Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Social Innovation (M.A.)

Degree Program

Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Dawn Rutecki

Academic Year



Thru-hiking is where an individual hikes a long distance, end-to-end trail for an extended period of time. While the mental health benefits of hiking and being in nature is well known in current literature, there has been little focus on how the thru-hiker experiences contributes to overall wellness after a person completes their hike. This study investigates how thru-hiker experiences can have a lasting impact on how hikers handle future adversities. This case specifically looks at how thru-hikers have handled the COVID-19 pandemic through in-depth interviews with thru-hikers that have completed the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and through blogs written by PCT thru-hikers.

Four major themes were found following the interviews with six PCT thru-hikers. They include, 1) a sense of community post trail 2) using hiking as a tool for benefiting mental health 3) comfortability with isolation, and 4) benefiting relationships. Parallels were found between these themes and the PCT blogs related to mental health. Results of this study indicate that completing a thru-hike can be beneficial to individuals as they face future adversities post-hike. Future research should focus on this topic using a larger sample of thru-hikers.