Hiking treats

It’s important to reward yourself with a favorite snack on a long hike with special hiking treats, even if you typically try to eat very healthy. I try to eat healthy nearly all the time, and take complete satisfaction from the occasional hiking snack reward.

Allowing yourself an occasional treat can have psychological and physiological benefits, especially during physically demanding activities like hiking. But the key is occasional. Don’t make it an everyday thing or you’re going to have all sorts of health problems.

Here’s a list of 35 hiking treats that I enjoy during or after a hike. These treats can provide you with energy and are a delightful reward for your outdoor adventures.

Awesome Hiking Treats

Remember that moderation is the key to everything and that it’s important to consider your dietary preferences and any allergies you might have before packing these treats.

Snacks for During a Hike

Chocolate shaped like butterflies sitting on table next to the mold that made them

Snack ideas for you to bring along and enjoy during your hike. My favorite time to reward myself is at the summit.

  1. Cheese sticks or cheese cubes
  2. Dark chocolate or chocolate-covered nuts, one of my favorites
  3. Fruit snacks, candies, gummies or candy bars
  4. Pretzels or pretzel sticks, good with peanut butter or hummus
  5. Popcorn, pre-popped or bring kernels to cook over a campfire
  6. Dehydrated fruit snacks; I especially mangoes and pineapples
  7. Freshly baked cookies or pastries
  8. Chocolate anything

Snacks for After a Hike

Smoothie bowl with berries, yogurt, granola and oatmeal

Great snack options for after your hike, whether you leave it in a cooler in your car, stop off for takeout on your way home or for a quick reward before your shower.

  1. Protein shake or smoothie
  2. Grilled cheese sandwiches or paninis
  3. Avocado toast with toppings
  4. Milkshake
  5. Nutella or peanut butter spread on whole wheat bread
  6. Bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon
  7. Cheese and cracker platter
  8. Slurpee
  9. Dark chocolate-covered strawberries
  10. Chocolate chip waffle peanut butter sandwich, comfort food at its finest
  11. Ice cream, frozen yogurt or smoothie bowl
  12. Freshly cut watermelon or other juicy fruits

Hydration

  1. Water, with electrolyte tablets if desired (Nuun is my personal favorite)
  2. Coconut water
  3. Chocolate milk (top choice for me)
  4. Coke or Pepsi or Rootbeer (no bias here!)
  5. Cold refreshing beverages such as soft drinks, lemonade, etc.
  6. Craft beer, wine or cider (if you’re of legal drinking age)
  7. Specialty coffee or latte

Treats for a Post-Hike Celebration

charcuterie board sitting next to a glass of wine and two bottles of wine

Every hike is a celebration on its own, but you can extend that party just a little longer for an added bonus. Best with friends.

  1. French fries and soft serve ice cream
  2. Steak dinner
  3. Beer and pizza
  4. Croissant sandwich
  5. A hearty and satisfying meal at a local restaurant
  6. Relaxing in a hammock or by a campfire with a warm beverage
  7. A cold drink in a hot bath, with Epsom salts
  8. Breakfast for dinner

Whatever you’re craving is quite possibly what your body needs! Remember, the most important thing is to choose treats that align with your personal tastes and dietary need.  Do you have more fabulous ideas? Please send them along and I will add to this list!

What Your Cravings Mean

Your cravings generally mean something, whether it’s physical or emotional. Get to know your body and what your craving means.

Salty Foods

Craving salty foods after a hike or intense physical activity is a natural response driven by your body’s need to restore electrolyte balance and replenish sodium levels.

Electrolytes are minerals that carry electrical charges and play crucial roles in various bodily functions, including maintaining proper fluid balance, nerve signaling, and muscle contractions.

When you engage in strenuous exercise, especially in a hot environment, you sweat to regulate your body temperature.

Sweat contains not only water but also essential electrolytes, primarily sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium. As you lose these electrolytes through sweat, your body aims to regain balance by sending signals to your brain that trigger cravings for salty foods.

Sodium, in particular, helps your body retain water and maintain the right balance of fluids within and outside cells. This is why you might find yourself craving salty foods like chips, pretzels, or electrolyte-rich drinks after a hike or vigorous workout.

