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!