16 Trail Terms You Might Hear on Your Next Hike

two men backpacking through a forest

There are countless ways to enjoy National Trails, including running, biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, or even just picnicking and playing lawn games with friends and family. Of course, one of the most popular forms of recreation on National Trails is hiking. 

While you’re enjoying a National Scenic or Historic Trail, you might hear hikers use some unfamiliar terms and phrases. Here is a list of common terms to help you ‘talk the talk’ while you’re hiking the trail.  

Glossary of Hiking Terms

Base weight: The weight of the gear being carried by a hiker not including consumables ( i.e. food, water, etc.). 

Blaze: A mark on a tree, rock, sign, etc. that indicates the trail route. 

Camel up: To drink as much water as one can to avoid having to carry a lot of water to the next water source.

FKT: Fastest Known Time, or the record for completing a particular hike, run, bike, etc. on a trail. 

Day hike: A hike that is short enough to be completed in a day.

Ford: A river crossing where your feet will get wet.  

Ridgerunner: A trail employee who works on the ground to connect with recreationists, provide education on responsible stewardship, and help maintain the trail.

Scramble: Using your hands and feet to climb up rocks and boulders 

Section hiker: A person who hikes a trail one section at a time.

Switchbacks: Zig-zag pathways that lead to the summit of a mountain, hill, or peak.

Thru-hiker: A person who hikes an entire long trail at one time.

Trail Angel: A person who helps hikers on their journey.

Trail Magic: An unexpected gift or find that makes a hiker’s journey easier or more pleasant. 

Trail Name: A nickname given to a hiker that often refers to something that occurred on a trail or describes something about them. It becomes their pseudonym when on a trail.

Trail Town: A town easily accessible to a trail where hikers can stop for supplies, a hot meal, or an overnight visit. 

Triple Crowner: A person who thru-hikes the “big three” National Scenic Trails: the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Feeling ready to hop on a trail? Find a list of helpful resources and pledge to support trails at BellsBeer.com/trails

You pledge to hike, learn about, volunteer on, or share a trail with a friend and Bell’s Brewery will make a donation to the Partnership for the National Trails System. It’s really that easy!