Consuming sodium-rich foods helps replace the lost electrolytes and aids in rehydration.

While indulging in some salty snacks can help restore electrolyte balance, it’s also a good idea to incorporate healthier options like electrolyte-rich beverages, fresh fruits, and vegetables to replenish essential nutrients.

Red Meat

Craving red meat after a hike, or any intense physical activity, can be attributed to a combination of factors, including nutritional needs and the body’s response to energy expenditure.

Red meat is a rich source of high-quality protein, which is essential for muscle repair and recovery. During exercise, especially after activities like hiking that involve a lot of muscle work, your muscles experience micro-tears.

Consuming protein-rich foods like red meat can provide the amino acids needed to repair and build new muscle tissue.

Most red meat is also a significant source of iron and other essential nutrients like zinc and B vitamins. Hiking can increase your body’s demand for these nutrients and craving red meat might be your body’s way of signaling a need for these specific nutrients.

Hiking burns a significant amount of calories and energy. Red meat is calorically dense and provides a good amount of energy, which your body may be seeking to replenish after expending a lot of energy during the hike.

Red meat is often considered satiating and satisfying due to its taste, texture, and nutrient content. After a demanding physical activity, your body may naturally crave foods that provide both a feeling of fullness and a sense of satisfaction.

It’s important to note that while red meat can be a source of important nutrients, it’s also advisable to balance your diet with a variety of foods, including lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Especially if you hike a lot.

If you find yourself consistently craving red meat, it might be worth discussing your dietary needs with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian.

Sweet Foods

Craving sweets after a long hike can be attributed to a combination of physiological and psychological factors.  

Hiking is a physically demanding activity that burns a significant amount of calories and depletes glycogen stores in your muscles. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose, which is the body’s primary source of energy.

After a long hike, your body may be seeking quick sources of glucose to replenish its energy stores, and sugary foods can provide a rapid supply of carbohydrates to help with recovery.

Intense exercise can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels. After a hike, your blood sugar might be lower than usual, and your body may crave sugary foods to help bring those levels back up to a stable range.

Physical activity triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which are associated with pleasure and reward.

After a challenging hike, your brain may seek further rewards, and sugary foods are often linked to pleasurable sensations due to their sweet taste and the release of feel-good chemicals.

Hiking can be physically demanding and tiring, and consuming sugary foods may provide psychological comfort and a sense of indulgence as a reward for completing the activity.

While it’s normal to experience cravings for sweets after a long hike, it’s important to make mindful choices when satisfying these cravings. Opt for healthier sources of carbohydrates and sugars most of the time, such as fruits, whole grains, and natural sweeteners.

These options provide essential nutrients and fiber along with the energy your body needs for recovery.

Why Treating Yourself Can be a Great Idea

  • Knowing that you have a delicious treat waiting for you can provide motivation and a mental boost, helping you push through challenging sections of the hike.
  • Hiking burns a significant amount of calories, and consuming a treat can provide quick energy to refuel your body, especially if you’ve been exerting yourself for an extended period.
  • Treating yourself to something you enjoy can enhance your overall hiking experience. It’s a way to celebrate your accomplishments and make the journey more enjoyable.
  • Some treats can provide necessary nutrients for recovery, such as protein and carbohydrates, which help repair muscles and replenish glycogen stores.
  • Health and wellness are about balance. Enjoying a treat occasionally can help prevent feelings of deprivation and maintain a positive relationship with food.

How to Balance Your Food Choices

Let’s face it, hiking cuisine is generally not the healthiest of your options. But it’s important to strike a balance and make mindful choices when selecting your hiking treat. It takes effort, and the effort is worth it in the long run.

Portion Control

Choose an appropriately sized treat to avoid overindulging. A small treat can still provide satisfaction without derailing your healthy eating habits.

Nutrient-Dense Treats

Opt for treats that offer some nutritional value along with their indulgence. For example, dark chocolate contains antioxidants, and nuts provide healthy fats and protein.

Homemade Options

Consider making your own hiking treats using wholesome ingredients. This way, you can control the ingredients and choose options that align with your healthy eating goals.

