13 Hikers Share How They Got Their Trail Names
For every long-distance hiker, there’s a trail name, and for every trail name, there’s a story. We sent out a survey, and are profiling the best responses! The hikers below have chased bears, climbed chimneys, and went missing in the woods for days—and carry the names to prove it. Check them out below!
Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Three Hills | Instagram: @gszolob
“I was hiking with a Tramily up Tin Hat Mountain on the Sunshine Coast Trail, arguably the hardest climb on the SCT. It was a long, hard slog, and we were all exhausted. We got to a point on the climb where the trail changed from a forest trail to a rock-strewn, steep service road! Having done this climb the year before and to help morale, I kept letting my Tramily know that there were just three more hills to go ’til the top. Turned out there were nine hills and a nasty 1 km cliffside trail before the top that I had blocked out of my head!!
When we got to the top, I said to the Tramily, “See? Only three hills,” whereupon one Tramily member advised me that my trail name was Three Hills. Embraced it wholeheartedly.”
“At Fingerboard shelter in NY, I chased a mama bear out of my backpack and down a hill. When I turned around and caught her with her head in my pack, I went at her hard, loud, and big. She turned and ran about 10 ft then turned back to me so I knew I had to double down as she was testing me. We did this twice more ’til I realized she had cubs close by, and it was in my best interest to stop and just keep yelling. The next morning after packing up and heading out, a friend in the shelter said, ‘your trail name now is BearChaser.’ I was then known as the crazy old man that chased a bear down a hill.”
“In 2009, I had a total spinal fusion. Post-surgery, I asked my surgeon (as a joke) if I was more likely to be struck by lightning now since my spine is full of metal. He said technically yes. Fast forward to the Tahoe Rim Trail in 2020, we were plagued by thunderstorms, a few of which produced a lot of lightning that actually got super close to us. The guy we were leapfrogging with jokingly said that I must be a conductor because the lightning wasn’t this bad until he started hiking with us. So he called me Lightning Rod. I thought it fit because he didn’t even know about all the metal in my back and what my surgeon had said.”
SPAM | Instagram: @wickeddiaz
“It was at the Florida Trail kickoff party in January 2022. I had just arrived and was excited to meet Florida Trail thru-hikers for 2022 as I am planning on hiking the Florida Trail in 2023. In planning for the kickoff party, I had shared a bunch of ways to fix and eat SPAM on the Facebook group. In addition, I had brought SPAM to the kickoff for any of the thru hikers that might need some for the trail. When I walked up, two people who had already thru-hiked the Florida Trail remembered the SPAM postings, and, well …… SPAM became my trail name. I really do love SPAM. I even have a SPAM can pillow in my van that I live in full-time as a travel RN.”
Patchwork | Instagram: @kamilakielar
Mismatch | Instagram: @lucia_645_
“I started with two pairs of socks. In the first week of the trail, I discovered that with one pair, I got blisters on my right foot, and with the other, on my left foot. So after about three days, I started wearing mismatching socks.”
“When staying at a shelter in the Smokies, me and the trail family got into an argument about whether or not you’d have a better view of the sunset from the top of the shelter. Someone said you could probably climb the chimney to get to the top, and someone else said there was no way you could climb the chimney. One thing led to another, and there I was climbing up the chimney like Santa Claus with my slippery gloves and shoes untied. That’s when I was given the name Claus.”
Tuxedo | Instagram: @mellycat123
“My friend Scrunch and I were at Boots Off around the fire, and we saw this really fat Tuxedo cat run towards the showers. We, of course, decided that we had to try to catch it, to you know… hold it and pet it. We split up for a bit and unfortunately could not find the cat, but because I ate a large portion of Mcdonald’s earlier in the day, I farted super loud, and she thought the cat was in distress. It’s fun to tell the story behind my trail name because it’s the exact opposite of what people would think and always gets a great laugh.”
Slow Down | Instagram: @ihikeforrest
Kanalkanut and Mr. Shoes | Instagram: @the_coddiwomple_compass
A father and son pair who hiked the AT together in 2017 when Kanalkanut was 14!
