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How to Turn Hiking Into a Career

For most, hitting the trail is a hobby. If you are motivated enough, it can become your profession. Turning hiking into a career can be a dream come true. Many of us hit the snooze button when our morning alarm goes off. Sunday nights become the Sunday scaries. Ridden with anxiety. Knowing the workweek is about to begin again. There are lucky individuals who get paid to do what they love. Hiking is not a common job on a career list. Luckily, it is tangible. Do you strive to spend your workdays outside in nature? If so, let’s learn how to make this goal a reality.

Getting Paid To Hike

If you are passionate about the outdoors this is a great career path. Some jobs are only available in the summer months. When the days are warm and sunny. Others jobs are year-round. Putting you working in frigid winter temperatures. Depending on the role you are seeking. There are options for every type of adventurer. Filtered by skill sets and goals.

In a broad sense, you can get paid to hike. In addition, there will be other tasks that you will be doing. Salaries for these occupations can range from 20K to 70K a year. Keep reading the list below to see which career path would be best suited for your interests.

How to Turn Hiking Into a Career

10 Careers for Hikers

1. Forest Ranger 

forest ranger helps keep the trails safe for visitors.  It can be a dangerous job. Including fire prevention and fire fighting. Most rangers take fire education classes. Keeping them prepared on what to do if a fire spreads. Most rangers also enforce laws. Especially for people camping or driving along the park roads.Keeping the visitors safe during their stay. You need to be comfortable in an Emergency Situation. Running search and rescue for missing hikers is an important job duty.

Not all duties are fighting fires and saving campers. When things are less chaotic, you will be taking care of the forest. Rangers are responsible for spraying trees with pesticides for protection. Planting seeds for certain shrubbery is another. Also, removing rotten trees that are in the forest.

This job is located in state and national parks. Normally working year-round, in every weather condition. Months of cold and snow during the winter season in the Rocky Mountains make this tough for the average person. Rangers can live a very isolated life during their time working at the park. Some positions require no contact with the public. This could be a challenge for those who like to work with other people. The average salary for this position is anywhere between $20,000 – $40,000 a year.

2. Trekking Guide

Hiking is rated as one of the top adventure activities on vacation. Visitors want to get out and see these great lands. Most do not know where to start when planning a trip. That is where guided hiking tours come in. A great option if you want to visit an area, but need some guidance. If qualified, being a Trekking Guide is a great career. You would need to be skilled in the outdoors for this job. It is a big responsibility to be in charge of a group of people in the wild. The most popular areas that hired for this job are The Alps, Peruvian Andes, The Great Smoky Mountains, the Rocky Mountains & Pacific Northwest. Hiking Guide jobs are usually seasonal. Visitor months for these areas typically range from May – to September. Leaving the winter months open to travel or take much-needed time off.

The biggest perk of this job is being able to share your passion with your guests. Ideal for anyone educated in Natural Sciences. Giving your education about the area is a great experience for them. Hopefully resulting in a good tip at the end of your journey. Most guides are paid per trip. This can rate anywhere from $150 – $250, not including gratuity.

3. Adventure & Travel Photographer 

Adventure and Travel Photography

Photography is a competitive market. Not every picture needs to be the cover of National Geographic. Even though most people would kill for that opportunity. Adventure & Travel Photography falls into a very large range. Options include wedding photography & engagement photographs. Some couples want to hike to a top of a mountain for a proposal. Where the photographer would already be at the summit. Waiting to snap the ‘I Do” picture.

Adventure companies hire photographers to capture visitors’ experiences. Persuading them to purchase the photos at the end. Examples include guided hikes or horseback riding. Spending days on rivers or inside caves. Hiking with your camera, all while getting paid. These salaries average around $25,000-$50,000 a year.

More experienced photographers have higher salaries. $75,000 is the average salary for higher earners. When you are on top of a mountain for that sunset picture, this job feels priceless.

4. Trail Maintenance

As you know, populated trails are well marked and easy to follow. With the help of trail maintenance employees. This can range from maintenance work to recreation crew members. It is important to keep paths clear so fellow hikers don’t get lost. This involves cleaning up fallen bushes or trees. Repairing damage created by wildlife and animals. Removing overgrown plants that block the way. Building steps or observation desks are also a must.

Most workers in this role need knowledge on how to use hand tools. Chainsaws and shovels are also commonly used items. Carpentry skills are strongly preferred. You would be working outdoors constantly. Working in extreme weather is normal for this position. Trees fall during storms and maintenance is quickly needed. This job commonly pays around $8 – $20 an hour.

5. Journalist


Reading is a great way to learn about areas in the world. That is why journalists and writers are a necessity. Writing is a challenging industry to break into. Experience is a prerequisite for most companies. Luckily, outdoor magazines are a huge market. The need for these topics is always in high demand. Journalists can get paid to write about certain locations. Some even get compensated to travel and test them out for themselves.

Yes, hiking can be intimidating. Going out in the wilderness can be unfamiliar.  Being home to bears and mountain lions. That is why visitors are more likely to visit areas that were already visited. Tips and tricks about the trails are needed for comfort. Reaching out to outdoor magazines would be the best way to start this career. Submit your work about trails or send in a proposal. Local magazines may be a better option for new writers as well. It would make the competition lower. The average salary for journalists in the outdoor market is $50,000 a year.

