What is Hillwalking?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 30 January 2020
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Hillwalking is a form of exercise that involves walking on hills and mountains. Special equipment is not needed and the difficulty can vary from relatively easy routes to more challenging ones. This activity is particularly popular in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where there is a long tradition of hillwalking, but it can be practiced anywhere in the world.

For more challenging routes, there may be points where people need to use their hands to assist them with climbing up rough and steep sections of trail. In the winter, devices like poles and ice axes are sometimes necessary to help people navigate safely. In other situations, all hillwalkers need is a pair of feet and some sturdy walking shoes. Some routes are easily enough for older adults and young children to follow, while others may require a higher level of physical fitness.

People can engage in hillwalking for fitness reasons. Walking in general improves cardiovascular health, and walking on inclines and slopes helps to tone the muscles in the abdomen and legs, while also burning more calories than walking on flat ground. Hillwalking can also be done for recreation and pleasure. Many walking routes go through attractive natural areas that may be of visual interest and people can pack cameras and lunches to make an outing of the trip. Some trails can also lead people to historic sites of interest that may not be accessible in other ways.


In the United Kingdom and Ireland, there are a number of hillwalking clubs and organizations that lead regular trips. Guests are usually welcome, although they may be asked to make reservations ahead of time. Visitors, including tourists, can go out with a club to get an opportunity to see some things that may not be offered on regular tours. In other regions of the world, clubs may be harder to find, and people interested in hillwalking may want to consider starting their own.

As with other forms of exercise, it can be a good idea to consult a doctor before hillwalking. A doctor may recommend that people stick to moderate trails for health reasons. In addition, it is advisable to always walk with a buddy. In the event of emergency, a friend can provide assistance or go for help if necessary. Leaving information about the planned walking route and the amount of time required to complete it is also recommended, so that friends and family know where to start looking if people do not return.


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