Indoor Hiking: An Oxymoron?

Accoring to a Backpacker.com reader poll, the answer is a resounding yes.
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Accoring to a Backpacker.com reader poll, the answer is a resounding yes.

We get it: hiking=outdoors=bliss.

Last week's Backpacker.com poll (see middle left of the homepage for this week's), asked "Would you try 'indoor hiking' (man-made trails that are indoors)?" We weren't asking about psuedo-hiking, a.k.a. mall walking with trekking poles. We weren't asking about setting the incline on a treadmill so high you simulated high-altitude conditions. We were asking if, hypothetically, the Rainforest Cafe toned down the quesadillas and upped the vines and fake mist, would you lace up your boots for an indoor trek that was as close to the real outdoors as possible?

The answer was a resounding NO! Of 423 responses, 78.15% of you (that's 329) said ixnay to the idea of hiking indoors. 92 of you (probably from the steamy, buggy South) were open to the possibility. But think about it: Here in Boulder land, where getting outdoors is a civic duty, there are indoor rock climbing gyms (one for bouldering, one for top-roping), an indoor mountain biking course (presumably), a brand-new velodrome (an indoor banked track for crazy bike racing), and plenty of pools open to practicing your Eskimo roll. It's really only a matter of time before someone proposes a multi-level, varied terrain, indoor facility for hiking and/or backpacking: a bioshpere with campsites.

And, oh, the possibilities. Instead of clamoring to the gym to hop on the Stairmaster with a backpack full of weights (I've seen it) for an hour training session before work, you could just toddle over to the indoor hiking gym for a workout on the real surface you're actually training for. Or as opposed to getting up before the butt-crack of dawn to hike Mt. X before the thunderstorms roll in, you could enjoy pastries and coffee with your loved ones. Then there's the alleviation of sunburn, bugs, going to the bathroom in the forest, the variable weather conditions, getting lost...should I go on?

But here at Backpacker, we're happy you readers are a little close-minded about the possibility of moving indoors to hike. Because if you weren't, we'd have to entirely rethink our business model, and that's daunting. So instead, our applause, and be sure to check out the awesome, outdoors hikes offered in our Destinations section.

--Katie Herrell