Trail Therapy: How Hiking and Camping Can Improve Your Mental Well-Being

Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2024

There’s a reason why so many people find spending time outdoors therapeutic. After all, it’s not called nature therapy for nothing! But when you combine the benefits of hiking and camping, you get a triple whammy of wellness.

We love hiking and camping, so we’re going to share why you should get outdoors and get active if you want to give your mental well-being an all-natural boost…

Stress Release and Emotional Renewal

There’s an abundance of research that proves spending time outdoors reduces stress and promotes well-being. As a woman, juggling the demands of work, family, and everything in between can cause stress to pile up, and just a few days of camping and hiking can provide much-needed relief from the pressures of daily life. 

The sights, sounds, and scents of the wilderness have a calming effect on the mind, helping to alleviate anxiety and tension and giving you space to replenish your emotional reserves. Without the pressures of daily life, you have the freedom to unwind properly and let go of the stress, anxiety, and worries that plague you. It’s the perfect opportunity to recharge your batteries and reset your mood.

Connection to the Natural World

It’s easy to become disconnected from the natural world when we’re permanently surrounded by gadgets and technology that make us feel constantly connected. Hiking and camping provide opportunities to reconnect with the rhythms of nature and cultivate a deeper appreciation for the earth's beauty and resilience. It’s impossible not to feel more connected to the earth when you’ve pitched your tent in it, and when you’re hiking, you get to truly soak up your surroundings with no distractions.

Nature really does nurture, and studies have shown that spending time outdoors fosters feelings of awe and wonder, which are associated with greater life satisfaction and well-being. By immersing yourself in nature, you can cultivate a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself and enjoy a deeper sense of purpose and connection.

A Natural High

Nature has a remarkable ability to uplift our spirits and enhance our mood. Just spending time in the beautiful outdoors triggers the release of endorphins, the neurotransmitters known as "feel-good" hormones, which promote a sense of happiness and well-being. So, when you’re camping, you get a natural high just from being there!

When you add exercise to the mix, you increase that high, as even a short hike will give your dopamine and serotonin levels a boost. Dopamine and serotonin are also feel-good or happy hormones, and they greatly improve your mood.  

Improved Sleep

Regular outdoor exercise, such as hiking, helps harmonize your circadian rhythm and reduce your cortisol levels. Cortisol is the "stress hormone" that triggers our fight-or-flight response, and if we don’t reduce our levels, we end up living in a constantly heightened state, which isn’t good for our mental health. When you hike, your cortisol levels lower, and you enjoy better, more regenerative sleep.

Camping also helps regulate our circadian rhythms, as it allows our bodies to get back into tune with nature. However, for this to work, you need to ditch your alarm clock, let your body sleep when you’re tired, and wake naturally when the sun rises. Doing so will leave you feeling happier, better rested, and ready to face whatever the day holds. 

Empowerment and Accomplishment

Hiking and camping offer opportunities to push beyond our limits and embrace physical challenges. Whether you overcome a steep ascent, make it to the end of a challenging trail, or set up camp in the rocky wilderness, these activities come with a definite feeling of accomplishment. 

Hiking can also help build self-confidence and resilience, which leads to a feeling of empowerment—something every woman knows is important. The feeling of being able to do anything you put your mind to is good for you, and it also enhances your coping strategies, which can help you in your everyday life.

Community and Camaraderie

While camping and hiking can be done solo, spending time with other like-minded women is an excellent way to bond and build a supportive community. By sharing experiences and overcoming challenges, you’ll also create lasting memories and strengthen friendships—or perhaps even form new ones.

Additionally, socialization is good for your mental well-being as it releases endorphins (yes, the same feel-good hormones you get from spending time in nature!). This increases your happiness levels and reduces stress. Building strong interpersonal relationships also gives you greater life satisfaction, which is always a plus.

Embrace Adventure

Outdoor adventures like hiking and camping allow us to embrace (or find!) our adventurous spirit and try something new. Whether it's navigating a rugged trail or weathering a storm in a tent, these experiences get us out of our comfort zones. In doing so, we learn more about ourselves, how we cope with different situations, our strengths and weaknesses, and just how exciting trying something different can be.

 If you’re a bit nervous about adventuring outside your safe spaces, make sure you do so with a circle of women you trust. Or, if you have a dog, bring them along so they can offer emotional support. Your furry friends will benefit from the experience just as much as you do.

Time for Self-Reflection

Mindfulness reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, enhances self-awareness, and promotes emotional resilience. The tranquility of nature provides an ideal backdrop for mindfulness and self-reflection. Whether hiking along a ridge watching the sunset or lying in your sleeping bag watching the sunrise, the distractions of day-to-day life don’t exist. It’s just you and your thoughts.

Spending time in nature, whether at your campsite or hiking along a trail, gives you plenty of time to process your emotions in a safe space and truly enjoy life. This sense of fulfillment will make you feel happier and more fulfilled and give you a deeper sense of inner peace.


Hiking and camping give your mental well-being a welcome boost and help you cultivate resilience in the face of life's challenges. By immersing yourself in the beauty and serenity of the natural world, you can fill your cup, feel empowered, and enjoy a greater sense of self!

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