Setting Hiking Goals for 2024 with ideas for inspiration

I’ve been sorting out my hiking goals for 2024 because know that when you have direction you can stay more focused and motivated for creating your adventure. When I started hiking in early 2023, I began because I knew this was the way to my well-being – physically and mentally.

More specifically I started hiking after my doctor told me I was at risk for a heart attack and needed to increase my exercise. Up to that point, I was running on trails 3-5 days a week but was kind of getting burned out. And so I started venturing out to the trails without any specific goals in mind.

I started with a few short hikes of 4-6 miles and then ventured out to hike Three Ridges in April of 2023. I didn’t set a goal for it. I just knew I probably ought to train for it a bit. This year I am approaching 2024 a little differently as I have now committed to sharing my adventure here on Ridge Raven.

One of the things to consider is your current fitness level, experience, and the terrain you’ll be hiking on. While I think your goals should be challenging, you also want them to be achievable and should align with your interests and motivations.

At the end of the day you will want a sense of accomplishment, and setting hiking goals can help you explore new trails, push your limits, and connect with nature. Whether you’re aiming to hike a certain distance, climb a peak, or complete a multi-day trek, having a clear goal in mind can help you stay focused and motivated on your journey.

Crabtree Falls December 2023
Crabtree Falls December 2023

Types of Hiking Goals

The great thing about making your adventure you can set hiking goals in all different forms and variations.

  1. Distance goals: Set a goal to hike a certain distance, such as 10 miles, 20 miles, or even 50 miles. How far can you go in a day or three days?
  2. Elevation goals: Set a goal to climb a certain amount of elevation, such as 1,000 feet, 5,000 feet, or even 10,000 feet.
  3. Speed goals: Set a goal to hike at a certain speed, such as 2 miles per hour, 3 miles per hour, or even 4 miles per hour. This is great if you want to join any hiking marathons and train for them.
  4. Trail goals: Set a goal to hike a certain trail, such as the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, or a local trail in your area.
  5. Peak goals: Set a goal to summit a certain peak, such as Mount Whitney, Mount Rainier, or a peak in your local area.

Setting hiking goals can challenge you, stay motivated, and experience the many physical and mental benefits of hiking.

Setting SMART Hiking Goals

If you want to achieve success in hiking, setting SMART goals is the first step towards making your dream a reality. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Here’s a breakdown of each of these components:

Specific – Your hiking goals should be specific and clear. Instead of saying, “I want to hike more,” set a specific goal such as, “I want to hike 10 miles every weekend for the next three months.” This makes it easier for you to measure your progress and stay motivated.

Measurable – Your hiking goals should be measurable so that you can track your progress. If you set a goal to hike 10 miles every weekend, you can measure your progress by tracking the number of miles you hike each week. This will help you stay motivated and focused on achieving your goal.

Achievable – Your hiking goals should be achievable. Don’t set a goal that is too difficult or unrealistic. If you’re a beginner hiker, setting a goal to hike 20 miles in a day may not be achievable. Instead, set a goal that is challenging but achievable, such as hiking 5 miles in a day.

Relevant – Your hiking goals should be relevant to your overall hiking aspirations. If you want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, setting a goal to hike 10 miles every weekend is relevant to your overall goal. However, if your ultimate goal is to climb Mount Everest, hiking 10 miles every weekend may not be as relevant.

Time-bound – Your hiking goals should be time-bound. Set a deadline for achieving your goal. For example, if you want to hike 50 miles in a month, set a deadline of 30 days. This will help you stay focused and motivated to achieve your goal.

Summit a Local Peak

Setting a goal to summit a local peak can be a great place to start. Research local trails and choose a peak that’s challenging but still within your ability level. Make a plan to train for the hike and gather the necessary gear. As you hike, keep track of your progress and celebrate each milestone along the way.

Hike a Long-Distance Trail

Want to push yourself a little bit, then hiking a long-distance trail can be a great way to do that. Research popular trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail and plan out your route. Make sure to train for the distance and gather all necessary gear. As you hike, keep track of your progress and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.

Increase Hiking Endurance

If you’re looking to improve your overall fitness level, setting a goal to increase your hiking endurance can be a great way to do so. Start by hiking shorter distances and gradually increase your mileage over time. Focus on building up your strength and endurance through regular exercise and a healthy diet. Keep track of your progress and celebrate each milestone along the way.

Master Hiking Navigation Skills

At some point in high school I learned to read a map and compass and its helped me with a sense of direction. When venturing out on the trails, mastering hiking navigation will be incredibly useful in some challenging situations as technology cannot always be trusted. Start by learning basic map and compass skills and gradually work your way up to more advanced techniques. Practice your skills on local trails and gradually increase the difficulty level. Keep track of your progress and celebrate each new skill you master.

Complete a Solo Hike

If you’re looking for a unique challenge, setting a goal to complete a solo hike can be a great way to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Start with a shorter hike and gradually work your way up to longer distances. Make sure to plan your route carefully and gather all necessary gear. As you hike, take time to reflect on your experience and enjoy the solitude of the trail.

Bonus Tip: Set smaller goals to help you achieve your bigger goal. I want to do the thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail and will be using 2024 a combination of the 5 goals above to help me get there.

Skyline Drive December 2023
Skyline Drive December 2023

Tracking Progress and Adjusting Goals

Once you have set your hiking goals, it’s important to track your progress towards achieving them. This will help you stay motivated and on track, as well as allow you to make adjustments to your goals if necessary. Here are a few ways to track your progress:

  • Keep a hiking journal: Write down your hikes, including the date, location, distance, and any challenges or highlights. This will help you see how far you’ve come and motivate you to keep going.
  • Use a fitness tracker: Many fitness trackers have a hiking mode that can track your distance, elevation, and heart rate. This can be a great way to see your progress over time and set new goals based on your performance.
  • Take progress photos: Take photos of yourself at the beginning of your hiking journey and periodically throughout. Seeing the physical changes in your body can be a powerful motivator.
  • Set mini-goals: Break your larger hiking goals into smaller, more manageable goals. This will help you stay motivated and give you a sense of accomplishment as you achieve each mini-goal.
  • Adjust your goals as needed: If you find that your goals are too easy or too difficult, don’t be afraid to adjust them. It’s important to challenge yourself, but also to be realistic about what you can achieve.

Incorporating Goals into Hiking Routine

Just like with any other goal in your life, adding hiking goals to your routine will help you achieve with a bit more ease. This means setting aside time for hiking and making it a priority in your schedule.

  • Set a regular hiking schedule: Whether it’s once a week or once a month, make sure to set a regular schedule for hiking. This will help you stay consistent and make it easier to plan your other activities around your hiking goals.
  • Use a hiking app: There are many hiking apps available that can help you track your progress, set goals, and plan your routes. Some popular options include AllTrails, Hiking Project, and Gaia GPS.
  • Join a hiking group: Joining a hiking group can be a great way to meet new people and stay motivated. Check out local hiking groups on social media or

My hiking goal this year is to hike 2-3 days a week and do an average of 6 miles per hike. I will update my hiking log to keep track of the trails and the mileage.

Do you have any hiking goals for 2024?

German by birth, living, hiking, and camping in the US. Addicted to Coffee. Enjoys going to concerts. Also, Artist + Author. I love to encourage you to explore beyond your backyard. 

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