What are the Differences Between Hiking, Trekking and Mountaineering?

Many people use the words hiking and mountaineering as if they were synonyms. However, and even if they both refer to outdoor activities in the mountains, there are some important differences that you should be aware of, especially if you are planning a trip yourself.

differences between hiking and mountaineering

differences between hiking and mountaineering

According to Wikipedia, hiking refers to a “long vigorous walk, generally on trails (footpaths)”. It may also be referred to as hillwalking in the UK, tramping in New Zealand or bush walking in Australia. Mountaineering, on the other hand, is defined as “the sport of climbing mountains” and may also be referred to as “alpinism” (especially in Europe). It generally involves a greater technical difficulty and requires specialized equipment (including harness, helmet, belay device, crampons, etc.).

But let’s take a better look at what these activities involve. For practical purposes, we’ll refer to 3 basic differentiating features between these 2 terms:

Technical Difficulty

Equipment required

Type of terrain

What is Hiking About?

There are hikes of varying levels of difficulty and duration. A hiking trip can take anywhere from a few hours to several days and, as a rule, no technical knowledge is necessary. Some basic navigation techniques and a good fitness level will be more than enough to take you from start to finish.

In general, hiking can be practiced year-round except for areas where snow abounds during winter, in which case snowshoes are an option.

differences between hiking and mountaineering

differences between hiking and mountaineering

While we are at it, let’s also examine the differences between “hiking” and “trekking”. Although many people use these terms interchangeably, others use “trekking” to refer to walks that take place on wilder and often more difficult trails. In general, trails are also characterized by being longer and in more remote locations.

“Scrambling” is another related term that may need some explaining. This is a somewhat ambiguous term as it refers to a combination of walking on a mountain and sport climbing. It consists of the action of climbing mountains or rock walls without the use of technical equipment or ropes. Sometimes it is also called “rock scrambling” or “alpine scrambling”. The main difference with hiking is that you need to use your hands during the ascent.

differences between hiking and mountaineering

differences between hiking and mountaineering

Going back to “hiking”, those with some experience can probably handle some easy trails on their own. However, it is always advisable to do it together with a certified mountain leader or guide as they can provide a richer experience by teaching you about local weather, culture and history. The UIMLA (Union of International Mountain Leader Associations) is an umbrella association for mountain leaders in 16 countries.

In need of inspiration? Check out some great hikes promoted on Explore-Share by certified guides and leaders around the world.

In Europe:

The great Selvaggio Blu hike in Cerdinia offered by IFMGA guide Stéphane.

Differences between hiking and mountaineering

Differences between hiking and mountaineering

In Asia:

South America:

Hut-to-hut hiking programs in Bariloche;

Amazing hikes in Torres del Paine, Chile, led by UIMLA mountain leader José.And if you’ve always dreamed with a hiking trip to Iceland, check out our top 5 hiking spots in the country!

What is Mountaineering About?

Although mountaineering trips also range from a few hours to several days, this activity is in general more physically and technically demanding than hiking or trekking. On the way to the summit, mountaineers will have to deal with rock, ice or mixed terrain.

differences between hiking and mountaineerin

differences between hiking and mountaineerin

Altitude is another added challenge. When attempting an ascent over 4,000 meters, good acclimatization is one of the key factors to achieve success. Depending on the mountain, climbers may need to know how to walk on crampons or how to use an ice axe and ice climbing or rock climbing skills may also be necessary to get to the top.

Although there are winter programs, mountaineering trips usually run during spring, summer and mid-autumn, when the presence of snow and winds decrease. Hiring the services of a certified mountain guide is not only crucial to improve the group’s chances of reaching the summit but, more importantly, it is key to keeping the group safe.

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It is therefore essential to hire guides certified by IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations) or by national associations recognized by IFMGA. Looking for some new summit goals? Here are some mountaineering trips proposed by certified professionals via Explore-share.com:

Matterhorn mountaineering expedition led by IFMGA guide Guy;

Mont Blanc 7 day climb guided by IFMGA-certified Francis;

Climbing Aconcagua, the highest summit in South America, along with Julver, an IFMGA guide from Peru.

Climbing Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, with IFMGA-certified Ivan.

Differences between hiking and mountaineering

Differences between hiking and mountaineering

Finally, for those who want to give mountaineering a try but don’t have too much experience, we recommend this interesting article about the 5 easiest summits in the Alps for beginners.

Mountaineering Equipment

Unlike hiking, mountaineering requires the use of technical equipment. Participants may need to be able to use the following gear:




Ice axe(s),


Belay device,


Ice screw.

In many cases, mountain guides will be able to provide the technical equipment. In others, mountaineers may be able to rent the equipment before the start of the trip. Always make sure you validate the equipment list with your guide!

