What’s in a Trail Name?

Trail names. If you’re on the trail you need one. If you don’t have one, you want one. But, what’s the big deal?

The big deal

Chances are we’re going to remember someone’s trail name better than their real name because trail names are…more entertaining. Trail names usually come with a story and, more often than not, result from something that happens to the hiker while on trail. 

When we did our shakedown hike (more about that later), we met La Tripper (she said she trips over everything) and hiked for a few days with Dobie. Dobie was in a shelter with other hikers during a storm. He was reading a book and one of the hikers asked him to read aloud, so he obliged. In the book was a boat named the Dobie Swift. The hikers dubbed him Dobie Swift and, over the years, he dropped the Swift.

Other hikers we met were called Bald Eagle, The Captain, Tarzan, Chef Boyardee, Pica, Laundrymat, Go-Go, Generic Hiker, Wrecking Ball, Super Suit, Wylo, Obi-Wan, Root, Bird Man, Moose Boots, Keystone, Phoenix, Lo-Lo, Trapper Lee, and Trudge.

I can picture the face that goes with each trail name, but I guarantee that if I didn’t know trail names I wouldn’t recall much about the people. Trail names can be absurd or accurate—or absurdly accurate—and they’re always memorable.

How’d I get my trail name?

My trail name is Fortune Cookie. This name comes from the fact that I carry a fortune from a fortune cookie with me on the trail. 

I mentioned before that I’ve been planning this hike since early 2021. Sometime in mid-2022, my husband and I were eating the fortune cookies from Chinese takeout. I opened mine and, well, my jaw dropped. 

The fortune said, Depend on your feet, you can climb the highest mountain.


Right then I decided that little slip of paper would be joining me on all hikes—day hikes, the shakedown hike, the thru-hike. The first time we stepped on the AT, my husband said my trail name should be Fortune Cookie. 

It’s now laminated in hopes it will make it 2,198.4 miles.

I tried it on, it fit, and I liked it.

How did my husband get his trail name?

As we were transported from our parking spot to the trailhead in Duncannon by a friend (and our personal trail angel), Paul, he and my husband talked sports. College, modern, and classic sports. If you know 1970s baseball, you know of Rollie Fingers, the pitcher with the handlebar mustache. 

Our trail angel Paul (left) gave us a lift and gave Rollie his trail name.

In the parking lot, Paul took a selfie with us and said, “Good luck, Carol and Rollie!” We waved goodbye, crossed the railroad tracks and began our ascent on the trail. 

I said, “Hey! I think you just got your trail name!”

He tried it on, it fit, and he liked it.

What name fits you?

I’ve heard stories of people who are given names that they don’t like, so they keep waiting for the right one. That’s okay! Others name themselves before they get on trail, and that’s okay too. Of course, you can always use the Trail Name Generator at the top of this page. I clicked it a few times and it came up with Green Tornado Princess, Soggy Butterfly Rhino, and—my favorite—Zealous Ramen.

If you’re hitting the trail and don’t have a trail name yet, don’t fret! It will come in time.

Do you have a trail name? How did you get it? Drop a comment below and tell me about it!

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Comments 19

  • Gail Conrad : Mar 2nd

    The year was 1975. Before our April 2nd departure from Cape Cod, Ma. My hiking partner & I went to see the movie Jeremiah Johnson starring Robert Redford.. If you know the movie, he knew nothing about living in the wild. And neither did I. My partner called me “Pilgrim”. The name fit almost 50 years ago, before there even was such a thing as trail names. It was the best time ever.

    • Carol Fielding : Mar 3rd

      That’s a great story! Thanks for sharing, Pilgrim!

  • Prophet : Mar 3rd

    The “moniker”/trail name of Prophet was bestowed near Gooch Gap in Georgia several years ago. I had met a Angel (trail angel) and after a long conversation the name stuck. Maybe I look like one? Maybe…….

    • Carol Fielding : Mar 3rd

      Great story–I wish your photo showed up here so I could confirm if you indeed resemble a prophet of old. Thanks for sharing!

  • Pale Rider : Mar 3rd

    I chose my own trail name, “Pale Rider”, because I’ve always been a huge Clint Eastwood fan, especially of his westerns, and as a shout-out to his classic movie of the same name. Only later did I learn the backstory—that the name comes from the book of Revelations and the opening of the Seven Seals and the revealing of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Chapter 6, Verse 8 describes the fourth rider: “And I looked and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” And I thought, “Hey, that works too!” After having to quit my hike of the AT in 2022 due to a knee injury, I’ll be making my second attempt starting on March 11th.

