One of the most special experiences in my life has always been hiking by myself in the great outdoors. Enter: my picks for the best hiking books to read this year (the all-time top books about hiking).
Spending time in nature has been some of the best therapy I can get—and I know therapy, lol. That’s why hikers like me often feel the call back to the great outdoors when we’re in need of being grounded. And whether it’s a short hike in Yosemite or a maxed out limit-pushing backpacking trek, the end result is always the same for me—a deep sense of fulfillment and reconnection with myself.
Whether you’re a beginner hiker, seasoned adventurer or just shopping for thoughtful hiking gifts for your favorite hiker—hiking books are a great way to supplement real-world hiking experience. Hiking books have several benefits for hikers of all stripes, including:
- Educating you on best practices for hiking in a particular region
- Inspiring your next adventure (picking a destination)
- Entertaining you with stories in a subject matter you love
These benefits (and more) are why I’ve compiled this list of my picks for the absolute best hiking books to read in 2023. So, without further ado, let’s quickly dive into our list of the top books for hikers, shall we?
16 Best Hiking Books to Read (Books About Hiking) in 2023
- Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
- Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moore
- How to Suffer Outside: A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking and Backpacking by Diana Helmuth
- She Explores by Gale Straub
- Walks in the Wild: A Guide Through the Forest by Peter Wohlleben
- Medicine for the Outdoors: The Essential Guide to First Aid and Medical Emergencies by Paul S. Auerback
- Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimerter & GPS by Bob and Mike Burns
- The Backpacker’s Field Manual by Rick Curtis
- The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka
- Campground Hound by M.E. Nash
- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
- Neon Pilgrim by Lisa Dempster
- A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz
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And this is where I have a recommendation for you…
Since launching this blog, I’ve been making my way through a lot of hiking books lately, thanks to my new gift to myself—an Audible Subscription, so that I can listen to books during my long drives in the car from Los Angeles out to the beautiful national parks in Utah.
If you want to try out Audible for yourself, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Right now, they have a free trial offer going on that includes access to the entire catalog of Audible originals and 1 free audiobook for all new members to try out for 30 days. You can sign up right here.
Since I’ve been queueing up so many books about hiking lately, I already need more recommendations—so please comment below with your favorite hiking books I should add to this list.
Now without further delay, let’s dive in. Are you looking for a hiking book to motivate your next hike and awaken the adventurer inside you?
Here are some of the best books for hikers that’ll help you do just that. With a mix of preparation tips, wisdom from those experienced on the trail, and much more—you can’t go wrong with these classic hiking books.
1. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild sits hands down at the top of my list of the best hiking books of all-time, for good reason. It’s the tragic story of 24-year-old adventurer Christopher McCandless. The tale follows his journey after renouncing all his worldly possessions and disappearing down a snowy track in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1992. All he had with him was a light backpack and meager equipment.
Sadly, his remains were discovered in an abandoned school bus in Alaska, five months later.
Into the Wild is Jon Krakauer’s eulogy to young Chris. Pieced together from Chris’ journal, family testimony, and eye-witness accounts, this hiking book highlights the challenges of surviving in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. This hiking book was also adapted into a fantastic 2007 film of the same name, starring Emile Hirsch. More than anything else though, the most important lessons to be taken away from this gripping and chilling tale of a naive adventurer, is the importance of proper preparation for every hike and knowing your limits—whether you’re on a quick day hike in Yosemite, or trekking for weeks through the Himalayas.
2. Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn
Whether you’re planning a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail or simply looking for a book that shares first-hand experience on the trail, then this book is for you.
In Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart, Carrot shares her journey as she hiked the famous trail from Mexico to Canada. Unlike most hiking books written in novel format, this one reads more like a journal, sharing the author’s daily experiences on the trail.
The book gives readers a look into the physical and mental challenges the author went through. From loneliness to dehydration to blisters to the people she meets along the way and everything else to be expected on such a long hike, Carrot reveals it all. Thankfully, the book is written in a humorous way, making it a fun read.
3. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
This is another classic hiking book by renowned author Jon Krakauer. Into Thin Air tells the personal story of Krakauer’s Mount Everest summit attempt that went terribly wrong.
This real life tale adventure takes place in 1996 and tells the story of a group of hikers that got stranded at high altitudes when a storm hit. Jon Krakauer just happened to be a part of that group and documented the events during and after the storm—which sadly included the deaths of eight climbers, the biggest loss of life in a single day on Mount Everest.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this gripping hiking book is just how much can go wrong on a hike. However, it also depicts the importance of determination, grit and creativity needed to ensure that every hike, even those that go wrong, can recover.
Into Thin Air will appeal to hikers of all types, but those who love strenuous mountain trails will especially love this epic book about hiking.
4. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Hailing as one of the most popular hiking books to come out in the past decade, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is a personal account of her journey hiking a thousand miles of the Pacific Coast Trail by herself, at age 22. It’s a beautiful, fun and deeply personal exploration of her life after the death of her mother and the end of her marriage.
