Recreation (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. john Peden


The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail are arguably the most popular long distance hiking trails in the United States, and together they span a collective 7900 miles. With increasing need for recreational space, these trails are experiencing heavier visitation and impact. Recently, research has been done on the benefits of recreation as a means of justifying, acquiring protection for, and funding the creation and maintenance of long distance hiking trails like the AT, PCT, and CDT. This study utilized the Benefits of Hiking Scale (BHS) (Freidt et al. 2010; Gomez et al. 2010) to determine whether motives for participation and components of Means End Theory varied based on the duration and location of hiking experiences. Data was collected through an online survey of 292 hikers, who were classified as non-thru-hikers, AT thru-hikers, or thru-hikers of other trails. The number of thru-hikes completed in the last ten years was also calculated. Results indicated that non-thru hikers scored higher in the domains of Prevention of Worsening Condition and Improved Condition than those who had thru-hiked one or more long distance trails in the last ten years. Similarly, non-thru-hikers scored higher on Prevention of Worsening Condition than AT thru-hikers and thru-hikers of other long distance trails. Non-thru-hikers also scored higher on Improved Condition than AT thru-hikers, but not thru-hikers of other long distance trails. The other four BHS domains showed no significant differences. Results suggests 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.