When I first started hiking by myself it was mostly because I just didn’t have anyone to hike with. It’s hard sometimes to make hikes work with everyone’s busy schedules so I knew the only way I could hike as much as I wanted to was to go solo. Plus I am wildly independent and somewhat of an introvert so it was something that felt good for me. At first, it was a bit intimidating- what if I got lost, what if I ran into a serial killer, what if I got attacked by a wild animal. All these things ran through my head until my feet hit the trail and all those worries melted away with every step I took.
Solo hiking, for me, has been one of the biggest catalysts for self improvement. I have gained so much personally from it, I actually crave it now. Solo hiking and its benefits have allowed me to become a better version of myself- a version that is stronger mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
So what are some of the self improvement benefits I have experienced from solo hiking?
Peace and Solitude
As much as I love hiking with friends and catching up with each other while walking down the trail, sometimes I just need some peace and solitude. I am able to find it every time I go solo. My most favorite time of the day to solo hike is at sunrise. Usually the trail is empty of any other hikers, so finding peace and solitude is easy- sans the birds and animals that are waking up from their nights slumber. I have described sunrise solo hikes as magic- the colors, the peacefulness, the energy is all so magical.
Reconnect to Myself
Hiking solo allows me to get into a meditative state since there is no one with me to pull me out of that state. It helps me to reconnect to my true self and let go of other’s expectations and any other ways I’ve shown up inauthentically off the trail. It’s just me and nature and there are no outside influences to distract me from who I really am.
When there is no one else hiking with me I have 100% freedom. I can choose how fast or slow I want to hike, what trail to hike, when to stop and take a break, etc etc. It feels so freeing to make my own decisions and do whatever it is I want to do.
There is nothing like learning self reliance than hiking on the trail solo. I must depend on my own experience to get me safely back to my car. Being able to use my skills without relying on anyone else is so empowering and taking full responsibility for my own welfare has built an even stronger independence within me.
Obviously hiking, whether it’s solo or with a group, can make you stronger physically and mentally but I think even more so solo. Physically you are relying 100% on yourself to carry everything you need. Mentally you will overcome that part of your brain that whispers “you can’t do it alone”. For me hiking is just as much as a mental activity than physical. I have found most of the time my body can go way longer than what my mind tells me. When you’re solo, you have to be your own cheerleader and pump yourself up to get to the up of that peak!
I have the majority of my personal “ah-ha” moments while hiking solo. When you have hours alone with yourself, with minimal distractions, it’s easy to dive deep within yourself. I can’t tell you how many of my own issues I’ve solved and how many epiphanies I have had this way.
Connection to Nature- and the Universe
Those magical sunset hikes I was talking about earlier? Those moments have been when I have felt completely connected to everything around me- the ground, the trees, the sky, the singing coyotes, and the Universe itself. Nature’s energy is so powerful and when you’re quiet enough and listening it will envelop you and make you part of it.
Releasing Stored Emotions
Hiking is so amazing for creating a strong mind body connection that can facilitate releasing stored emotions in the body. I have had so many experiences while hiking solo where I was able to release stored emotions that had been blocking my internal energy. Sometimes they’re small and barely noticeable but sometimes they’re huge and I might have a good cry session for half the hike. It feels cleansing and healthy and I come back feeling much lighter.
Getting Over Fears
I used to be afraid of everything hiking- heights, wild animals, getting lost, you name it- and that was when I was hiking with other people. There was a day that I would call you crazy if you told me I’d be hiking by myself one day. Well I had to overcome a lot of fears to get where I’m at and that wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t just suck it up and get out there. Now my fears are pretty minimal and I don’t even think about “what if” anymore.
It is way easier to stay present when you’re not having conversations with your fellow hikers. Hiking solo keeps me present pretty much the entire hike. Not only am I having to concentrate on where I am walking, what is happening around me, and staying on the right trail, I am not distracted by conversations.
My advice to anyone wanting to go for a solo hike? Just go!
Check out at Take a F’N Hike’s podcast where Sonia interviews me on solo hiking here!
I also wrote an entire article on solo hiking in Issue One of the magazine as well!
We’ve created our own online Facebook community for those of you that love to hike it off! The Hike It Off Community is a place where we can all come together and share our love for all things hiking! Group topics include:
Advanced Trail Recommendations
Beginner Hiking Information
Hiking Travel Destinations
and so much more!
if you’d like to join, click the link here:
Recently we spent the day hiking in a remote part of San Diego County on the Los Coyotes Reservation near Warner Springs, about 75 miles NE of downtown San Diego. The goal: Hot Spring Mountain, the highest point in San Diego and site of a historical fire lookout tower.
We were not disappointed!
The hike starts at the campground on the reservation that sits at just over 4,025 feet in elevation. After parking under a large ancient oak tree we put on our pack and headed up the trail which starts out pretty steep right away. Before you know it, you’ve gained close to 1,500 feet in the first 2 miles! The views of the valley below are beautiful as you make your way up the trail. We saw 4’ o’clocks in full bloom, their bright pink flowers a big contrast to the shades of greens and browns that make up the scenery.
After the two mile mark, valley oaks and low scrub give way to tall coulter pines covered in lichen and stunning black oaks which we were told put on quite a colorful show in the Fall.
The trail becomes a bit more moderate as you climb closer to the lookout tower before a final, short but steep, push for the top. At just under five miles, the fire lookout tower comes into view.
Located at 6,533 feet, the tower has been built three times, once in 1912, again in 1928, and the existing structure built in 1942. The tower is no longer in service and is in major disrepair but is still an awesome historical site to see. It was easy to imagine what it was like when it was an integral part of the fire tower network here in Southern California. The 360° view from the tower’s foundation is arguably one of the best views in San Diego.
The actual summit of Hot Springs Mountain is just past the tower through a forest of manzanita. There is a large set of boulders that have ropes attached to assist you in getting to the top. This is a perfect spot to eat your lunch while enjoying views from the highest point in San Diego.
To get back to the trailhead, you’ll take the same way you came up. It’s an amazing hike, but keep in mind you are a guest of the tribe so the utmost respect for their land is required, including following strict Leave No Trace Principles.
Elevation Gain: +2,500/-2,500
Trail: Fire Road
Restrooms: Outhouse at trailhead
Dogs Allowed: No
Cost: $10 per person (pay at reservation entrance)
Address: 2300 Camino San Ignacio Warner Springs, CA 92086