What is the Difference Between Hiking and Walking?

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You could be walking on a hilly, but flat terrain and mistake it for a hike. Don’t worry, you are not the first to make the mistake of confusing a hike for a walk. Since both hiking and walking are on foot exercises, people often interchange the terms. But with hiking vs walking, what’s the difference?

The main difference between walking and hiking is that the walking is generally done on a flat paved surface and hiking is generally done over rough terrain like a trail. Additionally a hike will typically recruit far more stabilization in the body to maintain upright movement.

Although walking and hiking are similar exercises, they are quite different and have different effects on the body. Hence, there is a lot more to know about the two. Let’s find out more about the differences between the two exercises. 

What is the Difference Between a Walk and a Hike?

Hiking is basically walking on an inclined pathway. Maybe that’s why people often use “hike” as a catch-all term. But doing so is a mistake since both exercises occur in different situations.

Despite similarities, hiking and walking have different requirements of energy, time and effort. Here are the differences between hiking and walking, 


The route for walking is generally smooth, flat and man-made. The route of hiking is rocky, steep and natural. That being said, the routes of both walking and hiking can be simulated indoors. The treadmill can provide a simulation of both a flat and inclined route.

The route of hiking must be inclined or have some elevation. You need to either be trekking up or down. In case of walking, the trail is not elevated. Even when the route is uneven, if it is not elevated, then you are walking, not hiking. 

The route of walking can be made of concrete, asphalt, gravel or sand. But hiking routes generally consist of rocks, creeks, soil, pebbles etc. 

Energy and Effort 

Hiking requires more energy and effort than walking. Even if you are speed walking, you will most likely use more energy while hiking.

Since the hiking route is uneven and steep, you will need to exert more energy. But the walking route is much safer. You do not have to pay much attention or move your limbs as much while walking on a flat path. 

People exert a lot of energy while carrying around extra weight. While taking a hike, you are probably carrying a backpack with water bottles, first aid and other necessary items.

Combine carrying around that extra weight with hiking, and you will find yourself exerting way more energy than while walking.


A hiking trip takes longer than a walk. While taking a hike, you may have to go both uphill and downhill. The whole round trip will take more time than walking a few miles. 

Moreover, the two exercises have different time constraints. If you go for a power walk, you will need between 30 minutes to an hour. But a hiking trip can take from a few hours to even a few days depending upon your plan.

Hiking requires more time to plan. You need to think about finding the right hiking spot , camping overnight, the weather etc. In contrast, while walking, you do not need to expend much time planning ahead. 


You can walk just about anywhere. Your environment could be urban or rural, wherever. But for hiking, you need a natural environment.

You can only take hikes in places that have elevated land, like a hill. You can hike in parks, hills, mountains and deserts. All of these places are part of nature, and thus the environment in which you will hike will also be natural.

In case of walking, you can walk around the block or in the woods. From streets to malls, you can walk in any environment.  


All you will need for walking is some good sneakers or walking shoes. You do not need any fancy gear or equipment for walking. But if you are planning a long walk, you can take some additional things with you such as,

  • Water Bottle
  • Mobile Phone with GPS
  • Any identification Card
  • Torchlight 
  • Headphones 
  • Gloves 

On the other hand, you need a proper gear kit for hiking. From special shoes that can withstand the rough terrain of the trail to first aid boxes, you will need it all for a hiking trip. Here are some of the gear you will need,

  • Hiking Shoes or boots
  • Hiking stick
  • First aid kit
  • Water Bottles
  • Map 
  • Identification card
  • Small Mirror 
  • Medicine 
  • Storm Whistle  
  • Insect repellent 
  • Sunscreen
  • Mobile phone 
  • Snacks 
  • Warm Clothes 
  • Pocket Knife
  • Toilet Paper 
  • Gloves 
  • Money

The list of things you need to take with you for hiking is long. It is up to you to decide on what materials you will take with you for a hike. Whatever you choose, you will still need to carry more items with you while hiking than walking. 

Photo of a lady walking on the road close up of the feet on the pavement.
Woman walking and exercise on the road

Is Hiking or Walking Better for Weight Loss?

If you are trying to lose weight, you may be wondering, “hiking vs. walking, which is better for losing weight?”. The answer is simple, in case of weight loss hiking is more productive than walking.

Since more energy is exerted while hiking it is better for weight loss than walking. Far more calories are burned after a few hours of hiking than a similar amount of hours walking. Even if you speed walk, you will not lose more calories than when you are hiking.

Many factors affect the calories you burn while walking and hiking. But in general, a person burns 250 calories while hiking for an hour. In contrast, the same person will burn around 100 calories after walking a mile. 

There are three main reasons why you will burn more calories and lose more weight while hiking than walking. These are,

  • Going up steep inclines burns more calories 
  • Carrying extra weight requires more energy
  • Hikes are longer than walks

Although making time for hiking and finding a good trail is tedious, it will yield faster results at your weight loss journey than walking. Hence, if you want to lose weight fast and become more fit, you should opt for hiking. 

Switching from Walking to Hiking

If you live near the woods or hills, you can easily switch up your walking routine by hiking once in a while. 

A regular walker will not have much trouble switching to hiking. Because if you can walk, you can definitely hike. If you don’t have the stamina, it might be difficult at first. But it will be rewarding regardless of the initial struggle. 

You also need to gear up if you plan on switching from walking to hiking. You need special hiking boots or trail shoes that can provide both traction and stability. You also need to get a hiking stick beforehand. 

Before you switch to hiking from walking, plan ahead of time. Know the terrain and be prepared to experience any rocky path. Make sure you are up for all the challenges hiking brings. 

Final Thoughts on Hiking Vs Walking

When it comes to losing body fat and overall weight in less time, the clear winner is hiking without contest. Despite the differences, both are great exercises. Whether you take a hike or a walk, if your main goal is overall good health, stay consistent.

Stick to your routine walks and monthly hikes. Remember, when it comes to exercising for improving your health consistency is key. So, make a routine and stick to it no matter what. Hope this article was of help to you. Take care of yourself. Stay healthy and stay fit. 

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