Why Do Hikers Have Trail Names?

Couple having a rest on Everest Base Camp trekking route near Dughla 4620m.

As a hiker, you can spend many hours out on the trail, enjoying the beauty of nature, and then one of your friends starts calling you by a nickname. He says that it is your new trail name. But what is a trail name, and how do people receive them?

Trail names are given to hikers when they have hiked for a long time, commonly during long backpacking trips. They are usually fun or silly names that are attributed to something said or done while hiking. These trail names can also give a group a chance to understand each other better.

But what are some examples of trail names and why are they really given to people out on the trail. Read on to learn more about why trail names are used in the first place.

What is a Trail Name?

Trail names are names given from a hiker in the group that has more meaning than their own name in itself while on the trail. Most are unique, and given to the hiker because of something they said, saw, or did during the hike. Most of them will have a story behind the name, and it makes for a memorable experience. It can give people things to laugh about on the trail.

How Do Hikers Receive Their Names?

There is no right or wrong answer regarding how hikers will receive their trail names. Most of the time names are received from an experience they had on their journey, or a characteristic about the person. Trail names are thought out and given to people for a specific reason. During the day, it is common to receive a trail name based on something they enjoy, or a characteristic from someone’s personality.

Trail names are not required to have during a hike, but they can make the experience more interesting, nonetheless. A lot of the time, a hiker will receive a name because of a quirk or problem they experienced while on the hike that is unique amongst the group of hikers. It is something that the hiker can be remembered or recognized by. Hiking is open for many things to happen, often unexpectedly. Hikers are with their given group of hikers for a long time and stories are bound to happen when a long journey is ahead.

Appalachian Trail Names

The Appalachian Trail is known for its many unique names. Many times hikers that don’t know each other can be thrown together on this trail, and the only way they can distinguish themselves from one another is through trail names. The pace and different experiences that different hikers helped determine who gave each hiker a name, and how the name was used. Trail names represent freedom after the hike when hikers go back to their daily activities and schedules.

Trail Names

Trail names are a staple to the hike because hikers become close to others when they are around them for a long period of time. Names are given to establish a lasting connection with other people and have memories that will last a lifetime. Below are common trail names that hikers receive.

Stretch– Someone who stretches a lot before the hike starts. They are the ones who did a warm-up before a long hike.

Doc– A hiker who becomes the doctor on a given hike. Hikers get injuries during the time, and these people are considered the ones who nurse people back to health.

Sherpa– A hiker that will pack too many things in their backpack for the hike.

Tinman– is based on the character in the movie, “Wizard of OZ”.

Nature Trail Names

  • Mountain
  • Bear
  • Cloud
  • Fern
  • Cove
  • Forest
  • Brooks
  • River

Funny Trail Names


Blue boots





How funny or serious the trail name is, trail names will happen often because of everyone’s unique journey. There are many unique names people receive that cannot be mimicked. The names chosen will depend on what the situation entailed, and the name will perfectly describe a situation or experience a hiker had.

Read a story about The Hungry Hiker, who shared their unique experience of how they received their trail name. She gives an overview of how trail names are discovered, as well as her own experience that shaped her hike to be the best experience.

Trail Names and How I Got Mine on the PCT – The Hungry Hiker (the-hungry-hiker.com)

Route of human shoe track monochrome silhouette vector illustration. Tracking from black shape of sole print with destination pins isolated on white background – pathway of human boot trace.

Are Trail Names Required?

Trail names are never required but they may be encouraged based on the group you are with. But it is good to keep in mind that many hikers will go on a hike and don’t mind being called by their own given name. It is all based on the preference of the hiker.

Some people don’t want to receive a name for specific reasons. They may withdraw from this opportunity because they don’t want to be embarrassed, annoyed, or they want to hike in peace. The group that goes on the hike and the environment can greatly determine if trail names will be used.

Another thing is some people don’t know that trail names are a thing when hiking. Making it known to the people around you can help others be knowledgeable about this subject, and maybe even participate in the trail name experience. The whole purpose of a trail name is given is to connect hikers together so that the journey will be unforgettable in a good way.

Group of runners running on rocks up a hill. Young people running cross country.


