Hiking Guides

A Guide to Section Hiking


Do you find it difficult to tackle large hikes? Don’t always feel like completing the whole trail in one go? Then, section hiking may be a great option for you.

Having the hike be on your terms, deciding when to start and stop, picking out where to go and for how far—these are the upsides that make section hiking an appealing option for hikers who don’t have a lot of time on their hands.

Section hiking doesn’t carry the same pressures as a committed hike. The only real limits are the ones you set for yourself!

If you’ve never heard of section hiking before or want to know if it’s for you, you will learn the following in this article:

  • What is section hiking? 
  • Advantages of section hiking compared to thru-hiking
  • General section hiking tips and tricks

Excited to know what it’s all about? Let’s explore!

What Is Section Hiking?

Section hiking is as simple as it sounds—hiking in sections! 

Unlike the idea of thru-hiking (or through-hiking) where hikers commit to finishing an entire track in one go, section hiking allows you to take a little pressure off and choose how you want to take on a walk.

The main idea of section hiking is that you get to decide. 

You have the liberty to walk half a track in one year and the other half in the next, take on parts of the track over the next few weekends, or even just hike on the parts that you want. You get to decide and cherry pick the ‘best bits’ of a long-distance hike.

Whatever you feel like doing, it’s all up to you.

There’s no need to put your life on hold for a six-month long hike. Section hiking takes the best of thru-hiking and splits it up into more manageable pieces for you to tackle at your leisure.

We all have jobs and responsibilities. Some of us aren’t fortunate enough to be able to drop all those responsibilities for six months.

Advantages of Section Hiking vs Thru-Hiking

Not as Intimidating

For more serious hikes, the idea of a month-long endeavor that’s physically and mentally demanding is intimidating. 

Let’s face it: Not many people are ready to commit to something like that right off the bat.

With section hiking, where there is far less pressure, you can stick within your comfort zone while still getting out in the open air.

Requires Less Planning 

Serious trails completed using thru-hikes require a lot of planning. 

The longer and more intense the hike gets, the more extensive the plan becomes. If you’re considering a thru-hike, forget about the flow of your daily life.

Section hiking allows you to plan the hike in more manageable segments. Although section hikes still require some strategizing, the advantage is that hiking won’t eat up the time that you can use for other life commitments.

You Can Skip the Rough Parts

Don’t feel like raising your heart rate too high or sweating too much? With section hiking, you can opt out of the tricky parts of the trail. 

However, pushing yourself can be extremely rewarding. You can try adding some challenges to your hike and doing your best to achieve them.

It’s simple: Do whatever works for you, and what will help motivate you to keep hiking!

Freedom to Choose Between Seasons

Unfortunately, the weather can become a great burden when attempting outdoor activities. 

If you don’t have that wiggle room, you may end up embarking on a journey trudging through a horrific snowstorm. That’s neither ideal nor safe.

With section hiking, you can thankfully work around the weather to find the perfect walking conditions that suit you. You also get to decide what season is best for each hike.

Seasonal variations exist and can change how challenging your favorite trails are. 

Let’s say that winter months are quite chilly to go on a hike. However, if you love how the trail looks amid the snow, you can definitely consider section hiking during this season.

Costs Less

Thru-hikers can spend a fortune on accommodation for all those nights spent on the trail. There’s also an extensive need to set aside money for food, transportation, equipment, and insurance.

The longer the trail, the more crucial it is to spend on essential items. And what does that imply? More expenses.

For example, a thru-hike on the Slovenian Mountain Trail can cost up to $2,500. The Appalachian Trail is even more expensive, with some people paying up to $6,000. Talk about a big investment!

With section hiking, you can avoid such steep prices and instead work within a budget that works for you that you can spread out over a longer period.

You Don’t Need as Much Gear

It’s a given that if you choose to hike for a longer period, you’re going to need a lot more gear. 

For longer hikes that take up days or weeks, you’re going to need to invest in better equipment such as tents and cooking devices.

The distinct advantage of section hiking is that you won’t need as much gear. Since you can hike for only a day, you can be far more minimalistic.

Section Hiking Tips

Make Sure to Plan Ahead

Hikes require planning, no matter how long or short the planned activity is. Planning makes sure that you have all your bases covered before the big day.

The things you should consider when planning is the duration of your hike, the gear you’ll be using, extra clothes, food, water, and extra batteries (among others). 

If you’re still not sure where to go, AllTrails is a great app to assist with section hike planning. 

The app includes bike trails, camping, and backpacking maps to help you plan ahead. There’s also an online community of trail goers from whom you can gain plenty of great advice.

Planning ahead is crucial to ensure that you have an enjoyable and stress-free time.

Establish a Budget

You might have heard the phrase “hike your own hike” when it comes to section hiking. This hiking advice applies to budgeting for the hike as well.

Planning ahead and setting a fixed budget that works for you will help alleviate any anxiety around money that you may have.

Plenty of money can be invested into hiking. However, if you want your hikes to be more cost-effective, you could try:

  • Borrowing gear from friends and family
  • Renting gear from specific parks and resorts
  • Shopping at charity shops and dollar stores
  • Hiking locally to avoid traveling too far

Coordinate Transportation in Advance

Take the time to research public transportation options if you want to save on gasoline. 

If you do plan to drive, make sure you’re aware of parking restrictions to avoid facing any hefty fines after a relaxing walk.

It may even be worth utilizing hiking-based Facebook groups or Reddit communities to find people in your area who may be traveling to the same places. By reaching out, you can find like-minded people and befriend them.

Of course, it goes without saying that it’s important to be mindful when reaching out to strangers. After all, it’s for your own safety.

Resupply When Necessary

Thru-hikers may need to resupply by visiting nearby towns or mailing packages to themselves beforehand. Some hikes even require animals to haul extra supplies up.

With section hiking, you can just call it a day once you’re out of supplies and resupply once you’re back home.

As the saying goes: You can always learn from your mistakes. If you found that during the first journey you could do with more water or snacks, then just make a note of it for next time.

Gear dependency is a game of trial and error. The more hiking you do, the more you’ll understand your body and your equipment, helping you make better judgment calls when it comes to deciding how much gear and supplies you need to take.

The Bottom Line

The main benefit of section hiking is its flexibility. It’s entirely up to you how you want to take on the journey.

Simply pick a long-distance trail that appeals to you! Research an overview of the track, and spread the challenge out so that you can complete as little or as much as you like.

In this case, there’s no need to rush. Why don’t you take it all in, enjoy the scenery, and bask in the fresh air? With section hiking, that’s definitely the goal.

Mitch Taylor
With over 20 years experience with camping and hiking, I've taken it upon myself to share my insights. From common camping and hiking questions to gear recommendations, your adventure starts here.

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