Top 11 Walking Memoirs and Tales of Long Walks

Walkers who undertake long distance walks share their experiences, pains, and joys in these books about their walks. These books can inspire ​you or prepare you for your own dream walk.


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Reese Witherspoon in "Wild"
George Pimentel/WireImage/Getty Images

The Pacific Crest Trail is the tougher, lonelier counterpart to the Appalachian Trail. In 1995, Cheryl Strayed was a 20-something and was damaged goods, sent into a downward spiral after her mother died of cancer. To find herself again, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from southern California to the Bridge of the Gods at the Oregon/Washington border. She takes an unflinching look at who she was, why she took on this quest, and how unprepared she was. Like a pilgrim on the ​Camino de Santiago, she hoped to find her center again. This was an Oprah book club pick in 2012. It is also available as an audiobook via The movie with Reese Witherspoon was very good, but you'll get more depth from the book.


A Walk in the Woods

Bill Bryson is a deservedly popular writer. His books are laugh-out-loud funny, yet very insightful, and always a fantastic read. Here, he returns to America in the mid-1990s after years in Britain. He sets out to walk the length of the Appalachian Trail. You can learn a lot from his mistakes. In addition to the humor, you learn about environmental issues impacting the trail. Some readers found these passages to be a bit preachy. It's also available as an audiobook from The movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte doesn't do the book credit, so if you saw that first, don't let it keep you from reading the book.


A Million Steps

Kurt Koontz pens an excellent modern account of walking the Camino de Santiago. Camino memoirs are becoming more and more plentiful, but Koontz has a good balance in his story. He walked the 490-mile route across the Pyrenees, the Meseta, and through Galicia, staying at pilgrim hostels along the way. This is a flavor of what it's like today, as opposed to older classic accounts.


A Walk Across America

Peter Jenkins was fed up with his life and struck out to walk across America in the 1970s. His journey taught him a lot about walking, a lot about people, and a lot about himself. This is a classic walking tale.


Walking the World

Alan Cook's book, Walking the World, takes you along with him on his travels, which include walking throughout the U.S. as well as walks in Europe and Asia. He will inspire you with his joy of walking.


The Thousand Mile Summer

Colin Fletcher is the man who taught a generation to be "The Complete Walker." His trek the length of California in 1958 is a great walking tale. Since his passing, the price of this out-of-print book has shot up, but you may be able to locate a used version.


The Man Who Walked Through Time

Colin Fletcher walked the length of the Grand Canyon in 1968. This is another of his classics and you'll learn his "first rule of aerobic walking."


A Walker's Journal

Robert Sweetgall walked across the USA with a tiny fanny pack, relying on the kindness of strangers, talking in schools to inspire kids to get more physically active. Sweetgall's story is dynamic in person. If you ever get a chance to hear him, do it.


The Walk West: A Walk Across America 2

Peter Jenkins once again walks across America, this time with his wife. If you are contemplating a long distance walk with someone else, this book may give you some insights.


Granny D: Walking Across America in my Ninetieth Year

Granny D had a cause of campaign finance reform. She set out to walk from Los Angeles to Washington DC at age 89, averaging 10 miles a day. She kept "on message," but we can also be inspired by her endurance.


The Complete Walker IV

If you are dreaming of or planning a long distance walk or even a day of hiking, you need to own this book. Colin Fletcher details everything you should know about walking and hiking, exactly what to take with you and what not to take. How to walk and hike and enjoy the experience. Don't even think of leaving home without reading this book.

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