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How do you set a realistic New Year’s hiking goal while still dreaming big? I’ve got you covered with examples of hiking goals to inspire you, along with why you should set a hiking goal and how to set it. Plus, I offer tips to help you reach your goal even when you’re off the mountain.
I’ve been hiking for over 20 years and set a hiking goal every year. For the past 6 years, it’s been to hike a new long-distance trail at least once a year, which has taken me to some incredible destinations, like the coastal trail from Spain to France.
I’ve been able to keep that goal every year except for during the pandemic when travel outside of the country was difficult.
I’ve also set goals like doing 52 hikes a year. This year, my goal is to 1) explore a new long-distance trail (part of the gorgeous Lycian Way Trail in Turkey), and to hike even more – 104 hikes since I moved to the mountain town of Bansko, Bulgaria last year.
I know I’ll have to be intentional to reach this goal, but it excites me, and that’s what a good hiking goal should do. It shouldn’t be something else on your never-ending To-Do list, but something you’re excited about.
So let’s dive in. Here are
8 Examples of Hiking Goals To Inspire You
I’ve mentioned that your hiking goal should be relevant to YOU. Here are a few examples to inspire you, but the sky is the limit.
1) Set a Goal to Hike xx of Times This Year
52 hikes is a popular goal (one hike a week), but choose what’s doable for you. If you’re really busy, maybe that number is 12 hikes a year.
2) Hike xx Miles/Kilomters This Year
Some hikers give themselves a mileage goal. It can be up to a few thousand miles/km if you’re planning on doing a long-distance trail or even a 100. Whatever works for you.
3) Have a Goal Hike of a Specific Mountain or Trail
Maybe there’s an imposing mountain you always drive by that you’ve always wanted to tackle but felt intimidated. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to do the epic Haute Route in France and Switzerland. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to hike in Joshua Tree National Park in California. The possibilities are endless. Choose something that excites you and scares you just a little bit.
4) Set a Specific Altitude as a Goal Hike
How many feet/meters have you hiked up to until now? What’s your new goal? My highest is 5,364m (17,598 ft) at Everest Base Camp in Nepal. While the hiking itself wasn’t hard, the altitude sickness did make it challenging, but I’m so glad that I did it.
5) Set a New Elevation Gain Goal For Yourself on a Day Hike
If you normally hike around 914 m (3000 ft) on a typical day hike, you could work on increasing that to a higher elevation gain. You can start increasing it by 100 m or so on each hike until you progress to 1500 m (4921 ft), which is definitely challenging.
The most elevation gain I’ve done in a day was 1800 m (5905 ft) on a multi-peak day in the Alps. I was exhausted at the end and the entire next day. But it felt so good to know that I actually did it.
6) Set a New Distance Goal For Yourself on a Day Hike
Similar to the elevation gain goal, look at how many miles/km you do on an average day hike, then gradually increase the distance until you reach your goal of say 30 km (18.64 miles). Or whatever makes sense for you.
I know many thru-hikers can do this distance easily in a day. My personal record is 36 km (22.37 miles) and it was a very long day of hiking. But I’m glad I did it.
7) Set a Hiking Goal That Expands Your Outdoor Skill Set
Maybe it’s your first long-distance hiking trip, like our gorgeous self-guided Alta Via 1 tour in Italy’s Dolomites. Or it’s to try incorporating via ferratas in your hikes. Or you want to do your first overnight hike or backpacking trip. Or you want to learn how to navigate with a compass in the backcountry.
8) Set a Thought Reframing Goal That Sets You Up for Success Both When Hiking and in Your Regular Life
You think 60,000 thoughts a day! That’s more than you breathe. Most of these thoughts are unconscious and you don’t even notice them. But when you’re hiking it’s a great chance to pay attention since you don’t have as many distractions. When you’re on a steep incline, what are you saying to yourself? If you’re like most of us it might be something like I’m so out of shape, or I‘ll never make it.
That doesn’t serve you. Instead, reframe it to something that does, like I’m doing great, and I’ll be there before I know it or Way to go, you never give up.
I’m a HUGE believer in this. Check out my article on How to Change Your Thoughts While Hiking to Change Your Life for more details. Reframing thoughts on a consistent basis that don’t serve you will change ALL aspects of your life. It’s one of THE most life-changing goals you can set for yourself.
6 Reasons Why You Should Set a Hiking Goal
1) Setting a Hiking Goal Means It’s Important to You
Many of us say we’d like to hike more. And then life gets busy, and before we know it, we’ve hardly hiked, and the year is over. Setting a hiking goal shows intention. It shows this is something you want to do, which means you’re more likely to create habits so that you do make time to do it to achieve your goal.
