A hiker and her dog walk through yellow aspens in Colorado
A hiker and her dog walk through yellow aspens on a Colorado trail; (photo/Sean McCoy)

National Hiking Day Is Today: 6 Ways to Celebrate

National Hiking Day is here! Check out some of GearJunkie staff’s favorite ways to celebrate.

National Hiking Day — first called National Take a Hike Day — was established on November 17, 1965, by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Taking a cue from President Johnson’s program idea, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation released a report in 1966 entitled Trails for America, recommending a network of national scenic and national history trails — dozens of which we have today, in addition to thousands of more recreation trails.

A few years later, iconic footpaths like the AT, PCT, and CDT were officially designated as part of the National Trails System Act of 1968. A bit more history for you: President Johnson’s “Take a Hike” program ended up doubling the number of trails in North America.

America’s National Trails System now tops upward of 88,000 trails. Here are a few ideas to help you get out and explore one (or five).

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1. Try a New Trail

The best way to get out and enjoy an epic hike on National Hiking Day? You could go to the same ol’ spot — or you could try a new trail. We love apps like AllTrails, Hiking Project and, for our Colorado staff, COTREX for this reason. You can filter your search by distance from home, pet-friendliness, terrain difficulty, and more to find a trail that’s perfect for you.

2. Join a Local Group Hike

Local chapters of national hike organizations like Meetup Hikes, Women Who Hike, The 52 Hike Challenge, and more usually plan a few organized group hikes a month. If you are in search of more hiking friends, or just a change of pace — find an organized hiking group!

It’s a great way to get out on the trails and make friends at the same time.

3. Go Leaf-Peeping, Wildflower-Watching, or Bird-Watching

It’s November; it’s fall. Depending on where you live, it could be warm outside, or snowing, or chilly and windy. No matter the weather, some of our favorite activities that pair well with hiking — like leaf-peeping and wildlife-spotting (keep your distance!) — are fun no matter the skies.

4. Visit a State or National Park

Thirty of the 50 states in the U.S. have a National Park. So, chances are there’s one near you! What better time to check out a National (or state) park than our national hiking holiday? If you want to include National Historic Sites or National Monuments in your trail search, the opportunity is even greater.

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5. Give Yourself a Challenge

It’s National Hiking Day. The only true requirement is that you have fun hiking. But if there’s any time to tackle a trail goal, today could be it. Set your sights on your state’s highest peak. Try hiking or trail running your favorite trail counterclockwise. Tackle some longer mileage. Push yourself to enjoy something new.

6. Volunteer With a Trail-Building or Restoration Program

What’s better than hiking? Hiking and giving back! Especially if you live near an open space, park, or wilderness area, there should be plenty of organizations and chances to volunteer at a trail building, restoration site, or trail or river cleanup.

Here are a few we are familiar with (location varies): the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Pacific Northwest Trail Association, Tahoe Rim Trail Association, Parks Conservancy, Southern Colorado Trail Builders, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Sierra Club, Mountain Trails Foundation, and Teens to Trails.

Looking for more info? Check out our articles on hiking for beginners and what to pack for a hike. Last but not least — don’t forget to use #NationalTakeAHikeDay to tag your pictures on social media.

Looking for some of GearJunkie’s favorite hikes? Check these out: 

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The 7 Best Hikes Near Portland
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Lush forest greenery, glacier-covered volcanoes, cascading waterfalls, expansive ocean views — does this sound like your type of hiking adventure? Check out the best hikes near Portland, Oregon. Read more…

Mary Murphy

Mary is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and is based in GearJunkie's Denver, Colo. office. She has a degree in English and journalism, and has a background in both newspaper and magazine writing. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to skiing to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.