When hikers are looking for a trail name to give to other people or themselves it can be tricky when there is no story or experience from anyone yet. Everyone does things differently, so being able to differentiate others from what you do helps people decide on a name to give to a person.

Most of the time, the greatest stories won’t happen until later during the hike. Wait on a name until a name comes to mind that really describes the person or yourself in a complete nutshell. The ideas need to be flowing throughout the hike. This won’t be hard to do most of the time, because there is a lot of time given to yourself and your own mind to reflect.

There are lots of possible scenarios that could happen during a hike, so be aware of how people act during specific moments during the hike. Trail names are meant to help someone to pick a trail name that will keep the rest of the hike, and even after the hike to have memorable thoughts. Here are the ways that names can be more effectively created and found.


The key tip to developing a good trail name is to be very creative. Many names that are given have already been thought of and given to another person, which isn’t as creative as thinking of something no one else could copy. Don’t rush the ideas for names until one that comes to mind seems like a name that would never be used in the history of any hiker.

Finding a trail name is supposed to be a laid-back process, so there should be no pressure when coming up with a fun name. This helps the hiker to move through the hike, without the hike experience becoming monotonous. Keep this in mind, and names will flow rapidly.


The names have to be unique to the person in order for them to be amusing and understandable to the person. If any of the hikers could also have been given this name, it is not going to be entertaining enough. It shouldn’t be long, or too hard to remember by anyone.

The name will seem to perfectly fit who this person is, their characteristics, and who they are as a person. After choosing a creative name, people will want to say it all the time. The name that is most unique to a person will not be forgotten and will make the hike a light-hearted experience.

Tells a Story

A name that is behind any given story is considered the best trail name. If the trail name of a person has a characteristic or personality that was also linked to an experience during the hike, the hiker’s name will perfectly fit them and the situation. The name needs to be distinct enough that all the other hikers will know exactly what the person’s name is even if they don’t know anything else about the person.

Everyone does have a story. There are so many things that make up a person and who they are. This makes coming up with a trail name to be more important. It can lift others up and teach people how to be prepared before embarking on a hike.

Choose it Wisely

Choosing a name wisely means that the name is chosen for the person in a kind and not self-degrading manner. These names are supposed to be funny but are not meant to hurt someone’s feelings. Think about the person and what they can handle before shouting the name aloud. The hike will be more miserable if the person is offended or hurt by the name they received.

Use common sense and be mature when picking a name. This experience is supposed to be a fun experience that people will remember for the rest of their lives, so make it a good memory that no one will want to forget. Nature is able to adapt, therefore as a hiker, they can adapt while on a strenuous hike.


The name given should be noticed by everyone and remembered during the whole duration of the hike. Be fun with this and make the hike entertaining for everyone that came along. Practice using the trail name during conversations with others, so that the names given to people will come easily to everyone during the conversations on the hike. Even if it is uncomfortable to say the name, people will catch on to what you’re saying when you keep bringing it up, and it will become comfortable in no time.

Keeping all of these things in mind when deciding on a name will help the hike to be a good experience. Trail names are typically remembered and shared with people long after the hike has taken place, because of how much it helped them get through the journey. A good experience will lead the hiker to tell the story to someone else with enthusiasm.


Are pets able to receive a trail name?

Dogs are completely allowed to receive a name as well as the hikers. The overall goal of this is to make memories. If this means the dog also receives a name, that makes it even more memorable. Pets are your support while hiking and have their own characteristics and personalities. They don’t deserve to be left out. Pets also need support on long hikes, so this could be a good thing for them too.

Is it hard to find a trail name?

It depends. Sometimes names will be harder to find at the beginning of a trail because nothing monumental has happened yet. Timing is key in order to find a trail name in the correct manner. There is no limit to how much time it takes to receive a name, and it should be well thought out without any pressure. The name should come to the person easily when thinking about a hiker.

Trail names are given to hikers because of the memories of the people around them. Hikers come very close to each other during their long journey as they help each other out along the way. Therefore, trail names are one way to show that each person is being remembered and taken care of.

Next time anyone embarks on a long journey, keep trail names at the forefront of your mind. Hiking is a tiring, long, and dreaded experience if there isn’t humor or fun stories involved. Trail names form around a supportive environment of people that want to find the fun during a long hike.

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