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Hiking Vocabulary in English

It’s hiking season (time)! I love hiking — it’s one of my favorite things to do when the weather is warm. I love being outside and in nature. Hiking is a great way to reconnect with (to find again) yourself and explore the area around you. If you’ve never been hiking before, I can highly recommend it!

If you’re just starting with hiking, there can be a lot of hiking vocabulary that you may have never heard before. It’s a whole new hobby to learn about, and with that comes new words. If you want to take up (start) hiking this summer, here is some great hiking vocabulary for you to learn.


Perhaps one of the most important hiking vocabulary words to know is a trail. A trail is a path or small, thin road that you walk along when you’re hiking. A trail will most likely be very thin and made of dirt. Trails can be any length. They can be long or short, or may even span (go across) entire countries! If you’re looking for somewhere to go hiking on a Saturday, you may see the term (word) loop trail or point-t0-point trail. A loop trail goes in a circle, so you finish where you start. A point-to-point trail goes from one point to another, so is like a long road you can walk along.

For example:

  • I found this really beautiful trail not far from my house. Do you want to go hike it this weekend?
  • They went hiking on a trail around the lake on Sunday. They really enjoyed it!


Have you ever walked up a mountain? If there’s a trail straight up the mountain, it can be very difficult (hard) to walk up. However, switchbacks make it much easier to walk up and down! Switchbacks are when the trail makes a zig-zag motion. This zig-zag makes it a lot easier to walk up or down steep (a sharp incline or decline) areas.

For example:

  • The mountain was really steep on the way down, but she had no problem going down it because of the switchbacks. She just zig-zagged her way down the mountain!
  • He found a trail up the mountain, but the trail went straight up the mountain and there were no switchbacks. It made it really hard to climb up the mountain.


How do people find their way when they’re on a trail? How do they know which way to go? Many trails have something called a blaze which will show hikers where the trail is. A blaze is a symbol that shows you where the trail is so that you don’t get lost. Very long trails will have different kinds of blazes. This is so that you can tell the trails apart.

For example:

  • Can you see a white blaze with a pine tree on it? That’s what we’re looking for. It’ll show us where the trail goes.
  • On the Appalachian Trail, the white blazes are for the main trail, and the blue blazes are for side trails. Side trails will take you to towns or to detours (a roundabout/alternative route).


A good hiking vocabulary word to know is backpacking. If you really like hiking, you might take a longer hiking trip. This is called backpacking. This is because you carry everything you need with you in a large backpack. Backpacking trips can be anywhere from two days to a few months! Have you ever gone backpacking before? They can be really fun, but are very different than day trips (going out for one day). Where do you plan on going backpacking next?

For example:

  • For her vacation this year, she went backpacking in the mountains. She carried everything she needed with her and camped every night.
  • What did you do this weekend? I went backpacking! My friend dropped me off at the start of the trail on Friday night and picked me up at the end on Sunday afternoon.


Another really important hiking vocabulary word you should know is camping. Camping is where you sleep outside when you’re on a trip. You can camp in a tent (a small shelter), sleep in a sleeping bag, and cook food over a fire. Some people really like camping and sleeping in nature. Other people don’t like camping at all. Have you been camping before? What did you think about it?

  • His favorite thing is to go camping on the weekend. He takes his tent, some food, and just enjoys being in nature.
  • What should we do for vacation this year? Should we go camping, or should we stay at a hotel?

What do you think about hiking? Do you find this hiking vocabulary helpful? Share your hiking stories with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Taboo words in English7 Synonyms for Being Drunk7 American English Slang Words, or these Sports Idioms used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and is planning on going hiking this weekend. What will you be doing?

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