To Sum Up…

Technical level, equipment and terrain are key to determine whether an outing can be classified as hiking or mountaineering. While hiking programs are suitable for almost anyone with a good fitness level and a small backpack, mountaineering requires some degree of rock and ice climbing techniques and the use of specialized equipment.

Be aware, however, that grey areas exist, so make sure to ask your mountain guide all the relevant question beforehand in order to make sure you are ready for the trip — both technically and physically. If you’re more of a hiker, you may want to ask, for example, if an ascent requires any technical skills (like the use of crampons to walk on a glacier) or if your fitness level is appropriate.

Differences between hiking and mountaineering

Differences between hiking and mountaineering

While experienced hikers may be able to handle short easy hikes on their own, it is always advisable to hire a guide for longer or more difficult treks. A mountain guide’s knowledge and expertise will provide an added value to the experience and will be key to handle logistics (so you’ll have more time to just enjoy the adventure!). Mountaineering generally involves some added risks — including changing weather conditions and altitude — so we recommend always hiring the services of a certified guide.

differences between hiking and mountaineering

differences between hiking and mountaineering

We hope you are now ready to safely enjoy your adventure. Don’t hesitate to check out Explore-Share.com’s selection of hiking and mountaineering trips!

For booking assistance

Our experienced outdoor adventure team is ready to help you boost your experience and will assist you throughout the whole process, from the moment you choose a program until you return from your trip.

What Is The Difference Between Hiking And Mountaineering?

As a regular hiker I often spend time hiking over, across, etc. mountains. With that in mind I was always curious what the difference was when I heard someone using the term mountaineering, when referring to their activities in the hills, rather than simply hiking.

Man Scrambling Through Rocks

OK, well first off I guess you can hike anywhere. I recall reviewing into the difference between hiking and walking in another post some time back. In it I made the distinction that hiking usually involved going over some kind of natural terrain, like mountains, while walking was just going out on your local roads for a stretch of the legs.

However, it is worth noting that the natural terrain to hike on doesn’t always need to be mountains. Hiking in a desert is a good example where you may not need to climb or cross any mountains but you’re not going out for an easy stroll! In contrast, mountaineering obviously implies that mountains are involved in some form.

So with that in mind, I had an idea but wasn’t 100% sure how ‘mountaineering’ was defined, if at all. One thing I had noticed though was that it was only ever very experienced ‘hikers’ who would ever refer to any of their activities as mountaineering as opposed to just hiking.

So what is the Difference?

Yesterday I returned from my ‘mountaineering’ (I am using the word appropriately here I believe ) trip to the Alps. I was away for a week and I am happy to say that I got to successfully summit both Gran Paradiso and Mont Blanc!

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I will of course be doing some detailed posts on these in the very near future but as a background to this post, as part of the trip we had experienced guides to take us to the summit for both climbs. This is an absolute necessity as it is dangerous in the Alpine environment if you do not know what you are doing. Therefore, experienced guidance is not optional.

Anyway, the lead guide for the trip has over 25 years of experience in the Alpine environment and on the initial climb to a hut before the summit attempt for Mont Blanc, I overheard him using the term mountaineering when referring to our summit attempt in the days ahead. It immediately occurred to me, could there be a better man to ask this question of than him?

So, I asked him and his answer was beautifully simple and sweet. In short, he said that in mountaineering you use your hands. When you’re just hiking, the use of your hands isn’t necessary. Beautiful!

What Does it Mean to use your Hands?

Now, I should add some points of clarification to this and perhaps risk stating the obvious. However, by ‘using your hands’ he was, as I am now, referring to needing to use your hands on or with natural obstacles or terrain to pass or overcome them as you hike and climb up a mountain.

Therefore, it does not mean using your hands to hold walking poles or climb over a fence. Rather it refers to anything from continuous scrambling over rocks right the way up to full on rock climbing.

Note: there are a lot of levels in-between the levels of scrambling and rock climbing.

I am not a rock climber but scrambling is something I have done on many occasions, that’s me scrambling in the photo below, while out on the trail. It sits at the easier end of the climbing spectrum and refers to having to use your hands to negotiate rocks or other terrain in your way on the trail.


That is, your legs aren’t enough to get you by and it’s sometimes, although not always, tricky enough that you may also need to employ some basic climbing gear e.g. helmets, harnesses, roping using karabiner clips, and so on. We needed to wear that gear in the Alps last week as the scrambling was of a significantly dangerous enough level to warrant it. That may not always be the case though.

It’s also worth noting that using your hands can mean having to use them with various tools to help move you along the trail e.g. an ice ax.


