Sugar Mountain welcomes hikers to explore the beautiful trails that wind throughout the Village of Sugar Mountain. Trail access is free and can be obtained at numerous points. For more information on hiking in Sugar Mountain, click here.
Hiking is a form of walking, undertaken with the specific purpose of exploring and enjoying the scenery. It usually takes place on trails in rural or wilderness areas. The word hiking is understood in all English-speaking countries, but there are differences in usage. In some places, off-trail hiking is called cross-country hiking, bushwhacking, or bush-bashing. In the United Kingdom, hiking is a slightly old-fashioned word, with a flavor rather of 'heartiness' and 'exercise' than of 'enjoying the outdoors' (people in the UK would be more likely to use more modest terms such as hillwalking, or simply walking). Australians use the term bushwalking for both on- and off-trail hiking. New Zealanders use tramping (particularly for overnight and longer trips), walking or bushwalking. Hiking in the mountainous regions of Nepal and India is sometimes called trekking. Overnight hiking is called backpacking in some parts of the world. Hiking a long-distance trail from end to end is referred to as thru-hiking in some places.
Hiking is one of the fundamental outdoor activities on which many others are based. Many beautiful places can only be reached overland by hiking. Enthusiasts regard hiking as the best way to see nature. It is seen as better than a tour in a vehicle of any kind (or on an animal; see horseback riding) because the hiker's senses are not intruded upon by distractions such as windows, engine noise, airborne dust in large quantities, and fellow passengers. It has an advantage over standing in one place because the hiker may cover a wide area. On the other hand, hiking over long distances or over difficult terrain does require some degree of physical ability and knowledge, as well as a backpack to carry food, water and essential equipment. Hikers may be caught in inclement weather or suffer mishaps. Some jurisdictions (for example, New Hampshire) now require inadequately prepared hikers to pay for their own rescues.
Hikers often seek beautiful environments in which to hike. Ironically, these environments are often fragile: hikers may accidentally destroy the environment that they enjoy. The action of an individual may not strongly affect the environment. However, the mass effect of a large number of hikers can degrade the environment. For example, gathering wood in an alpine area to start a fire may be harmless once (except for wildfire risk). Years of gathering wood, however, can strip an alpine area of valuable nutrients. Generally, protected areas such as parks have regulations in place to protect the environment. If hikers follow such regulations, their impact can be minimized. Such regulations include forbidding wood fires, restricting camping to established camp sites, disposing or packing out fecal matter, imposing a quota on the number of hikers per day. Many hikers espouse the philosophy of Leave No Trace: hiking in a way such that future hikers cannot detect the presence of previous hikers. Practitioners of this philosophy obey its strictures, even in the absence of area regulations.
Human waste is often a major source of environmental impact from hiking. These wastes can contaminate the watershed and make other hikers ill. Bacterial contamination can be avoided by digging catholes 10 to 25 cm deep (4 to 10 inches, depending on local soil composition) and covering after use. If these catholes are dug at least 60 m (200 feet) away from water sources and trails, the risk of contamination is minimized. Sometimes, hikers enjoy viewing rare or endangered species. However, some species (such as martens or bighorn sheep) are very sensitive to the presence of humans, especially around mating season. Hikers should learn the habits and habitats of the endangered species, in order to avoid adverse impact.
There is one situation where an individual hiker can make a large impact on an ecosystem: inadvertently starting a wildfire. For example, in 2005, a Czech backpacker burned 7% of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile by knocking over an illegal gas portable stove. Obeying area regulations and setting up cooking devices on bare ground will reduce the risk of wildfire.