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.

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Comments 18

  • Carmen Lomonoco : Jan 12th

    John Valby—-GANGBANG

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Bennett Fisher : Jan 12th

    Brandy by Looking Glass.

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

  • Michael : Jan 12th

    Let me die in my footsteps by Bob Dylan

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • J : Jan 12th

      Joe, referencing music is a way for rapists and pedophiles to disclose information that would otherwise be foreign to these online message boards. Not all hikers are innocent people just looking to experience nature, this is an important point to understand.

    • Sheldog : Jan 18th

      I hear ya man. My favorite thing is just the sound of nature. It drives me crazy when someone walks by with music blaring. I go out to get away from the noise of the world.

      But….different strokes for different folks I guess.

  • Bill Minarik : Jan 13th

    Walk of Life – Dire Straits

  • 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.

  • Breezy hikes : Feb 7th

    My Silver Lining by First Aid Kit. All the feeeeels.

  • Dustin Thomas : Jan 27th

    Great list – my only ONLY complaint is choosing Kenny and the Scots over The Proclaimers (the original singer / songwriters) for I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). The original version is so much better and that whole album is on my “Trail Mix” playlist. Otherwise, great stuff.

  • Phil Coultas : Apr 4th

    Proclaimers – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
    Proclaimers – “I’m On My Way”
    Talking Heads – “Road to Nowhere”
    Talking Heads – “The Big Country”
    Talking Heads – “(Nothing But) Flowers”
    Lord Huron – “She Lit a Fire”
    Lord Huron – “Cursed”
    Lord Huron – “Meet Me in the Woods”
    Lord Huron – “The World Ender”
    Beck – “Rowboat”
    Beck – “Lord Only Knows”
    Chris Cornell – “Sunshower”
    Vampire Weekend – “Sunflower”
    Billy Bragg & Wilco -” When the Roses Bloom Again”
    Billy Bragg & Wilco -“Remember the Mountain Bed”
    Folk Uke – “California Stars”
    Cynthia Lin – “Just Like Heaven”
    Kate Bush – “Cloudbusting”
    The Beatles – “Two of Us”
    The Beatles – “It’s All Too Much”
    First Aid Kit – “I Found a Way”
    First Aid Kit – “My Silver Lining”
    First Aid Kit – “Master Pretender”
    First Aid Kit – “Fireworks”
    LAKE – “Christmas Island” (a version of this song is the closing credits song for “Adventure Time”)
    Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Long As I Can See the Light”
    Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Susie Q”
    Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”
    World Party – “Is it Like Today?”
    World Party – “Sweet Soul Dream”
    Willie Nelson – “On the Road Again”
    The White Stripes – “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”
    The Waterboys – “Fisherman’s Blues”
    Toots & The Maytals – “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (sure, there’s John Denver’s original; but a ska/reggae ver. speaks to me a bit more)
    Phyllis Dillon – “Perfidia”
    Lee “Scratch” Perry – “I Am the Upsetter”
    Hopeton Lewis – “Take It Easy”
    Dandy Livingstone – “There is a Mountain” (Donovan’s ver. is also great; but again, ska)
    Them – “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”
    Van Morrison – “Into the Mystic”
    Dire Straits – “Romeo and Juliet”
    David Bowie – “Heroes”
    The B-52’s – “Roam”
    The B-52’s – “Dirty Back Road”
    Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Simple Man”
    The Velvet Underground – “Foggy Notion”
    The Rolling Stones – “Sweet Virginia’
    The Rolling Stones – “Happy”
    The Rolling Stones – “Dead Flowers”


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