What is Hill Walking?

M.C. Huguelet

Hill walking is the practice of walking on hills or small mountains, usually for the purposes of enjoyment, exploration, and exercise. In general, hill walking is less physically challenging than rock climbing or scrambling, and is perhaps best likened to intense hiking. It is a popular activity in Europe, especially in the rugged terrains of the United Kingdom and Ireland, where many vacationers travel for the express purpose of walking the hills. Unlike more advanced forms of mountaineering, hill walking requires minimal special equipment, although walkers should take care to arm themselves with a few essential provisions in case of mid-walk emergencies.

Scotland is a popular destination for hill walkers.
Scotland is a popular destination for hill walkers.

Normally, hill walking is considered distinct from rock climbing, which usually involves mounting especially rough or steep terrain with the use of climbing tools, and scrambling, which typically refers to crossing somewhat rough terrain using the both the feet and the hands. Hill walking is generally less strenuous than either of these activities, and thus bears comparison to hiking. As hiking doesn't necessarily involve mountains or hills, however, the two terms are not exactly interchangeable.

Sturdy walking shoes are required for hill walking.
Sturdy walking shoes are required for hill walking.

The mountainous regions of Ireland and the United Kingdom are popular vacation destinations for hill walkers from continental Europe and farther afield. Favorite hill walking spots in Ireland include Connemara and the Burren, both in the western part of the country. England-bound hill walkers often choose to explore the Lake District, located in the northwest reaches of the country, while many walkers in Scotland favor the centrally located Glencoe highlands. Detailed hill walking guides are often available from these countries’ local or national tourism boards.

Some forms of mountaineering, particularly rock climbing, require specialized and often expensive equipment such as ropes, harnesses, caribiners, and helmets. Unlike rock climbers, hill walkers can usually take to the hills with fairly little investment. One of the only pieces of gear truly necessary for hill walking is a pair of comfortable, sturdy shoes or boots. Some hill walkers also choose to carry light, retractable poles, which can be used to navigate rugged spots and then tucked easily into a backpack.

While the need for special climbing equipment is minimal, a hill walker should always take care to prepare himself for emergencies. He should carry a backpack containing a first aid kit, water, sunscreen, a lightweight, weatherproof jacket, a flashlight, and some food. Additionally, he should obtain a map of the terrain, which he should study before setting out and bring along on his walk. He should check the weather forecast on the day of his walk, and avoid walking in heavy rain, wind, or snow. Finally, as cellular phones often lose service in mountainous areas, rendering them useless, the walker should inform someone of his intended path and projected time of return before he begins his walk.

Hill walkers may benefit from caryring trekking poles on their trip.
Hill walkers may benefit from caryring trekking poles on their trip.

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Discussion Comments


You can simulate a hill walking workout on most treadmills. There is a treadmill machine at my health center that lets you punch in the type of terrain you want to walk on. When I walk through the hilly courses I get a better workout and burn more calories because the incline of the machine changes.

I can practically double the amount of calories I burn by choosing the hill walking setting instead of one of the settings for the flat courses.


My body is not as young as it once was. I have a few issues with my knees and ankles and a few other body parts, so I am always looking for new ways to get a good workout. Hill walking sounds like it would be a good medium ground between regular walking, which isn't strenuous enough and running, which is too tough on my lower body.

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