Situational Influences on Experiences of Long-Distance Hikers

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Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership




The Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and Continental Divide Trail (CDT) are arguably the most popular long-distance hiking routes in the United States. With increasing need for recreational space, these trails are experiencing heavier visitation and impact. Research on the experiences of long-distance hikers can be used as a means of justifying funding for the management of the AT, PCT, CDT, and other long-distance trails. This study used the Benefits of Hiking Scale to determine whether benefits of participation and components of means-end theory varied based on the duration and location of long-distance hiking experiences. The study used an online survey to collect data from 292 hikers, who were classified as non-thru-hikers, AT thru-hikers, or thru-hikers of other long-distance trails. The number of thru-hikes completed in the last 10 years was also calculated. Results suggest that non-thru-hikers seek to maintain or improve physical health to a greater degree than thru-hikers, who appear to be motivated by other aspects of the hiking experience.


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