15 Types of Hiking Trails

Signs indicating different paths of hiking trails.

If it is your first time hiking, however, you might get so much excited and nervous at the same time. The reason might be that you are anxious about what might happen during the hiking, and you don’t know much about the trail. However, there are different types of hiking trails, and if you’re a new hiker, it will be best to know.

Reasons abound as to why you should go on hiking. One reason is that it improves your overall wellbeing and mental health by clearing your mind and reducing stress. It can likewise enhance your sleep quality and your memory. Besides, it can help you reconnect with nature and develop some friendships along the way. 

Classifications and Categories of Hiking

Hiking types come in different styles and classifications. As a wannabe hiker, it will help if you know the following hiking categories and classifications to familiarize yourself with them:

1) Day Hiking Trail

Day hiking is one type of hiking that you can complete within a day. It involves trekking a trail that you can complete within a day. It can also be a simple walk to a short hiking trail in an urban nature park. 

Likewise, it can include a hike in a small mountain trail wherein you would return to your starting point before the sun goes down. It may also include a day trip into the wilderness with a guide.

2) In and Out Trail 

The in and out hiking trail is also known as out and back hiking. It involves a hiking trail that moves from one point to another and back to the starting point. The specific distance for this hiking trail type has doubled the distance between the starting point and the endpoint because once you reach the endpoint, you need to go back to the starting point.

3) Section Hiking Trail

Section hiking is another type that requires the hiker to traverse various stages. You can engage in this kind of hiking in multiple ways. You can stagger the hiking trail section by section for several weekend trips. Moreover, you can also engage in the trail one length at a time. 

You can also complete half of the hiking trail and do the other half the succeeding year. Besides, you can engage in the trail’s completion even though you don’t follow the sectional sequence. You can also skip those sections you are not interested in.

4) Through-hiking Trail

Through-hiking or thru-hiking is a type of hiking that demands utmost commitment and dedication to a trail over an extended period. It involves a long-distance and end-to-end hike that you need to complete within a year. Most US hikers who engage in this type of hiking tackle trails like the Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Types of Hiking Trails

Hikers come in different types. Some are day hikers, overnight hikers, weekend hikers, multi-day distance backpackers, and many other types. Hiking trails also come in different types. If you’re a newbie, it will be best to familiarize yourself with these different types of hiking trails as they are officially named and known:

1) Developed Trails

Trail designers configure developed trails, and they are well-maintained. Developed trails are those trails hikers are so familiar with. These trails are frequented by hikers and receive constant and regular maintenance. 

Despite being designed by humans, they also come in different designs and challenges. Moreover, developed trails also come with signs, bridges, and other features that make them exciting for ordinary hikers.

2) Recreational Trails

Recreational trails come with shorter distances and offer a specific destination point. These trails are meant to provide recreation for habitual and seasonal hikers. Trails, for example, designed for campers belong to the recreational trails. 

These trails got configured to lead to strategic and frequented locations (endpoints). The trail route offers a footpath that got flattened by constant trudging of navigating people moving to a single endpoint. These trails are not regularly maintained.

3) Long-distance Trails

Although the standard measurement of the long-distance trail is arbitrary, many concur with the 30-mile distance as the standard for the long-distance trail. So. for a route to qualify as a long-distance trail, it must breach the 30-mile standard. The 30-mile distance is the minimum standard for a long-distance trail. These trails have varied sections, some passing through rural areas and some through the wilderness. The most famous hiking trails belong to the long-distance routes.

4) Extended Trails

Another type of trail is the extended trail. These trails span over a hundred miles and pass through different routes and topographies. It is a type of long-distance trail that breaches the hundred-mile limit. 

So, it gets referred to as an extended trail. So, the main difference between extended and long-distance is the length of the hike. The extended trails go deep into the backcountry or wilderness but may have sections that include rural areas.

5) Way Trails

Another type of trail is the way trail, an unplanned trail. These trails are formed naturally and evolve through time. People instinctively trod these trails between various points, creating a well-trodden path that eventually became flat because of constant use. 

The way trails are somewhat similar to the recreational trails. Yet, they are more of a one-directional track. These trails usually lead to a recreational area like a lake or beaches. 

If the trail leads to something like a recreational lake, this trail becomes referred to as a good-way trail. If the trail goes through valuable crops and damages them, it is called a bad way trail. The way trails also do not get regular maintenance.

6) Summit Hiking Trails

One of the most rewarding types of trails is the summit hiking trail. It involves hiking to the summit of a mountain or a peak. The objective is to scale that mountain or peak. These trails vary from one peak to another. They also pose varying difficulties and hurdles. 

Hiking through these trails creates a deep connection and satisfaction that you will never get from other types of trails. Some famous summit hikers have scaled the world’s highest peaks, including Mt. Everest.

7) Unmaintained Trails

Some trails don’t receive maintenance. These trails belong to the unmaintained trails. They might have been previously maintained by officials or organizations of the trail system but have stopped keeping them. 

Since they are no longer supported, you’ll find more hazards in such trails. Some risks you might encounter include rocks, loose ground, rough terrains, overgrowth, and fallen trees.

8) Abandoned Trails

Some existing trails have been abandoned for some reason. These trails were previously trekked upon by hikers, but soon, they got abandoned. One reason might be that the route is no longer safe for hikers. There might be war in the area, or the terrain carries enough hazards to deter hikers from using the trail.

Other Hiking Trail Types

After learning the different categories and types of hiking trails, you might also want to learn the other types of hiking trails. It will help likewise to know these other classifications of trails:

9) Point-to-point Trail

This type of trail has a definite starting point and ends in a specific destination. Thus, you need a vehicle to return to the starting point after reaching the endpoint. 

10) Loop trail

Loop trail gets also referred to as circuit trails. They are also called ring trails. Moreover, loop trails start and end at the same starting point. Hence, you won’t need any vehicle to get back to the starting point.

11) Access Trail

The access trail is a type of trail that leads to a village, road, town, or parting area. As its name implies, it is a trail that gives access to a destination.

12) Backcountry Trail

This trail is usually wild and bushy. You can consider these trails as primitive ones. Besides, they are unmaintained and lacking in residences and roads. 

13) Feeder Trail

The feeder trail got configured to lead to the main hiking trail. It also leads to facilities and services like visitor centers, villages, and campgrounds. 

14) Fire Road 

This one is a dirt road that offers firefighters and rangers a route to the backcountry. 

15) Goat Path

Goat Path is a type of path that the footpath of wildlife had carved. This path is unmarked and narrow.


As you read through the list, you will see that hiking as a hobby or profession necessitates investing your time and effort. It also requires you to familiarize yourself with the trail you will tackle. For example, you may start as a day-hiker but end as a backcountry hiker or a summit hiker. As you become more experienced as a hiker, you would invest more time and effort to achieve more complicated hiking goals. 

I would say that hiking can be addictive. As you immerse yourself in many hiking endeavors, you become more enthused to try harder and more challenging trails. You might also begin scheduling multiple hiking trips every year. Sometimes, your only limit as a hiker becomes yourself.

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