things I never thought I was capable of. It allows me to feel free in a way that nothing else does. And as a bonus, I get to do the things I want to do, even if no one else is available.”
“The first hike I ever did was solo to Overlook! Until that point, I was not an outdoor gal and had never felt that independent, confident or triumphant ever. Now I hike solo as frequently as possible because it’s pretty much the only way to find silence these days and because I know I’m capable of doing it.”
“The woods and mountains are where I go to reset, especially when I’m solo. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I’ve been hiking solo for over a decade and I feel safer out there than I do anywhere else. I make sure I’m super prepared with proper gear and hydration, and I always let a fellow knowledgeable hiker know where I’m going and when, and when I expect I’ll be back.”
“Regarding how solo hiking feels and what it means, starting solo hiking was a huge step I took in realizing my independence and strength in myself. Before my first solo hike I wasn’t very comfortable being alone (especially in the woods). But being out there by myself I’ve found is the best environment for self-reflection and social battery recharging! Sometimes people ask me if I’m afraid to hike alone, but honestly I feel more worried walking around the city at night.”
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