I Don’t Listen to Music When I Hike—Here’s How I Don’t Get Bored

Exposing the weird things I do to occupy my mind when I hike.


Before I even get started, I want to say that I have no problem with people who listen to music or whatever else when hiking (just please please please use earbuds so you’re not forcing everyone around you to also listen to your music). I completely understand that sometimes some people have to bust out the tunes to get through the day. What’s that thing they say again? Oh yeah. Hike your own hike.


While hiking, all I’m really doing is walking. I always put my phone in airplane mode when I hike so I’m not even tempted to stop and check Instagram or whatever else. This stems from a group hiking trip I went on before college where we weren’t supposed to bring our phones, which led me to discover that I really like being able to disconnect from “the real world.” Without distractions, I’m able to think things through all the way until I feel like I’m actually done thinking about them without getting interrupted partway through a thought.

No Thoughts

On the other hand, sometimes when I hike, I don’t think about much of anything at all. I just focus on where my foot needs to go for the next step. It’s sort of like meditating, except that usually, my brain is moving too fast to actually meditate, so by moving my body, I’m able to somehow give my brain the space to slow down.

Needed a picture to break up all these words, but I don’t exactly have an applicable picture of what’s going on in my mind when I hike, so here’s a nice picture of Franconia Ridge.

Brain Games

I’ve already taught myself the alphabet backward throughout various long runs and hikes. I’ve also just about gotten to the point where I can do the alphabet forward and backward alternating until the letters meet in the middle (A, Z, B, Y, C, X…) This one is trickier, so I’m still working on perfecting it. Is this a useful skill to have? Absolutely not. But it’s a fun challenge.


On day hikes, I seem to often end up spending a good portion of my hike singing (in my head if there are people around, or out loud if there’s no one to be seen). Usually, I end up singing whatever the last song I was listening to before getting out of the car at the trailhead was. Apologies to the trail runner who came up behind me one time and got to witness me singing a horribly off-key selection from Hamilton.


Sometimes I pick an object and try to count how many I see over the course of my hike. On one hike this past summer, I counted 17 frogs in about 20 miles (0.85 frogs per mile!). I anticipate that on the AT, counting salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be a good pastime.

Accomplishing Bucket-List Items

Something that’s on my bucket list of funky little things I want to accomplish is learning the Schoolhouse Rock Fifty Nifty United States song. You know the one: “Aalaaabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas…” Somehow my childhood never involved learning this song, but for some reason, I really want to know it. When I’m hiking, I can’t simply look up a video to get the lyrics down, though. Instead, I have to go through all the states in my head to make sure I have the one that comes next alphabetically, and then I have to hope I’ve correctly remembered the tune of the song. This is another one of those things that are not useful at all unless I for some reason need to rapidly rattle off all the states in alphabetical order and don’t have access to the internet.

Stay tuned to see what other fun things I come up with to occupy my brain on my thru-hike! Will I become someone who listens to music when they hike? Only time will tell.

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Comments 6

  • Paul Shearman : Feb 16th

    Katie, While I think there is a time and place for using music to motivate you as you hike (or run a marathon), I too find that I LOVE the peace. So much so that, while I love hiking with others, I prefer hiking alone to actively listen to nature or ponder life or hear my thoughts. I don’t think that I could do what you do with the alphabet etc… it seems too busy for me but as you say, HYOH! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on what you think about while not listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. All the best, Tank

  • Scott Naucler : Feb 17th

    I love this. I used to do a lot of long (200+ mile) bike rides by myself, and I always found fun mathematical things to work through in my mind.

    I can only listen to music for about 20 minutes when hiking or riding, and then I am done with the music. After that, the music feels like an uncomfortable invasion.

  • Omoo : Feb 20th

    Once in a blue moon I’ll listen to an album, but usually I listen to either birds or breeze or quiet. On tough climbs I’ll make pop culture lists in my head (favorite songs, films, etc.).

    The HYOH mantra is getting a bit tiresome, though. It seems to be used now to shut down debate, and debate is healthy. Folks, it’s okay to criticize hiking methods. Just be civil, friendly, and respectful, and don’t confuse it with criticizing the hiker. ?

  • Scott : Feb 22nd

    Music and hiking in remote areas is a bad idea. First of all you need to be able to hear possible dangers. Secondly you need to be able to hear if others are in need of help. Leave it for the campsite in short increments or better yet at home imho.

  • G. O. S. : Mar 25th

    The title of this post is just plain sad.
    Moreover It could ONLY be written by the new breed of people on the trails these days….

    • G. O. S. : Mar 25th

      People having allowed themselves, predominantly from the influences of being raised in the digital era, to be so devoid of their own mental space, imagination cognitive creativity and ability to Simply Be WHICH IN LARGE PART IS WHAT THRU HIKING IS ALL ABOUT ALLOWING YOURSELF TO JUST BE, AND IN NATURE –> THE ORIGINS OVER MILLIONS OF YEARS OF OUR ENTIRE SPECIES…. INSTEAD OF BEING A DESPERATE TO BE ENTERTAINED CONSUMER WHORE OF ONE TYPE OR ANOTHER.
      And here you’ve got these people talking about how they’re going to keep themselves from being bored I’m telling you man it’s sad and I really hope when you’re done with your first thrU hike you’ve come to learn what a sad State of affairs you’ve allowed yourself to be as the product of your environment devoid of perhaps the most significant, elemental from YOUR SELF ability to not only be with yourself but actually utilize that not only for the purpose of peace and tranquility but to develop cognitive creativity imagination etc etc


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