2) Sense of Accomplishment When You Achieve Your Goal:
Achieving a hiking goal gives you a real sense of accomplishment. If it’s a big enough goal, it will be challenging, and at times, you may doubt yourself, but then you preserve, and when you finally do reach it, it feels especially rewarding.
You also may find that the sense of accomplishment motivates you in other areas of your life. If you can achieve your hiking goal, what other goals can you achieve? Probably more than you think you can. I’m a big proponent that hiking can change your life in so many ways.
3) Personal Development Both On and Off the Mountain:
Setting a hiking goal is a great way to expand yourself. Working towards your goal requires dedication, commitment, and self-discipline. It can be a great way to learn more about yourself see that you’re capable of more than you think you are – in ALL areas of your life.
4) Gets You Out of Your Comfort Zone:
When hiking, it is easy to repeat the same hiking trails with similar elevation gains and distances since many of us are creatures of habit.
Setting a hiking goal encourages you to try something new and push yourself beyond your normal hiking limits. It gets you out of your comfort zone in hiking and will likely transfer to other areas of your life as well.
5) Can Take You To New Places for New Outdoor Adventures:
If you set a hiking goal that involves hiking in a different part of the country or even the world, like doing our self-guided Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland, it can be a great way to travel, see something new and experience the beauty of nature in a different place.
I love setting hiking goals to do a specific trail in an area I haven’t been to before, as it’s so exciting.
6) Learn New Outdoor Skills:
Pursuing hiking goals can also be a great way to learn new skills. Whether it’s learning how to navigate in the backcountry, wilderness first aid, or doing your first backpacking trip, setting a goal can push you to acquire new skills and take your hiking to new levels.
How to Set a Hiking Goal
Choose a Goal That’s Meaningful to You
There are so many different types of hiking goals you can set for yourself, but choose one that’s meaningful to you and ask yourself WHY it’s important that you accomplish it.
Whether it’s getting out hiking a certain number of times, climbing a specific mountain, increasing your speed, or learning how to make the best food on your overnight backpacking trips, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that it’s important to you and that your WHY is strong enough to motivate you when things get tough. By choosing a goal that’s meaningful to you, you’re more likely to achieve it.
Set a SMART Goal
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. For example, if you want to hike more because when you do, you really enjoy it but find you get busy with life and hardly go hiking, instead of saying, “I want to hike more this year,” a SMART goal would be “I want to go on 30 hikes between Jan 1st and Dec 31st.” assuming that 30 hikes are achievable for your lifestyle.
The latter is a much better goal because you can track your progress and get back on track if needed or celebrate being ahead of schedule. Setting a SMART goal means you’re more likely to actually accomplish it.
Tell Your Goal to a Friend/Family Member Who Will Keep You Accountable
Tell a few close friends of your goal and ask them to keep you accountable. Doing so will make you more likely to achieve your hiking goal.
Recruit a Hiking Buddy or Hiking Buddies
Having a shared hiking goal with a friend or family member is a great way to bond and keep each other motivated.
If you don’t have someone who has the same goal, then join a hiking club and tell your hiking buddies about your goal. Chances are some of them also set goals for themselves, and you can motivate one another.
Setting Yourself Up for Success Off the Mountain
What you do off the mountain will have a huge impact on how likely you are to achieve your goal. One of the biggest things that will impact your success is how you think.
If you have a physical goal, you’ll want to exercise during the week. I find HIIT training to be super effective for getting me in shape for hiking.
Here’s a list of my favourite HIIT Training workouts on YouTube. Many of them are short, as I find I get better results when I move my body every day, versus doing longer but less frequent workouts.
You’ll also want to track your progress. I love using a hiking journal to do that. And the one I created below also has space to jot down any insights you had while on your hike.
Schedule it in your calendar. If you plan to hike xx of times a year, then block out Saturdays for hiking. If you want to do a certain trip, then book it. Doing so ensures you have the time to do it. Otherwise, life will creep in.
Find ways to motivate yourself. If you want to hike in Joshua Tree National Park, then upload photos of it as your screen saver on your laptop and mobile.
If you are looking for a way to challenge yourself and make the most of your hiking this year, set yourself a hiking goal. Besides your sense of accomplishment, you’ll benefit in so many ways.
Good luck and be sure to share your hiking goal with me either on my hiking goal Facebook or Instagram post. Announcing your goal makes you more likely to accomplish it. Plus, it’s fun to see other hikers’ goals.