Kanalkanut (pronounced “Canal-Ka-Nut”)
I hiked the AT with my father when I was 14 years old. Before our thru-hike, my father and I took regular training hikes along the Grand Union Canal, which ran near our house in London. The canal was mostly monotonous. On one of our early hikes, I noticed a coconut floating in the water – then I spotted another, then another, and another. I pointed them out to my dad, who suggested that maybe a canal boat had spilled a crate of coconuts in the water by mistake. Eventually, I was spotting fresh coconuts every time we hiked along the canal. I started shouting them out to annoy my dad. Finally, my mother joined us for one of our canal walks – she was so amused by my coconut obsession that she dubbed me Kanalkanut.
We avoided looking into the origin of it for a long time, just in case it was a negative reason. But eventually, curiosity got the better of us. We learned that West London has a large Sikh community known for worshipping the elements, which includes making offerings to the water. They do that on the Ganges River in India and Bangladesh.
At first, they used to put small offerings of fruit and food into the canal, but that would spoil and foul the water, attracting birds, foxes, rats, and other vermin. Instead of fining or banning the community from making offerings, the Canal River Trust asked if there was anything they could offer the water without risking contamination or pollution. The community agreed to offer coconuts instead. They cited the humanistic qualities of coconuts, including hair and a face as significant.
I was glad the reason was positive and spiritual because hiking the AT was a spiritual and meaningful coming of age experience for me, as was preparing with my family.
Before our thru-hike, I was obsessed with what shoes my 14-year-old son and I should use on the trip. In total, I purchased and returned 75 pairs of shoes. Ultimately, settling on three pairs for each of us.
On one shopping trip in London, I was returning six pairs of shoes and buying another six pairs. It was a couple of days before Christmas, so the stores were busy. When we finally got to the front of a long line of shoppers waiting to check out, one of the till clerks, a Middle Eastern man in his 50s, wearing a gaudy Christmas jumper and a Santa hat, announced that he was going on break.
His line manager told him to take one more customer before he clocked out. He sighed – then, spying my wife, Helen, holding only a scented candle, he enthusiastically waved her over. I, of course, followed, with my cart brimming with shoes.
“No, no,” said the clerk, “I’m only taking the young lady.”
“He’s with me,” Helen said sympathetically.
The clerk rolled his eyes, deflated.
“And these are all returns,” I said, presenting the six unwanted pairs of shoes.
The clerk SIGHED even more heavily.
Over the course of the transaction, his register tape ran out and needed replacing, and he mixed up the sizes between my son’s shoes and mine in trying to process the return.
Eventually, he stopped, looked at me, exasperated, and said, “Do you know who you are? You’re Mr. Shoes. Next time, when I see Mr. Shoes, I go the other way.”
My wife turned to me with a goofy grin and said, “That’s your trail name.”
Hadassah and 411
“After my husband died unexpectedly, I met an old grade school friend who had recently lost his wife. He agreed to mentor us for the AT. One day we were at a theater watching the story of Queen Esther. He (Hatchet) turned to me and said, “That’s it! Your trail name is Hadassah.” Hadassah means myrtle tree, which has a pleasant aroma and a bitter taste. Totally appropriate for me as I can be very sweet to people, but I will stand up and defeat an enemy just as Queen Esther/Hadassah did.”
411 | Instagram: @beachlil
“I was attempting a Solo North Bound LASH of the AT through Virginia in 2016. I planned my zeros at certain hostels along the way and had my resupplies sent there. It was time for my zero at Quarter Way Inn West 0.3 at Mile 555.8 Ceres VA. I checked in, picked my bunk, got my shower and decompressed while my clothes were in the wash. During the early evening, Hadassah had to make a run into town. While she was gone, I realized I needed something from town and wanted to call and ask her to pick it up.
There was no cell service, so I tried to get her at the store on the landline. I did not have the store number, so dialed 411 to get it.
I dialed 911 by mistake. I realized what I had done after the first ring and hung up. Now, there are strict rules for telephone use at Quarter Way Inn:
1.) Do not answer the phone!!
So when the phone rang a few minutes after my misdial, I ignored it. About 20 minutes later, two police officers showed up at the door, concerned for our safety. I then had to explain about the misdial and the Hostel. The next day at breakfast, I was christened with the trail name 411.”
How did you get your trail name? Share in the comments below!
Featured image composite courtesy of (clockwise from top left): Lucia Kalkman, Chris Rivera, Greg Zolob, Scott Durkin, Madeline Jaynes, Lillie Stack.
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