There is a distinction, subtle as it may be, between a hike and a walk.
Here are some opinions on the differences.
On my first trip to Germany many years ago a friend invited me to, “Take a little walk.”
Leaving the leather hiking boots behind, I put on a pair of light hikers. Following the crazy German up a vertical path nothing more than a Montana mountain goat would climb killed my feet. My hike was his walk.
Jackie and I faced this word-struggle when we went to the Cinque Terre National Park. The Park’s trail rating guide and our interpretation of “light, moderate and hard” were different. When an Italian declares a path easy, ask how many times that week they’ve hiked it. If they say several, don’t trust that the trail is for ambling. Even in shape, many of their easy to medium hikes nearly killed every muscle in this American’s body! I’m convinced the Italians would call Kauai’s Napali Coast trail “light.”
We decided it was the language barrier. Trail severity simply did not translate.
Then We Got to Wales
Checking in at Customs at Heathrow, the agent asked our reason for travel. We answered that we’d be hiking parts of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. He asked how many miles we planned on walking each day. We exchanged concerned glances, wondered if this was a pop quiz. What would happen if we gave the wrong answer? Jackie ventured, “Six?” The crinkle lines at the corner of his eyes showed he was trying hard not to laugh, as he remarked, “To a Welshman that’s a stroll.”
The distance and terrain debate arose a few times on our Wales Adventure.
Distances Differ in Meaning, Depending on Where You Are
My ultra polite and introverted sister inquired of the taxi driver, “How much is the fare to Kilgetty?”
Pondering, he replied, “Eight pounds.”
“Sounds like a lot.”
“It’s quite far.”
Since we knew the distance from Saundersfoot to Kilgetty, we assumed he misunderstood her accent and was thinking of a different town. Jackie asked, “How far is it?”
“Three miles.” He was dead serious.
We burst out laughing. I said, “She’s from Montana,” and she added, “Three miles is a mosey.” We’d have walked to Kilgetty but were told the narrow road was not safe to walk.
About Hiking in the Pembrokeshire National Park
The Park was officially designated in 1952, while the Pembrokeshire Coast Path opened in 1970 as Wales’ first national trail. Adding to the challenge of that 186 miles, it’s part of the Wales Coast Path—870 miles of hiking that’s to be explored by those more stalwart than us.
The Coast Path is both rugged and comprised of beautiful coastline. Their trail rating system goes from a one to a six. The mile from Saundersfoot to Wiseman’s Bridge is a leisurely saunter. The additional two and a half mile walk from Wiseman’s to the beginning of the Path at Amroth is between a walk and light hike. None of it was difficult, but hiking shoes were a must. Being prepared for hills at the beginning and end was a good thing. This trek is rated a two. We agree with that.
In 2014, our hiking took us along the western coast and stretches of the path from Newport to south of Goodwick. Some sections of the Pembrokeshire path are easy, nothing to keep you from enjoying the walk. You’ll awaken the next day being able to move. I didn’t mind huffing and puffing when two young fit women came along, backpacking the entire trail, huffing and puffing. The highest rating in this section is a four. We would have said a two.
Pick Your Pembrokeshire Hiking Treks
The trail between Saundersfoot and Tenby, four miles west, is a hike, but not as grueling as everyone warned. It would have been even easier if we hadn’t gotten off the path in the beginning. Darned to that faulty signage and two extra path options lying in wait to deceive us. The Welsh have a different standard of trail heartiness than the Italians. This trail is rated a six, the hardest, but we declared it a three.
When a Welshman tells you a hike is hard, ask for specifics. It’s not that the four miles were difficult, but the several ascents and descents made me glad for trekking poles and strong leg muscles. Take your weak ones on this hike and you mayn’t move quite right the next day. My theory is that the Welsh are kind and would rather over-warn you than under-warn like those dastardly Italians!
This non-scientific definition of hiking versus walking grew of clues from Pennsylvania to Montana to Italy to Hawaii to Wales. For us, a walk is leisurely, on the shorter side, you might sweat from the heat of nature, but easily talk the entire time.
A hike? One of my avid hiking friends has his own rating scale:
- Easy to Moderate is typically ten miles or less, no great height, maybe 1,000-foot ascent.
- Moderate to Hard is more than ten miles, with greater altitude, 3,000 – 4,000 feet. Must be in good shape, but challenging and rewarding.
Jackie and I came to this conclusion for defining a hike: You put your oomph into it and stop to rest quite a bit. And conversation? Well, maybe while your feet are moving. Whether it’s a short mile or an arduous trek—if you’re sweating to get the job done, it’s a hike, no matter what the expert’s rating.
Next: Shut up. I love you.
I always thought the setting was the difference not the length. So, to me, a half mile on a rocky path in the woods is more of a hike than a three-mile walk around the neighborhood.
I’m with you, Ken. We stroll through the neighborhood, but hike in Schenley Park!