Embarking on her hike with no experience or training on one of the most legendary (and strenuous) hiking trails in the US—the Pacific Coast Trail—Strayed set out to cover more than a thousand miles from the Mojave Desert in California up through Oregon and into Washington.
Packed full of the terrors and pleasures of how Strayed pushed herself through a challenging adventure that sometimes drove her mad, this hiking book is special to me, because it ends with how she was ultimately strengthened and healed through the inner journey that came along the way. To top it all off, this book also earned itself a great 2014 film adaptation featuring Reese Witherspoon.
5. On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moore
On Trails: An Exploration is a best-selling hiking book that should be on every avid hiker’s bookshelf (or Kindle). It’s a beautiful culmination of Moore’s experience hiking different trails over the course of decades. Surprisingly though, it doesn’t focus just on the trails themselves.
Instead, Moore takes a different approach and focuses on the history of the trails, why each is so appealing, and how they connect us to the natural world. This is more of a hiking book about the psychology, philosophy and science behind the world of hiking.
Be warned that this book about hiking does not take a linear route as many readers expect. Instead, it meanders through different ideas, questions and lessons… like the trails it uses as a vehicle for the exploration. However, this hiking book is a fascinating read with a central theme—how trails are an excellent way to unwind and build a closer relationship with nature.
6. How to Suffer Outside: A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking and Backpacking by Diana Helmuth
If you’re looking for an easy-to-read beginner’s guide on hiking, then this is one of the best hiking books for you. How to Suffer Outside explores modern hiking culture and its weaknesses while guiding beginner hikers on how to enjoy their newfound love—without burning a hole in their pockets.
Diana offers real-world practical advice based on her experiences on various trails. Like an open book, she fearlessly (and humorously) shares her fails, wins and opinions about all things hiking. Featuring equally humorous illustrations, this is a light read that’s truly worth its weight in gold thanks to the valuable insights contained within this very special book for hikers of all ages and experience levels.
7. She Explores By Gale Straub
While this hiking book is tailored more toward female hikers, its adventures will be enjoyed by anyone, trust me. She Explores features the stories of 40 different women and their experiences in nature. The stories are as diverse as the women themselves, with some hiking in the wild, others living in vans & vintage trailers, and some sleeping under the stars.
Often described as “beautiful, exhilarating, and empowering,” this makes my list of the best hiking books because it’s a worthy celebration of female bravery that shares the personal narratives of each contributor—all accompanied by breathtaking photos. Aside from personal narratives, She Explores also offers practical tips and advice for women planning their own solo trips into nature.
8. Walks in the Wild: A Guide Through the Forest by Peter Wohlleben
A list of the best hiking books for hikers of all stripes can’t be complete without this gem from Peter Wohlleben.
Walks in the Wild is a short hiking book for anyone who wants to learn more about navigating hikes through forests. The book offers a lot of bite-sized tips that include:
- Making the most of your time in the woods
- How to navigate yourself in the forest
- Tips on how to spot wild animals (and what to do in an encounter)
- The relationship between flora, fauna and the humans who hike through forests
Walks in the Wild is packed with many interesting short stories, insights and interesting facts. The advice and inspiration in this hiking book is designed to give beginner hikers something to think about as they prepare for their adventure into the wild.
Best Hiking Books to Equip You to Be a Better Hiker
For the avid hiker who wants to be better equipped for any situation on the trail, here are some of the best hiking books you can read to (mentally) prepare yourself.
9. Medicine for the Outdoors: The Essential Guide to First Aid and Medical Emergencies by Paul S. Auerbach
First published in 1986, Medicine for the Outdoors is one of those essential hiking books that’s been a staple in many a hiking backpack across the world.
This book is one of the best manuals on first aid in the wilderness. Don’t be deterred by the old publishing date, though. The updated version is packed with step-by-step instructions for the modern-day hiker to respond to most medical emergencies you’re likely to encounter in the wilderness.
Featuring a lot of illustrations to make it easier to follow the procedures, this hiking book will show you that saving a life in the wilderness doesn’t have to be complicated. This is definitely a top book to add to your library, particularly if you love backpacking and will be making extended stays out on the trail.
10. Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & GPS by Bob and Mike Burns
Navigation is an essential skill every hiker should at least take time to learn the basics of. That’s why no list of the best hiking books could be complete without a seminal book on navigation. And it doesn’t get better than Wilderness Navigation.
Wilderness Navigation is one of the foremost, best-selling hiking books on navigation of all-time. It’s even used as a textbook in outdoor education courses across the United States.
This book teaches map, compass, altimeter and GPS skills to help readers travel safely in the wilderness. It also lists recommended websites, apps and other resources that provide useful navigational information. Wilderness Navigation is updated regularly, to ensure current declination maps for the US. With helpful features like mini-quizzes, practice problems and more, you’ll be a navigation pro with this hiking book in no time. And it’ll help you better judge your own limits, taking into account crucial information like the best time to visit Yosemite National Park if you’re planning a big trek and the weather’s looking questionable.
