6 Books That Will Inspire You to Lace Up Your Hiking Boots

There is no greater celebration of the summer season than getting outdoors and immersing ourselves in nature. No matter what region you call home, there is sure to be a gorgeous trail somewhere nearby that is calling your name. The reads below will help motivate you to shut off the TV, pack a picnic lunch, some sunscreen and some bug spray, and get out there! Whether you’re thru-hiking, day-hiking, or just thinking about hiking, these books fit just as nicely in a rucksack as on a nightstand.

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods has become a hiking classic in the nearly 20 years since its first publication, and it’s easy to see why. Travel writer Bill Bryson shares his journey to rediscover his home country after living abroad for many years. On his way from Georgia to Maine via the Appalachian Trail, he encounters a whole cast of characters: some funny, some infuriating, and some four-legged. Bryson’s deep love of the forests of the American East is well balanced by his snarky humor and malcontentedness. A Walk in the Woods is sure to snag an honorary place on your bookshelf after hiking season is through.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed had already had a series of hard knocks in her 22 years on Earth when she decided to set out on one of the most daunting hikes in the United States: the Pacific Crest Trail. The West’s answer to the Appalachian, the Pacific Crest is decidedly more desolate, rockier, and has a considerably denser population of snakes. Having just weathered tragedy after tragedy in her personal life and armed with very little hiking experience, Strayed starts out with a massively overfilled pack and an even heavier heart. By the time her journey ends, she has lightened both loads considerably.

Nature/Walking, by Ralph Waldo Emerson & Henry David Thoreau
Someone, somewhere had the genius idea of putting these two Transcendentalist essays together in one volume, and the result is a twin ode to the spiritual power of a walk in the woods. Whatever your faith or philosophy, it is easy to connect to the awe and majesty that these two great minds conjure up for the great outdoors. Both authors write in the ornately crafted style of their time, which only increases the sense of wonder and reverence for the beauty of the American landscape contained in this slim volume. Once you’ve read it, you will have a much tougher time spending a beautiful Saturday on the couch.

A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, by John Muir
Speaking of 19th century nature icons, there never lived a more tireless advocate for the American landscape than John Muir. An avid hiker, conservationist, and camping buddy of Theodore Roosevelt, Muir can be largely credited with opening America’s eyes to its own beauty. In this book, he details his trek from Indiana to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the Civil War. Kind of makes you think, Hey, if a guy in the 1860s could walk from the Midwest to Mexico, I can probably get outside for an hour or two today. That’s the spirit—John Muir would be proud of you.

Hiking the Continental Divide Trail: One Woman’s Journey, by Jennifer Hanson
When Army captain and consummate outdoorswoman Jennifer Hanson and her husband Greg set out to hike the Continental Divide Trail together, they expect to finish it together. However, thanks to a series of setbacks, delays, and injuries—Hanson’s husband Greg has to drop out with 900 miles left in the journey. Hanson has to dig deep to find the grit she knows she has in order to make it through one of the toughest hikes there is. The resulting tale of adventure reminds us of that core tenet of hiking: expect the unexpected.

Appalachian Trials, the Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail, by Zach Davis
There are lots of books that can instruct you on the logistics of how to prepare for a serious hike: how to find and purify drinking water, what shoes are best, and so on. However, there are far fewer books that help you cope with the emotional rollercoaster of a long hike. Thankfully, Appalachian Trials does both. From the sky-high triumphs of reaching a coveted summit to the desperation of losing a necessary piece of gear, this book details what it is actually like to hike the AT. If you’re on the fence about pushing your hiking limits, you can count on this book to give you a no-nonsense account of what you’re in for. Luckily, Davis is just as honest about the highs as he is about the lows—which is probably why this book has such a reputation for motivating folks to take the plunge on thru-hiking once and for all. Whether you get out on the trail for a day or a month, remember to take Davis’ advice and “Enjoy it.”

What are your favorite books about hiking?

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