    • Carol Fielding : Mar 3rd

      Great history of your name, Pale Rider! I’ll be starting a bit after you but maybe we’ll get a chance to chat somewhere along the trail. Thanks for sharing!

      • Pale Rider : Mar 4th

        I’ll keep an eye out for you. Good luck with your hike!

  • Clifford Ward : Mar 4th

    Back in the 1920’s there were NO transmitting tubes, but ships had radio transmitters. The transmitter was a generator that ran on the ships power, which was DC (AC was not IN yet). The frequency of spin of the output by the generator was varied to change frequencies. The output went out of the radio room (thru large ceramic feed-thru insulators, the output voltage was very high) to the antenna, which was a long wire (we used 19 strands of 16ga wire, very heavy). When the RO (radio officer) keyed the generator/transmitter, there were sparks. SO, the crew called the RO (Radio Officer) Sparks or “Sparky”.. When I went back to sea on commercial ships in the 1970’s we were still using CW (morse code) and I was a licensed Radio Officer who got his license thru the USCG but my license also from the FCC that said I passed the transmit and receive test on CW and there we go! SO, my trail name is Sparks (or Sparky).

    • Carol Fielding : Mar 4th

      This is awesome–I love the history and the name. Even more so because my husband’s dad was a radio operator on a Liberty Ship in WWII and his nickname was, of course, Sparks. It’s nice to meet another Sparks!

  • Not Yet : Mar 5th

    I was looking for a trail name, the first day on trail. In camp, I was asked, “Do you have a trail name?” by one of the denizens. I replied, “Not Yet”. Good enough, I went with it.

    • Carol Fielding : Mar 6th

      Haha! I love it!

  • Grandpa : Mar 5th

    Grandpa, because… well… umm… errr… I’m one of those. I’ve taken my grandkids backpacking since they were toddlers.

    When slogging up mountains on my section hikes on the AT, I wonder at times if ‘Buzzard Bait’ would be more appropriate. I’m so slow uphill that I swear those things start circling! I may have to start wearing safety goggles because I hear they go for the eyeballs first!

    Grandkids are the best toys ever made. I’m Grandpa and ‘Grandpa’ works for me.

    • Carol Fielding : Mar 11th

      That’s awesome, Grandpa! Those grandkids will keep you young!

  • Sheri : Mar 11th

    This sounds great! I will be following along as you traverse the trail and wish you safe travels Carol.

    • Carol Fielding : Mar 11th

      Thank you, Sheri!

  • Liz Byrom : Mar 12th

    Thrilled to come across your post!! I’m going to live vicariously through your posts. My husband Terry Byrom and I hope to thru hike some day. We live near the trail in Central PA. Somehow your blog just appeared in my news feed yesterday and Spatansburg jumped out at m. I spent time as a youth their visiting my aunt and uncle Geraldine and Cameron Blakeslee, now both in Rose Hill. I will be cheering for you, praying for you and following your journey. May you enjoy many joyful steps. Peace!

    • Carol Fielding : Mar 13th

      Thank you, Liz! You and Terry should start planning. Read some books about the trail and also some of the great posts on this website. I’ve gained a lot just from reading. Visit outfitters and try on packs. Talk to other thru-hikers or section hikers. Start pricing gear so you don’t get sticker shock later. Start buying gear you feel comfortable getting early (like trekking poles). My husband is planning to thru-hike when he retires, so I’ll likely be doing this hike again in 10 years–maybe I’ll see you out there!

  • Smokey : Mar 20th

    My son gave us our trail names. He was and is very much into cars. Especially the older variety. My favorite car chase movie is Bullitt with Steve McQueen. My son prefers Smokey and the Bandit. So, in 2018, I was Smokey (I also smoke the occasional cigar) and my son was Bandit.

    • The Bear : Aug 21st

      Fortune cookie I pick you up at the gravel rd mile 1742.7 .a few weeks back .You weren’t feel well that late morning .I gave you a ride to the Hostel in west Hartford VT .I was wondering how you may out the rest of the day . We all so remember you as the AKA the bug suit lady .


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