So that’s it for today’s brief post. Hopefully this has been of interest. It was nice to get a perspective or two on the term ‘mountaineering’. I should add that there are also a whole host of other mountain skills involved in mountaineering that extend beyond simple hiking. However, I think for ease of use this was a nice, quick and easy way to note a considerable difference between the two activities.

I for one, quite enjoy a bit of scrambling while out on the trail but I don’t think that full on rock climbing would really be for me. You may hate the thought of ever having to use your hands to hoist your body over rocks or any obstacle while out on the trail. I guess that that’s the real beauty of the great outdoors though, there is something there for every level of skill and everyone to enjoy!

Do you like to scramble or climb while out on the trail? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

What Is Mountaineering Vs Hiking? (Described for Everyone)

what is mountaineering vs hiking

Hiking is going on long walks in nature, often a couple of hours or up to a day in length. Trekking is a journey on foot that can take several days or weeks. An extreme version of hiking or trekking that includes the use of snowshoes, ice axes, ropes, and/or ice climbing equipment.

The main difference is that hiking involves a lot of physical exertion, while climbing involves more mental and emotional effort. Hiking can be done at any time of the year, but it’s best done in the spring, summer, or fall when the weather is warm and dry. Mountain climbing, on the other hand, is most often done during the winter months, when temperatures are colder and the air is thinner.

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Table of Contents

Is mountaineering the same as trekking?

Mountaineering is more difficult than trekking, which is the main difference between the two. Trekking involves less risk of death and requires prior training and technical know-how as it involves many life-threatening risks. The fault lies with the Nepalese government, which has failed to ensure the safety of its own citizens. It is time for the government to take responsibility for its citizens’ safety.

What is the difference between mountain climbing and mountaineering?

Mountain climbing is a set of activities that involve climbing the mountains. If you look at a mountain and decide that you want to go to one of the summits, you can either hike, scramble, or mountaineer. A technical activity used to get to the highest altitude possible. The term’mountain climbing’ was coined in the early 20th century to describe the activity of climbing mountains.

The term was first used in an article published by the American Alpine Club (AAC) in 1912. In the article, it was stated that ‘Mountaineers are the only people who can climb mountains, and they do it with the utmost skill and precision’. The word ‘climbing’ is derived from the Latin word, ‘cimbere’, which means ‘to climb’. It is also the name given to the sport of mountain climbing.

What is considered mountaineering?

Mountaineering, or alpinism, is the set of outdoor activities that involves ascending tall mountains. Climbing, skiing, and traversing via ferratas are some of the activities related to mountaineers. Sport climbing, indoor climbing, and bouldering are all examples of mountaineers.

Is it true that trekking and hiking are just the same mountaineering activities?

Trekking is considered to fall between hiking and mountaineering in the degree of difficulty. Trekking is more difficult than hiking. In the fall and winter, the snow is gone and the weather is milder, making it a good time for trekking.

Why do people do mountaineering?

Reducing body fat and improving your physical fitness are the most obvious benefits. The following are some of the most important benefits of mountain climbing.

Is trekking more difficult than hiking?

“Hiking is a term that has been used to describe a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing, kayaking, and snowmobiling. It is also used as an umbrella term to refer to a wide range of activities that are not necessarily related to hiking.

Does hiking involve climbing?

Without the use of technical equipment or ropes, it is the action of climbing mountains or rock walls. It can also be referred to as “rock scrambling” or “alpine scrambling”. Hiking requires you to use your hands during the climbing. Hiking is a great way to get to know the mountains and the people who live in them.

It’s also a good way for you to learn about the natural world and how it works. Hiking can be done in any season, but it’s best to start in the spring or fall when the weather is warm and sunny. You can also start hiking in winter if you live near a mountain range.

What are the 3 types of mountaineering?

While it is necessary for the complete mountaineer to be competent in all three phases of the sport—hiking, rock climbing, and snow and ice technique—each is quite different. Even the most accomplished mountaineers will have different degrees of success in each category. The most basic form of climbing is hiking. Hiking is the act of moving from point A to point B by walking, running, or other means of locomotion.

The term “hike” is often used to refer to any type of outdoor activity that involves walking or running. For example, a hiker might hike to the top of a mountain, then hike back down the same mountain to get to his or her car.

In this case, the term is used as a general term to describe any activity in which a person moves from one place to another by moving about on the ground or in the air. Rock climbing refers to climbing a rock face or cliff face by using hands and feet to move up and down a wall or ledge.

Rock climbers are often referred to as “climbers” or “rock climbers” because they use their hands to climb the rock faces and cliffs.

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Source https://coolhikinggear.com/what-is-the-difference-between-hiking-and-mountaineering

Source https://www.rusticaly.com/what-is-mountaineering-vs-hiking/

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