I’d say a hike and a walk were the same thing! A trek would be different – that’s a walk/hike over several days – similar to a stravaig though perhaps with more purpose – and a yomp is more on the sweaty side – and you are always carrying a large backpack on one of those.
Oh no, Craig! More words for me to add to my ever-growing list of hiking words! HA HA! Thanks for reading!
I think I’ll stick with hiking for now. Your friend’s hiking scale sums it up….What a good guide!
There is a lot of hiking where I live, even though I live in a city. So we define hiking by the fact that we are at a hiking trail, you are walking uphill and you’re actually walking in nature. However, my husband always wants to “hike” at this nature reserve that is flat. I always tell him that isn’t a hike but he never believes me. But hiking 10 miles? I’ve never done that. That sounds intense.
As for me, a hike is defined where I don’t see anyone else for a while. Where my feet are walking on something not manmade.
I live in a rural area, and so simples walks sometimes end up being hikes.
Thanks for sharing this with us.
Thanks for your perspective on hike v. walk, William. We take walks around our subdivision and the adjoining ones, but go to Frick & Schenley Parks when we want a hike!
Hi Rose, my first thought upon reading the question posed by your title, well that depends upon the age of the person doing it. When you get old(er) even a walk can feel like a hike. 🙂 but I guess that it also depends on what country you are in. Ill think twice when traveling over seas now if someone wants to Go for a walk. Lol
Yes, be wary of those Europeans inviting you for a “wee bit of a walk.” Ha!
When I was talking about this post with my brother, I told him about a hike Dad and I had taken on the hill behind the family home. It’s nothing monumental, but circling up it is much better than going straight. The bugger, I was in my forties, so Dad was in his mid-60s, stopped at the top to have a cigarette while I caught my breath. Hike, walk, all the same to him.
Love the photographs RoseMary! I’ve done a lot of hiking around Maui and I’d say by the standards you described most of them would be considered walks. What makes them challenging isn’t the length but the trails themselves. For example, when you hike through Haleakala Crater (which I’ve done 6 times) a good deal of the time you are walking on lava rock so you need extra sturdy hiking boots to avoid damage and you really have to pay attention to where you step or you could easily end up with a twisted ankle. The hike out is long and very steep and I’ve never known anything who did it that didn’t end up losing a few toenails. Thanks for sharing!
Great pics, Rose! You and your Seester look like you have so much fun together.
To me, a hike is a lengthy planned excursion, usually with a pre-determined destination. A walk is something more casual and less strenuous.
We have a blast, Doreen! I like your description of hike v. walk–that works for me, too.
Rose, your sense of humour is showing. What a fun article but as to the answer of the difference between a hike and a walk, let’s just say I’m not fond of either. When I was young I used to walk to and from work – a distance of 2 miles – every day, in all kinds of weather and actually enjoy it.Now a walk of 100 feet feels like a hike so I guess the answer is – it’s all in the perception 🙂
Lenie, if you think this blog is funny, I hope you laugh out loud at the next one…
A two-mile mandatory work walk might push it out of me, too. When I lived in the town of Red Lodge, I used to walk to my three part-time jobs, but that was only several blocks around. And I got to talk to lots of people on the way. Fun!
I think my concept of a hike might be more in line with yours. Some of these sound more like expeditions than hikes.
Ha! Ken, I’d call the Napali Coast hike an expedition, but the Facebook group I belong to “Kalalau Trail” has a number of avid hikers in it who think it’s easy. Ah the difference in perspectives!
I’d mostly agree with your friend’s rating system. I’ve done a lot of hiking and every now and again I’ll come across one that a guidebook rates as moderate and it turns out to be difficult. Those are the ones that I most remember because of getting more than I bargained for, but I’ve yet to ever turn back once I start one 😉
I think he’s got the rating system right, too, Jeri. Maybe I’ll start a page on here rating the hikes I do! I like that you said that–about not quitting once you start. I know I’ve turned back when the trail is not a loop. Does that make sense?
Crazy funny and crazy beautiful photos! After reading this, I think I’d call any walk at all a hike! Fact is, most Europeans walk more than most Americans. At least, that’s what I’ve read. So it would seem that what we might consider a walk, they’d consider a stroll:)
Given your love of high heels, Jacquie, I admire your walking. Tee hee! You’re right about all the walking the Europeans do versus most Americans, so yep on the strolling!
I love this post! I had several of the same experiences in the UK. “How far is it?” “Oh, just a wee stroll… three hours at most.” And then six hours later, panting back down the mountain to get to my B&B!
I asked a Lake District fellswalker once what the difference was between fellswalking, mountain climbing, and hiking (see http://www.smittenbybritain.com/over-the-hill-walking-the-wainwrights/). This was her answer:
Lake District hills are known as fells… the highest of which is 3210 feet. All of them have paths… that can be walked by the average person.
Mountain climbing requires special equipment (such as ropes and pegs). Some fells have faces that are used by mountaineers and are only safe for experienced climbers.
Hiking is just going for a long walk over flat or maybe undulating countryside.
Of course… that wee hike may be 10-15 miles long…