Plan Ahead

Incorporate your treat into your overall hiking nutrition plan. If you know you’ll be having a treat, you can adjust your other meals and snacks accordingly.

Hydration

Don’t forget to hydrate! Proper hydration is essential during a long hike, and it complements your treat by keeping you refreshed.

Eat Healthy Most of the Time

Remember, the occasional treat won’t undo all your healthy habits, especially when enjoyed in moderation and as part of an active lifestyle. Make salads a part of your every day. Cook from home whenever possible. Drink more water than you drink anything else.

Hiking is a great opportunity to strike that balance between enjoying indulgent treats and maintaining your commitment to healthy eating.

FAQs on Snacks

Some fairly common questions and answers on hiking snacks and food.

What’s a good snack for hiking?

Trail mix, packed with nuts, dried fruits, and seeds, is an ideal hiking snack. It provides energy, nutrients, and convenience for sustained outdoor activity.

What are the sweet snacks for backpacking?

Granola bars, energy gels, chocolate, and dried fruit like mangoes or apricots are excellent sweet snacks for backpacking. They offer quick energy and satisfy cravings during outdoor adventures.

What are the best high energy foods for hiking?

Nut butter packets, jerky, energy bars, trail mix with nuts and seeds, and whole grain crackers provide sustained energy for hiking. They’re lightweight, portable, and nutrient-dense, fueling your body efficiently during outdoor treks.

What food to pack for 20 mile hike?

Pack a mix of high-energy foods: trail mix, energy bars, nut butter packets, dried fruits, jerky, whole grain wraps with lean protein, and electrolyte-rich snacks. Ensure a balance of nutrients to fuel and sustain you during the challenging 20-mile hike.

What snacks for hiking cold?

For cold weather hiking, choose warming snacks like hot chocolate packets, thermos with soup, warm oatmeal cups, nuts, cheese sticks, and high-calorie bars. These options provide essential energy and comfort to keep you fueled and warm during chilly outdoor adventures.

Are pretzels good for hiking?

Yes, pretzels provide some energy and have some salt for electrolyte balance. Combining them with nuts or nut butter can enhance their nutritional value and sustain you on the trail.

Is popcorn a good hiking snack?

Yes, popcorn can be a good hiking snack. It’s lightweight, whole grain, and a source of carbohydrates. Opt for air-popped popcorn without excessive butter or oil. Its crunchiness and energy content make it a satisfying option for the trail.

What foods give you massive energy?

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, as well as lean proteins, nuts, and seeds provide sustained and substantial energy. Also, consider foods with healthy fats like avocados and olive oil, and stay hydrated for optimal energy levels.

What energy snacks for long walks?

Choose energy-dense snacks like trail mix, granola bars, nut butter packets, dried fruits, and whole grain crackers for long walks. These portable options provide sustained energy and help prevent fatigue during extended periods of walking.

What not to eat before a long hike?

Avoid heavy, greasy, or overly spicy foods before a long hike. Also, steer clear of foods you’re not accustomed to. These choices can lead to discomfort, digestive issues, and decreased energy levels during your hike. Opt for easily digestible, balanced meals instead.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Treats

Treating yourself on a hike is crucial for both physical and mental well-being. While hiking challenges your body, rewarding yourself with small indulgences can boost morale and motivation. It serves as positive reinforcement, making the experience more enjoyable and sustainable.

Physically, treats can provide a quick energy boost when fatigue sets in. They replenish glycogen stores and provide a psychological lift, helping you cover more ground.

Mentally, treating yourself fosters a positive association with hiking. It breaks monotony, reduces stress, and enhances overall satisfaction. The anticipation of a treat at the end of a challenging stretch can provide a powerful mental incentive, keeping you focused and resilient.

Moreover, self-care on the trail promotes mindfulness. Pausing to relish a favorite snack encourages you to appreciate the surroundings, fostering a deeper connection with nature.

Balanced treats can also elevate mood by triggering the release of dopamine, further enhancing your overall hiking experience.

In sum, treating yourself during a hike has multifaceted benefits. It bolsters physical stamina, mental resilience, and emotional well-being, transforming your journey into a rewarding and memorable adventure. Just plan ahead for moderation. Happy hiking!