What's the difference between walking and hiking? Okay, so I'm bored and looking at the snow out my window and my thoughts drifted to this question.
I've read several definitions of each plus other bored peoples discussions on the difference but none have been all that logical. After many decades going out on jaunts(see how I avoid the issue) the difference seems pretty vague. Some define a walk by location (urban versus wilderness) or terrain (level versus elevation changes) or length (short versus long). I still find that with each description there are grey areas where walks could be considered hikes or hikes as walks.
Loc: Portland, OR
All the factors you named, urban vs wild, duration in time, mileage, strenuousness, enter in to my own definition of a hike vs a walk, but I don't think it's possible to find objective criteria that would allow all of us to agree when walking becomes hiking. It's in the eye of the beholder.
But that's just how human languages tend to work. Ambiguity in such matters is normal and exactitude without resorting to mathematics is very hard to achieve.
In The Complete Walker, he says, "Normally, I avoid the word 'hiking.' To me, it suggests a macho march from A to B - head down, face tight, brain blinkered. The very different act of traveling to taste the joys that lie in between A and B is far better served, I feel, by 'walking.'"
Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everybody else. -Margaret Mead
Or Harry Roberts (I forget what book): A walk is a ramble through the woods on a pleasant day; a hike is 20 miles with a 20-pound pack and an M-16 at Parris Island.
Personally, I stopped worrying about the difference a long, long time ago. I suppose, if pressed, I'd say a hike is a group activity (yes, two is a "group") with a somewhat consensual common schedule, pace, and goal; a walk is just me, with a more nebulous goal and a schedule and pace that depend on my mood and the terrain. I'm also willing and able, on a moment's notice, to convert a hike into a walk by withdrawing my consent and leaving the group. So, I'd fall into the Fletcher way of thinking.
I mostly see the difference as location (urban versus wilderness). I have been on long city walks (25+ miles) but the difference is in a city walk, I don't need to bring much of anything since food and water can be bought / found along the way. And I can always bail out at anytime by calling a car or getting on mass transit.
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