I love keeping a hiking journal. It’s a great way to relive your adventures and help you plan future hikes. Plus, it’s a thoughtful gift idea for either yourself or the hiker in your life.
Keep reading to find out why you should keep a hiking journal, the best one (in my humble opinion). Plus other tips to get the most out of your journaling.
What to Look for in a Trail Journal
This is such a personal thing. And everyone will want something slightly different so check out a few and notice what appeals to you and what doesn’t. Also, consider what details are important to you and ensure that the logbook has enough room to record those details. For example, if spotting wildlife is a highlight, ensure there’s a spot to note this.
You can also find hiking journals for kids. Check out the inside of a few first to ensure that it’s age-appropriate. It should also be fun for a child to fill out so that it doesn’t become a chore.
Some hikers like leather journals, others spiral or softcover. This is really a personal preference and totally up to you.
I think a guided journal is a good way to start writing. After a long day of hiking, I appreciate prompts. Whereas a blank empty page would intimidate me, but it’s a matter of preference.
One thing to look for that will be universal to look for? Ensure that you have enough room to write. In some, the lines are so close together making it really hard to write. Or you have to write so small that it’s hard to read afterwards.
Why I Created a Hiking Journal
I couldn’t find everything I wanted in a hiking journal, which is why I created my own Hiking Logbook and Journal – available in 3 different colours:
In the hiking journal that I created, there’s one page to record the specifics about the trail. Then the other page is for reflecting on your hike.
There’s a section to enter the highlights of your hike. This prompts you to think about what you liked most about it and helps relieve the best moments prolonging your I feel so good feeling.
Usually one of these will be something like the beautiful views from the summit. But then it makes you reflect on other aspects of the trip that you enjoyed. It’s such a good reminder that the joy is in the journey, not just the destination.
I always get great ideas when hiking, so I’ve also included a section here to record there for you to record the brilliant ideas that you get. I’ll often get several ideas on a single hike of things ranging from something I should do in my business, to a friend that I should reach out to.
Hiking is also one of my favourite ways to problem-solve. Step by step the solution to a problem often becomes clearer, almost effortlessly. Often the solution will even seem obvious. That’s why I created this section, something that most hiking journals don’t include. I LOVE reflecting back on all the problems hiking has helped me solve, and all the brilliant ideas I’ve gotten while hiking. I’m confident that you will too. Be prepared to be amazed!
Finally, there’s a place to either sketch or attach a photo of your hike. I’m not much of a sketcher, but I know that some people find it very therapetuic. And I do find that when I bring my book and sketch I’m more aware of my surroundings and the details – things I would have missed otherwise. This is a useful exercise in appreciating the beauty of the outdoors.
Other days, I’ll just print a photo from my phone and attach it. I love having the visual along with all the other information. Plus, choosing just one picture, lets you relive the best parts of the hike again.
For these reasons, I think the one I created is the best hiking journal out there, but again, it’s a matter of personal preference.
7 Reasons to Use a Hiking Journal
1) A hiking journal is a great way to track what hiking trips you’ve done. After a while, and especially if you’ve been hiking for years, they start to blur together. It’s easy to forget all the places you’ve hiked and which trails you liked and are worth repeating and which aren’t.
The prompts in a good trail logbook make it quick to remember what you’ve just hiked. They also make it easy to repeat since you’ve already got all the details like the trailhead, type of hike etc at your fingertips.
2) Tracking your hikes also helps you plan future ones when it comes to weather. You can look back and see how much snow there was on the hike you did last April. That will help you plan similar hikes to nearby trails or mountains. It also helps you remember what type of gear you want for certain weather. So ensure you’ve noted down what hiking gear you use to help with future planning.
3) Logging your hikes lets you reflect on your progress. This is one of the most rewarding things about keeping a hiking journal, especially if you’re new to hiking. You’ll see how quickly you progress. And how a hike that you rated as difficult just a few months earlier, seems much easier now. Seeing your progression gives you the confidence boost to keep going and to tackle bigger mountains.
4) A trail journal makes it easier to plan your next hike. By tracking how you feel physically you can adjust your next hike accordingly. For example, if you’ve noticed that you’ve rated your last several hikes as “easy”, you could refer back to the length and elevation and increase one or both of those or choose more difficult terrain to make your next one more challenging.
5) Journalling is useful for tracking your emotions. When people talk about the health benefits of hiking they’re usually referring to the physical benefits. But I think the emotional and mental benefits are just as if not even more important.
Perhaps you felt really stressed at the beginning of the day and almost didn’t go because you had so much to do. But then, by the end, you realized that you feel much calmer and able to handle your to-do list.
By actually writing it down you notice the change. And that gives you the motivation to ensure that you make time for hiking on a regular basis. Being in nature is powerful. Combined with the endorphins you get from moving your body, hiking is a powerful elixir. See: How a Trek Can Change Your Life for further inspiration. Plus, a powerful exercise to do while hiking.
6) Relive the experience years after. It’s so much fun to go through old journals and remember the higlights. I.e. “we saw a grizzly bear near the summit. Fortunately he meandered off as soon as he saw us.” It reminds us of how powerful our time outdoors truly is.
7) Fast way to recommend trails to others. I often get asked for recommendations. Sometimes it’s hard to recall the difficulty or how spectacular the scenery was of a specific hike if I haven’t done it in a few years. Logging them makes it easy to look back on and give great recommendations.
I’m all for getting as many people out hiking as possible and tracking your hikes is an easy way to give great recommendations that include incredible scenery. That way the person will enjoy it so much that they’ll want to keep doing it.
How to Log Your Hikes in a Trail Journal
The best time to track them is right after your hike. Otherwise, it’s so easy to forget. And then it takes longer as you have to look up the details that are no longer at the top of your head.
This is also true if you’re doing a multi-day hike like the Tour du Mont Blanc, or Alta Via 1. You’ll be surprised how after a week it’s hard to remember the specifics of each day. Writing in your journal is a great way to record your adventure.