Hiking as a Solo Female

When I first started dreaming of the PCT three years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I’d be starting alone. Sure, I had some backpacking under my belt, but solo backpacking was an unfamiliar and scary idea back then.

Flash forward to 2021. I moved to the PNW and didn’t know anyone but had a lengthy list of trails I wanted to hike. Alas, I took to solo backpacking.

It wasn’t easy at first; my brain spiraled about every sound outside my tent at night, and I found dinners to be quite lonely. However, solo backpacking has quickly become one of my favorite activities and my preferred way to backpack.

I love being able to hike as slow or fast as I want, pick out my own campsite, and swim in whatever lakes I choose. Oh, and don’t forget the silence. Ah, sweet sweet silence and solitude. (Can you tell I’m an introvert?)

This past summer, I decided to hike the Timberline Trail. The Timberline Trail is a 45-mile loop around the base of Mount Hood. I was going alone and made it my goal to hike the loop in two days.

I had only hiked 16 miles in one day prior to that trip and had no idea if my body could even handle hiking 22 miles in a day.

That trip ended up being one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I completed the entire trail in just under 30 hours, crossing glacial rivers, hiking through massive blowdowns, and completing my first 23-mile day.

All on my own.

It was after that trip that I felt that maybe I really could hike the PCT, even if I didn’t have anyone to go with.

Don’t get me wrong. I definitely tried to convince several friends to go with me, but deep down, I was relieved when no one was up for the 2,650-mile journey.

I would be starting alone.

Sometimes that still feels daunting, but I know that I will not be alone for long. As much as I am looking forward to moments of solitude on trail, I am really looking forward to meeting other hikers and having those shared experiences. I truly believe that is part of what makes thru hiking so special.

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Comments 5

  • Joanne Gigliotti : Dec 31st

    Love your post Gillian! One thing I love about hiking solo is the ability to listen to my body and hike at my comfortable pace depending on the day. Cheers to your upcoming PCT thru-hike – you got this!!

  • ‎ : Jan 1st

    If women truly want to be equal then they have to stop other-ing themselves with articles like this.

  • Mark : Jan 2nd

    Hey-G. I am inspired that you didn’t let fear of the unknown defeat you before you learned to “improvise, adapt & overcome” (Army motto). I took am a long distance backpacker (my passion). I have been walking the trails & hills alone for most of my life. While I love other people, company in the deep woods is a distraction for me. Most don’t like to rough it, and I adore deep silence & the pure sounds of nature. Down here in the flatlands (the Couve), there is no end to the noise & competition for my thoughts. Get me out deep (woods) & up high (mountain’s), and I can hear myself think again. Are you on “YouTube”? I would like to follow your progress. I am curious why your hiking the PCT at this time of year; much of the trail will be snowed-out in the passes (N-Cal). Is this even doable? I have always dreamed of hiking the full length of the PCT, but I take care of my disabled mom & brother so I can only do limited trips now (week at a time). Please keep a sat-phone & self protection as one should never walk into a place one can’t walk out of. You must be a very independent & capable person. I like your spirit. I would also love to be your trail-angel when you get to “Bridge of the God’s” (Or-Wa border), & you would be welcome to stay the night at our house in Vancouver, Was with mom, brother, myself an two-cats (these are my chickens). We’re all old now, but if you need a break & hot meal, please let me know; I’m just down the road from the Gorge. I wish you the best, and enjoy the rhythm of earth! Mark

  • Nick@Nite : Jan 3rd

    Hey, you got it dude. It’s all about getting the mind prepared for the trials ahead and you’ve done that. The community will help keep you safe, even if they don’t know you.

    Keep ya thoughts with ya feet.
    Nick@Nite AT Class 2022

  • Martin : Jan 7th

    Heh, heh. Liking to poop in the woods! That is really a good starting point for a project like this. Good luck! I will follow on the screen.


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