Situational Influences on Experiences of Long-Distance Hikers


  • Justin Yun Georgia Southern University
  • John G. Peden Georgia Southern University



means-end theory, health outcomes, psychological benefits, Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail


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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Author Biography

John G. Peden, Georgia Southern University

Professor, Recreation & Tourism Management


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