11. The Backpacker’s Field Manual by Rick Curtis
The Backpacker’s Field Manual is a thoroughly researched yet easy-to-read backpacking guide for backpackers of every level. This hiking book explores everything from how to plan a trip, to select the right gear (like the best hiking boots for your trek) to emergency procedures, and first-aid care in the field.
Hailed as one of the most comprehensive manuals on backpacking, The Backpacker’s Field Manual is an indispensable guide for trip planning. It also works as a quick reference on the trail for various situations, including:
- Tips for packing light (always a struggle for me)
- Wilderness skills like forecasting the weather, bear-proofing your camp and more
- Tips for safe and satisfying hiking from an experienced backpacker
Packed with so much knowledge and practical advice, this is one of those few hiking books you should carry with you whenever you hit the trail for an adventure.
12. The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka
Every hiker knows that the gear you take on a hike can make or break the experience. The right gear can even save your life (I’ve learned this, myself). So knowing exactly what gear to pack for a hike is crucial.
And that’s why you have to add The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide to your library of the best hiking books ASAP.
Written by a renowned adventurer, this hiking book is the ultimate guide on helping you know what to pack on different types of adventures. Whether you’re a novice hiker, experienced, a long-distance trekker, or a weekend warrior, you’ll definitely find this book about hiking to be a valuable resource. Using the book as a packing checklist for your next adventure, you’ll be sure to be well-equipped for any eventuality.
13. Campground Hound by M.E. Nash
If you love backpacking and spending multiple days out in the wild, this light-hearted read is worth taking along with you to enjoy during your downtime.
Campground Hound may just be one of the most fun hiking books to read on this list, but it’s also packed with many practical tips for making the most of your time on the trail. The book explores some of the common challenges in camping, and highlights nine effective types of smart camping for backpackers. Chapters dive into different aspects of life outdoors, such as:
- Packing the right gear
- First aid best practices
- Cooking tips and recipes for outdoors
- Nature conservation principles for backpackers
Equal parts inspirational and instructional, Campground Hound is definitely a hiking book you’ll enjoy reading over the campfire, whether by yourself or out loud in a circle of friends.
Best Hiking Books to Entertain You
If you’re looking for a little more levity than say a die-hard preparation manual, consider these lighter hiking books that’ll still offer up something to learn—through a vehicle of fun & exhilarating stories.
14. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods is the autobiographical account of Bill Bryson’s adventures along the Appalachian Trail.
In his signature humorous style throughout this hiking book, Bryson describes the bizarre situations he found himself in as he hiked through the wilderness with his companion. Reading like a real-life movie, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining guide to tell you what you can expect to encounter and experience on the trail.
Don’t be fooled by the levity alone, though. A Walk in the Woods isn’t just a comical hiking book about the authors’ personal experiences. It also offers historical information on the different places he’s visited, along with getting readers thinking deeply about the complexities of friendship, personal limitations and how they get tested on the trail.
If you’re looking for an entertaining, yet educational book about hiking, A Walk in the Woods fits that bill.
15. Neon Pilgrim by Lisa Dempster
Everyone loves reading about the personal adventures and stories of people who’ve gone against the odds and made it through the other side. Neon Pilgrim is one of the best hiking books in this genre.
Neon Pilgrim is an autobiographical account that proves that everyone can start hiking from anywhere and do so with different motivations. The author, Lisa Dempster, highlights her own story as an overweight, depressed Australian woman who embarked on a 750-mile pilgrimage in Japan. This is a witty account of the adventures and personal struggles of the author, many of which you’ll be able to relate to.
16. A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz
A Million Steps is another classic, well-deserving of it’s place on this list of the best hiking books.
This hiking book is part diary, part travelogue and part journey into the author’s soul. It’s the engaging memoir of Kurt Koontz’s hike along Spain’s historic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route.
Told with humor and candor, the book highlights the beauty of the Spanish countryside and the connections he makes with other pilgrims on the way. Kurt also takes us through his soul-searching journey, where he narrates his personal story of addiction, recovery and love.
The Best Hiking Books: Pack a Couple for Your Next Adventure
Combining your two loves is a beautiful thing—especially if you love hiking and reading (or listening on Audible). Nothing beats enjoying the ambiance of the great outdoors as you relax with a good hiking book. So if you’re looking for your next read or a gift for an avid hiker, this list is a great starting point.
My advice is to pick up a couple of these books about hiking and pack them for your next adventure. They’ll make a great mental pit stop while you take a break beside a creek—or read by headlamp at night with the stars as your backdrop.
What’d I miss? Share your favorite hiking books with me below!
I’m always looking for more hiking books to add to my reading list.
Hit me in the comments section below with your picks for the best hiking books that I should add to this list!