As with all communities and fan bases, hiking has many quotes, maxims and sayings that all experienced members know and live by. These phrases describe the hiking life and give hikers rules and guidelines to live by as they explore the great outdoors. To a newcomer or the uninitiated, they can seem esoteric or even downright mystic. Perhaps even they are easily misinterpreted. We’ve collected some of the best and most often used hiking quotes to help you learn about your new hobby or better understand hiking and the people who enjoy it.

Rules, Guidelines and Etiquette

​These hiking quotes and sayings are philosophies all hikers should live by. They are familiar phrases that enforce the hiking way of life and make sure we can all be safe and enjoy nature for generations to come.

​“Pack It In, Pack It Out”

This simple phrase refers to the things you take with you on your hikes. Everything you bring with you on a hike must come back with you after you leave. Absolutely everything. No wrappers, containers, loose articles or even food. Even things that are biodegradable should be carried out with you and disposed of in the proper receptacle.

To help with this, plan ahead and prepare, and don’t complicate your menu. Don’t bring food that needs to be cooked, and take food out of its packaging before packing it together with other foods in reusable containers. If your waste is organic and burnable like untreated paper, you can burn it but only if a fire is allowed in your hiking area and it is safe. Food waste should never be buried. It may attract unwanted animal attention or sicken the animals that dig it up. Human food is not meant for wild animals.

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​Leave No Trace


​Possible the most famous hiking saying, this one is also likely the most important and relates to the previous entry. You may too hear this as “take only photos, leave only footprints.” Leave no trace may seem like a no-brainer, but some people don’t understand just how important it is and how far you have to go to fully achieve it.

Leave no trace means that the wilderness you hike through remains as pristine as possible after your passing. Ideally, it should not be possible to tell if you had passed through there or not. Along with “pack it in, pack it out,” leave no trace means no taking of plants or animals. Even taking stones away from trails is frowned upon. And certainly, don’t molest or deface anything in the wild. No one will care to remember a name scrawled on a rock, but the harm and pain it causes nature and other hikers lasts a long time.

In the case of human waste, do your business at least 200 feet from campsites, trails and water sources. Bury any solid waste at least 6 inches deep and only use plain white and unperfumed toilet paper.

​Leave Cairns Be


​Some hikers like to construct little stone mounds or pyramids on the trails. These show their passing in a non-permanent way and serve as signs to other hikers that they are on the right path. Some hikers object to this and even go so far as to tear them down. This attitude may be a bit extreme, as these cairns can be helpful and have a minimal environmental impact. The balanced philosophy is just to let them be; don’t add to or subtract from them.

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​Bikers Yield to Hikers; Hikers Yield to Horses


​This one is less common but no less important. Mountain bikers and cyclists should yield the path to hikers as much as possible to avoid collisions. Pulling over to the side and allowing them to pass is the best way to ensure neither party is injured. The same goes for hikers when they encounter horseback riders. Give the big animals the trail and let them pass. Trained horses shouldn’t be a danger, but it’s best to give them the path so there are no accidents.

​Safety in Numbers


​This one isn’t specifically a hiking adage, but it is applicable to the hiking way of life. Some loners may like to go on solo hikes, but it is always safer to travel with a buddy or in large groups. It significantly reduces your chances of getting injured or worse. And, should the worst happen, there are others there to help you or get you the help you need. If you can’t find a hiking buddy or group, there are plenty of online groups you can join to find one

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​Cotton Kills


​This saying applies to the clothes that hikers wear. Cotton, while light and breathable, is never an optimal choice for hiking. When it gets wet, it stays wet and does not hold enough heat. Damp cotton clothes will weigh you down and sap your heat straight from your body. In this day and age, there are multitudes of way better material choices. Even in hot, dry environments, you can find materials that cool you down better and weigh less than cotton. And even the hottest desert becomes a frigid one when night falls. Cotton will not be your friend.

Famous Hiking Quotes

​These are quotes in the more traditional sense made by famous people who had a hiker’s love of the wilderness and the outdoors. These camping quotes and nature quotes describe the feelings hikers have when they set foot on the trail and their reasons for leaving civilization for at least a little while to walk the untamed lands.Learning about these philosophies and ideas will help you get in the mind of a dedicated outdoors person.

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​“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”


​Henry David Thoreau

​The famous writer, naturalist and all around renaissance man wrote this quote to describe how he got his creative juices flowing and smashed through writer’s block. Walking to him and many others is a good way to free the mind of constraints and let it run free. Hiking takes this to the extreme.

Out in the tranquility of nature, you lose sight of all the things that gnaw at you and stress you out. You also eliminate the vast majority of things you have to focus on. When all you are doing is walking and looking and enjoying, your mind is free to dream up all the fantastic things you are capable of creating.

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​“Carry as little as possible, but choose that little with care.”


​Earl Shaffer

Shaffer was a famous outdoorsman and author. He said this both as a way to express the lifestyle of hiking in the outdoors and as a safety idea. It’s always best to travel light when hiking, but you should always be prepared for the worst so choose what you bring wisely.

It also describes how he lived. He lived simply, unattached to too many things in the world, but the things he did choose to attach himself to, he selected with great care. Once he deemed them necessary, he bound himself to those things or perhaps people fiercely.

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​“A crude meal, no doubt, but the best of all sauces is hunger.”


​Edward Abbey

Abbey was a famous writer and environmentalist activist. He said this as a nod to the mindset that hiking and roughing it in the outdoors puts you in. Hunger will make any food taste delicious. After even the most mundane food tastes like a banquet, you will begin to realize just how much you appreciate the simple necessities. We take so many things for granted in the modern world, but going out into the wilderness will remind us to appreciate all that we have by reminding us what it would be like without it.

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​“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”


​Sir Edmund Hillary

Hillary and his guide, Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, were the first two people confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest. He said this quote as a way to describe the reasons why hikers, climbers and explorers of all kinds do what they do. They are not fighting against nature when they go out there; they are fighting themselves. Overcoming nature is not the goal, it is overcoming your own limitations and fears that make hiking worthwhile. The wilderness is a guide, not an adversary.

Words to Live By

Not all of these quotes about hiking were written with hiking in mind, but they are essential to the mindset and philosophy of hikers nonetheless. They help shape the modern spirit of hiking and allow hikers to express why they do what they do. The other more practical adages and sayings serve to enforce the rules of the outdoors to ensure that we can all reap the benefits of nature into the future and beyond. So the next time you want to impress other hikers or are teaching inexperienced hikers under your tutelage, use some of these hiking quotes and help spread the wisdom.

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