First person to hike for pleasure.

I’m looking for an anecdote. It might (I realize as I am writing, far from my library) be from Bill Bryson’s ‘A Walk in the Woods’.

The author tells the story of someone famous in a literary way, who goes for a walk to the top of some small mountain in (maybe) Italy, just for the hell of it. He gets to the top, and opens his copy of some other famous ancient literary type, like Virgil or Dante, and reads a passage about people wasting their time on pointless pursuits, then he skulks back down. This is cited as the first recreational hike.

Ring a bell with anyone?

Petrarca, Mont Ventoux, 1336?

I will be interested in this as well. The wikipedia article has this statement:

The idea of taking a walk in the countryside for pleasure developed in the 18th century, and arose because of changing attitudes to the landscape and nature associated with the Romantic movement. In earlier times walking generally indicated poverty and was also associated with vagrancy.

In Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit reports that Aristotle lectured while walking up and down a colonnaded walkway. Not exactly a hike. More civilized.

That sounds familiar.

Yup, I think that’s it. Wikipedia says “At this point, Petrarch sat down and opened his Augustine, and immediately came upon “People are moved to wonder by mountain peaks, by vast waves of the sea, by broad waterfalls on rivers, by the all-embracing extent of the ocean, by the revolutions of the stars. But in themselves they are uninterested.” [2] Petrarch fell silent on this trip down, reflecting on the vanity of human wishes and the nobility of uncorrupted human thought.”


Surely wandering around because it feels good must be somewhat common among other animals, and must have been done by our ancestors at whatever line you choose to mark the first humans. I hope you are finding your literary reference, but the broader idea itself is interesting.

I can speculate that in ancient times, perhaps before even agriculture, someone or a group of people were sent on some errand to a nearby group or to access some commodity that the family needed. Perhaps that journey was thru some scenic lands, and perhaps the journeyer enjoyed the task, making it more pleasure than work?

The question seems to go hand-in-hand with the idea that some humans find scenery and landscapes pleasing. When did this start? Do any cave paintings depict mountains or scenery?

About pre-literate peoples I don’t think we can say. We know at least two of our ancestor species created what we now call “art” but we can’t say whether the experience of cave paintings or Venus figurines or bone flutes was esthetic or functional (religious) or both. My guess would be both, but who knows?

Is there nothing in the writing of any of the ancients about enjoying the glory of the natural world? I’m thinking this would be in the Greeks rather than the Romans. Possibly the Persians? They were interested in the sensual world but I’m not sure if they took hikes for the purpose…

It’s been a long time since I read “The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” but I do recall passages about the natural beauty Basho encounters (though Basho was well after Petrarch). Wiki says Basho was emulating Saigyo, a poet of the 1100s; one of the verses quotes on Saigyo’s Wiki page runs

“I’ll forget the trail I marked out on Mount Yoshino last year, go searching for blossoms in directions I’ve never been before.”

That sounds like hiking for pleasure, and it predates Petrarch.


The question of who first actually walked for pleasure is in principle a factual one, but realistically impossible to answer. The OP, however, seems to be searching for a literary reference, which would make this a subject for Cafe Society. Moving.