6. Gear & Equipment Store

Popular gear and equipment stores are always looking to hire. REI, Backcountry, and Dick’s Sporting Goods are a few to name. REI encourages its employees to get outside. You could receive a 50% discount on gear and apparel if you work here. They also provide discounts on trips with their travel company. All roles in this company include these benefits. Even if you work up front as a cashier. This would help in saving money for your next adventure.

Entry-level jobs do start at a low income. Paying around $12 an hour. Not a bad option if you spend your free time outdoors. The discounts and perks make up for the lower salary. Most of these stores are large. Giving the option to climb up the corporate ladder. Eventually increasing your salary over time with a lot of hard work.

7. Getting Sponsored

The first step in getting sponsored is getting involved in the online hiking community. You can learn the process from others in the industry. Reach out to see if a company is looking for brand ambassadors. This would involve you trying out the products and gear in your real-life journeys. Ideally, take photos of yourself using the gear. Then share your reviews of the products with your following. 

You will spend a lot of time reaching out to companies by sending emails and making phone calls. Keep in mind, that companies will be getting a lot of requests from other hikers. So make sure to be unique and make yourself stand out. Another tip is don’t focusing on multiple products at a time. Use your platform to spotlight one product or gear per week. Explain to the potential customers why you need this product for hiking. A pro is most outdoor companies share the same passion as you. They want to help you, knowing you will reach other hikers. Resulting in them wanting to buy the product as well. Let them know you will be sharing your feedback with others doing the same hikes. This may persuade them to send one your way.

8. Camp Counselor 

This career would be a good fit for those who enjoy spending time with kids and teens. Summer camps are attended by more than eleven million children and adults worldwide. With locations all across the world. You would be in charge of campers and planning itineraries for their stay. This could include guided hikes, canoeing, biking, and more. It can be a difficult job since you are in charge of a group of people. Kids can act up when they are away from home. Sp, leadership skills are strongly encouraged in this role.

Perks of this position are room and board are typically covered in the compensation packages. This would provide a place to live and cover three meals a day. Eliminating the cost of a summer’s worth of rent and food. A normal salary for this position would be $25,000 for the summer. Day camps are also an option if you do not want to spend the summer away. $300 a week would be a typical day camp counselor pay.

9. Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

This position works within the local and state governments. Environmental Science and Protection Technicians address complaints due to bad air quality, water quality, and food safety. Dealing with any issue concerning environmental guidelines and regulations. You would be collecting samples of soil, water, and air. Which would bring you to a variety of outdoor locations.

Not completely outdoors as half of this job would be in an office setting. The other half would be in a natural setting when you are sent into the field. This job can be physically challenging. Setting up equipment and carrying heavy items are a few to name. Environmental Science can be a college degree option as well if you are not sure where to start. The salary for this position starts at 43,000 dollars.

10. Influencers

The most competitive and challenging job over the past decade is becoming an influencer. Anyone can post a picture of what they are doing online. The struggle is getting people to care. First, you need a big following on social media. Second, you need a responsive audience. Influencers get paid due to how many people they are bringing to a company. If you are recommending a hiking company, you need to bring the volume. If you provide referrals you will get paid. This is a good option if you are using hiking gear. Post pictures of yourself on the top of the mountains. Recording your hikes via video.

The most popular pay is $100 per ten thousand followers. Means you need to reach 10,000 people per post to even be considered. Instagram and Youtube are the most popular platforms for this job. This would not be a good job for those who would like to disconnect from social media. Plan to be on your computer or phone for nine hours a day with this job. 

Health Benefits of Working Outdoors

There are benefits to hiking daily. Exercising four days a week alone is fantastic for your health. Mental health is one of the most important factors. Working out changes parts of your brain that make stress and anxiety a normal feeling. Also producing endorphins, which increase positive thinking. Hiking can make your brain feel happier. One of the biggest reasons people consider it an important hobby.

Working out in nature is a huge benefit to your health. Fresh oxygen and scenic views are natural antidepressants. Vitamin D from the sun assists in regulating moods. Resulting in a better night’s sleep at the end of your day.

Some other physical benefits include increasing your metabolic rate, which helps you burn more calories. You are working out most of your day at work. Resulting in losing weight. You would no longer need to swipe your key card at the gym. Your energy levels will also increase.  Leaving you feeling refreshed and accomplished by the time you get home.

Ditching the 9-5

Some outdoor enthusiasts would rather spend all of their free time hiking. Leaving no time left to work an eight-hour shift. Whether it is outdoors or indoors. The most intense hikers spend their time hiking the Appalachian Trail. A 2,190-mile trek. The hike starts in Georgia and ends in Maine. Making it a strenuous goal.

While you can’t live on the Appalachian trail, you can spend more than half of the year there. Since it takes seven to nine months to complete. Camping on the Appalachian Trail is allowed for two nights at a time in designated areas. With no cost to use the campgrounds. But, only one in four hikers make it the whole way. While you are not getting a paycheck to hike this trail, you will not be spending any money to stay there. The only costs would be for your gear and food.

Where to start? 

In conclusion, you can get paid to hike. A big weekly paycheck may be unrealistic for some options, but you can start with a smaller salary. This job market does require creativity. I would recommend starting at the drawing board. Find out what makes you passionate about hiking. Do you like to be out in a remote area? Do you want to share your hikes with people? These questions will help you decide which path will make you the happiest. Either way, you will be spending your days outside. Climbing mountains. Enjoying the scenery of the world. That alone is priceless!

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