Explore / Enjoy Playlist: Short Songs For Long Hikes

Words by Chris Zimmerman

Some people always seem to have a song in their head; an inner monologue soundtrack that’s constantly on repeat. This inner soundtrack comes naturally to us, but it’s more noticeable once we strip away the rest of life’s distractions and boil it down to a pure version. We are predisposed to conduct our lives to music, whether audible or not. When embarking on a long distance thru-hike, with distractions and luxuries left at the trailhead, music can become an important companion as it sets the pace, offers distractions from pains and aches, and acts as a complement to nature’s scenery.

Whether serving as a soundtrack to the hike itself or providing songs that bring back memories of the trail, music plays a large part to thru-hikers. We reached out to a handful of people who have completed the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail, and a few who have also tackled the Appalachian Trail and Continental Divide Trail, to get some playlist suggestions for our next hike. Whichever way you choose to jam out, be sure to remain considerate of other hikers who may not have the same taste for trail soundtracks.

“I listened to music a lot while hiking,” said Molly Scheer. “I love The Tallest Man On Earth, and he was my favorite at the time. He has a song called ‘Love is All.’ It’s not a happy-go-lucky song, but it’s one of those songs I feel in my soul when I listen to it. Also, ‘My Silver Lining’ by First Aid Kit. It must have been the ‘keep on keepin’ on’ part. The entire song related to what I was going through, the person I was becoming and had already become from this hike.” 

“During my time on the trail, I compiled a list of songs for each section based on the climate and my mood,” said Chris Berry. “I think the list ended up being around 50 songs. It’s really hard to sum it all up in one song, but at that time it would’ve been Caribou’s ‘Can’t Do Without You’ or ‘1998’ by Chet Faker. Both songs received a lot of plays and have a great beat to keep the pace.”

“On each of the three long trails I hiked, there were a handful of songs I listened to a lot and, for whatever reason, really resonated with me at the time,” said Molly Katzman. “For the PCT, ‘Your Hand In Mine’ by Explosions in the Sky. On the AT, ‘So’ by Built to Spill, and the CDT, ‘There Is No Food’ by Have A Nice Life.” 

“’1000 Miles’ by Vanessa Carleton, because ever since we started getting close to the 1000 mile marker, it popped into my head and never left. Goddammit,” said Cody Howell.

Now go stretch those legs and listen up to our selection of curated favorites!

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