10 Songs Every Thru-Hiker Needs On Their Playlist

Preparing for a thru-hike is a lot of work. For the last few months, I’ve been planning resupplies, training, both mentally and physically, and buying and testing out gear. It’s hard to know exactly what you’ll need so obsessing over predecessors’ gear lists has become quite the hobby. But what those who came before don’t often tell you to prepare is your ears.  These are ten of the songs on my “Take a Hike” playlist that have been tried and true on countless hikes and backpacking trips.


“Going Up The Country” – Canned Heat

It’s time to get in the mountain mood! Lace your boots up, buckle your straps, turn this song on, and get to hiking!

“Lovely Day” – Bill Withers

Because isn’t every day that you’re on the trail a lovely day compared to being stuck under fluorescent lighting at work somewhere?

“Talk A Walk” – Passion Pit

This upbeat song repeats “take a walk, take a walk, take a walk, take a walk” 52. Yes, I counted. You’re welcome.

“If You Want To Sing Out Sing Out” – Cat Stevens

Dude, just do what you want. If you want to be free, be free. If you want to hike, just hike. If you want to eat a Nutella, spinach, and cheese filled burrito, do it.

“I Would Walk 500 Miles” – Kenny And The Scots

If the lyrics “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more” aren’t enough to get you moving, screaming “BA DA DUH DA DA, BA DA DUH DA DA, BA DA BA DA DA DUM DITTY DUH DITTY DUH DA DUM” over and over again into the mountains should do it. Bonus points if you have a shouting match with your trail partner.

“Stairway To Heaven” – Led Zeppelin

Stairway is not denied on the trail. Ever.

“Old Pine” – Ben Howard

This one will hit you right in the feels and leave you feeling nostalgic for even the worst of your miles.

“Rivers And Roads” – The Head And The Heart

Cue the waterworks. This song is weighted with the magnitude of what you’re trying to accomplish and reminds you of what you left behind.

“Send Me On My Way” – Rusted Root

Guaranteed to be the feel-good song to pick you up when you’re down and is best played after the tearjerkers above. I dare you to resist the temptation to break down playing the air flute.

“Ends Of The Earth” – Lord Huron

If there is one song that describes what adventurers crave, this is it. I’ll just leave this here: “Oh, there’s a river that winds on forever. I’m gonna see where it leads. Oh, there’s a mountain that no man has mounted. I’m gonna stand on the peak.”

Have a song that I left out? Leave it in the comments below.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 13

  • Carmen Lomonoco : Jan 12th

    John Valby—-GANGBANG

    Reply
  • Simba : Jan 12th

    My first thru-hike was the Colorado Trail so, for me, any list is incomplete without John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High and Rocky Mountain Suite

    Roundabout by Yes: “Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there!”

    Roll Me Away by Bob Seger: “Stood alone on a mountaintop, staring out at the great divide. I could go east, I could go west; it was all up to me to decide. Just then I saw a young hawk flyin’ and my soul began to rise. Pretty soon my heart was singing…”

    (For that tough morning in the shelter)
    Early Morning Rain by Gordon Lightfoot: “I’m a long way from home and I miss my loved ones so. In the early morning rain, with no place to go.

    Reply
  • Ed Schernau : Jan 12th

    “It’s a long way to the top (if you wanna rock and roll)”

    Great beat, and where else can you hear an electric guitar do call-and-response with bagpipes?

    Reply
  • Bennett Fisher : Jan 12th

    Brandy by Looking Glass.

    “But my life, my love, and my lady is the PCT.”

    Reply
  • Michael : Jan 12th

    Let me die in my footsteps by Bob Dylan

    Reply
  • Bill Yeadon : Jan 12th

    Roll Me Away Bob Seger

    Stood alone on a mountain top
    Starin’ out at the Great Divide
    I could go east, I could go west
    It was all up to me to decide
    Just then I saw a young hawk flyin’
    And my soul began to rise
    And pretty soon
    My heart was singing

    Reply
  • Daddy Longlegs : Jan 12th

    Half a dozen more I’d recommend for your green tunnel mix:

    Wagon Wheel- Old Crow Medicine Show
    Home – Edward sharpe & magnetic zeroes
    Mother Natures Son – The Beatles
    Lose Yourself – Eminem
    Golden Country – REO Speedwagon
    More than one way home – Keb Mo

    Reply
  • Jane : Jan 12th

    New Shoes … by Paolo Nutini. So great after changing out. Hey I put my new shoes on and suddenly everything is right!

    Reply
  • Katelyn : Jan 12th

    Just finished the AT and half of these were on my go-to list as well. 😊 To set the record straight though, Kenny and the Scots did the song as a cover of The Proclaimers’ original song “I’m Gonna Be.” Check it out! Also to add to the list is Defying Gravity from Wicked – I could be heard singing it at the top of my lungs on the day I finished my thru-hike. Best of luck on the PCT!

    Reply
  • joe : Jan 12th

    I don’t want to be a “hater.”
    Please don’t take this comment in that manner.
    I understand that individuals and their ideas are what make our world a wonderful place.
    However, when I read this article, I couldn’t help but think of a hiker saying, “ahhh… What wonderful, serene peace I have the chance to experience… You know what would make this better? Noise… Yeah…” And on go the tunes. Don’t get me wrong, I love music. I love nature. And in my life, may the two never meet. I go to the wild to experience the wild. Playing music, for me, would take away from that experience. Peace and quiet are what a lot of us go in search of when we go to the trail; to be alone with out thoughts and experience something that we cannot at home. If you haven’t been alone in the wild, I recommend it highly.

    Reply
  • Bill Minarik : Jan 13th

    Walk of Life – Dire Straits

    Reply
  • Clydette Broyles : Jan 13th

    I have a big list of songs for hiking but I will just give you a few.–these boots were made for walking, walking on sunshine ,climb every mountain ,take the road less travelled on by Lauren Alaina is one of my favoritesEnjoy and I have more if anyone’s interested.

    Reply

What Do You Think?