The Best Parts of an Uphill Hike, Ranked

1. Agreeing to the hike

The absolute peak moment of an outdoor adventure is when your friend sends a stunning Instagram post of a breathtaking view from the top of a moderate-to-hard trail, and you reply, “OMG, so beautiful––we should go!” while you’re blissfully horizontal on the couch. 

2. Getting in the car after the hike 

Folks, fasten your seat belts––we’ve now reached cruising altitude. You haven’t fantasized this much about getting in your own car since you were clutching your learner’s permit. Everything about this moment is a win: the significant barrier between you and the elements; the ability to control the weather by turning a knob; and, most importantly, the magic of moving and sitting still all at one time. 

3. The post-hike beer 

After a wicked-hard trail, you deserve nothing more than a frosty, tasty ale. (You also deserve an extra-large order of tots, a 3-pound burger and pretty much any treat that can go head-to-head with the calories burned in the last four hours.) A beer is restorative, loosely nutritious and definitively delicious. The 32 ounces of water from your 7-year-old Nalgene was just the pregame. 

4. Being in nature

Naturally, some would argue that simply being in nature is the highlight, the pinnacle, the reason we say yes to the duress. And that’s fair. It’s hard to beat the deep, sharp inhales of wet pine or witnessing the tranquil dance between leaves and the wind. It’s hard to upstage all that organic beauty, the clarity that fresh air bestows and how it feels like every bird is singing your favorite song. But agreeing to the hike, getting in the car after and downing a post-trek beer are wildly close. 

An illustration of a signpost that reads "NATURE," and has a bird sitting on it.

5. Reaching the top 

A climax is the point of highest dramatic tension or a major turning point in the action. A “climb-ax” is reaching the highest point and being majorly dramatic about it––and rightfully so. You did it! You reached the top! Let’s celebrate! High-five a stranger! Eat a smushed backpack sandwich! Take in the view! It’s all downhill from here. 

6. Documenting that I’m outdoorsy

It’s freeing to get away from technology when you’re traversing the woods. However, you just did a legitimately cool activity surrounded by the most epic scenery––this begs for a mini photoshoot. How else will people know you both defeated the temptation of a Nap-Forward Sunday and look very cute in your new puffy vest from REI?! 

7. Taking a post-hike shower 

Congratulations, you’ve made it home. Your own body is in awe of your accomplishments, even though you smell like eau de trail garbage. You deserve to be showered with praise––and also with soap and water. Once you’ve washed off the earth’s crumbs, you’ll feel fresh, renewed and ready for anything! (Except another hike.)

An illustration of a shower, with a bar of soap and bottles of shampoo and conditioner.

8. The possibility of encountering wildlife from a safe distance 

There’s a bald eagle atop an evergreen tree? Rad. There’s a sweet family of deer 20 yards away? Precious. There’s a talking white rabbit holding a pocket watch? Oh, no, I think you’re hallucinating. The idea of seeing chill creatures in their natural habitat is truly wondrous––but not coming face-to-face with sharp-toothed, sharp-clawed critters? That’s the bear minimum. 

9. Coming down the mountain 

You did it––you reached the top! Glorious. Your Jell-O legs have just one question: Why isn’t there an option to stop, drop and roll back down? National parks should consider installing mountain slides. 

10. Climbing up the mountain 

If there was a commercial for the prescription drug “Mountain Climb,” with happy people dancing up the hillside, the latter half of the ad would be: “Side effects of Mountain Climb may include: blisters, sprained ankles, fatigue, dehydration, muscle cramps, broken bones, sunburn, forced small talk from passing strangers, rock in shoe, heatstroke and death. Please consult your insurance before trying Mountain Climb.” 

But you know what? The greater the risk, the greater the reward. And, at this part of the journey, there’s nowhere to go but up.