9 Hiking And Travel Memoirs That'll Take You Off The Beaten Path This Summer
There are few things I love more (other than books, of course) than lacing up my hiking boots and hitting a trail — especially if I’ve got a backpack full of some great hiking memoirs to take along with me (weight recommendations be damned.) I’m definitely not the first reader who’s taken her Wild-inspired obsession from armchair to open road, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. Good books, like good hiking trails, aren’t hard to find.
I love Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir (really, I’ve got the tattoos to prove it) as much as the next person — and this is usually the time of year it makes its way off my shelf and into my hands, for the hundredth time. But I'll admit, as much as I'd like to keep reading Wild over and over again, there are tons of other amazing memoirs of solo-female travelers out there, just waiting for you to read them too — women who stepped off the path and into the unknown, who had surprising adventures in far-flung locales, who journeyed to the absolute edge of the earth, and who came home and wrote books about it. Books that will fit perfectly alongside Wild on your shelves, I promise.
Check out these nine books that’ll take you off the beaten path this summer, in the wildest way.
1. 'Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot' by Sarah Marquis
I recommend you keep a map nearby while reading this one, because Sarah Marquis’s Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot will take you across the Gobi Desert, from Siberia to Thailand, and then all the way to Australia — and Marquis was seriously not messing around. Named National Geographic's Explorer of 2014, the hiker braved weather, illness, and other life-threatening trials, from the mafia and drug dealers, to thieves and more, all in order to complete a 10,000-mile solo-hike that was so dangerously badass I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. This is one hike I’m happy to take from the comfort of my reading chair, TBH.
2. 'Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea' by Kira Salak
Another memoir that will leave you wide-eyed and jaw-dropped, (no hyperbole here) Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea tells the story of Kira Salak — a woman who solo-walked across Papua New Guinea nearly twenty years ago — through untouched jungles, mysterious tribal territory, and even one village where cannibalism was still practiced. Far away feels just a little bit farther after reading Salak’s memoir.
3. 'Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail' by Suzanne Roberts
Including Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Park, the John Muir Trail runs through the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, and is the terrain across which Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail takes place. After finishing college in the early ‘90s, Suzanne Roberts decided to tackle a different kind of challenge — hiking the 210-mile trail with two girlfriends of varying experiences and dispositions. It’s a hike that, unsurprisingly, changed not only Roberts’ life, but her relationship with nature forever.
4. 'Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life' by Arlene Blum
Arlene Blum is the stuff of climbing legend: defying status quo as the first American woman to attempt Mount Everest and leading the first all-female climbing teams on successful ascents of Mount McKinley and Annapurna. Her memoir, Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, is about more than just breaking away from the already-traveled path up the mountainside — as the leader of more than twenty expeditions, she paved the way for women’s participation in high-altitude mountaineering, forging new trails geographically, culturally, and athletically. You’ll be hard pressed to decide what inspires you more: her story, her writing, or the photographs she’s taken.
5. 'Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica' by Sara Wheeler
If I imagine the literal geographic end of the world, Antarctica is without a doubt the landscape that first comes to mind. In Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica, Sara Wheeler travels to those farthest reaches of the planet — a compelling and mysterious ice desert marked by the coldest, windiest, and driest conditions on earth. For seven months Wheeler lived among Antarctica’s scientists, and explorers, and penguins — for no other reason than she felt a call to this wildest of terrain, and had to answer it.
6. 'Girl in the Woods: A Memoir' by Aspen Matis
Reeling from a college rape and finding justice, solace, and healing nowhere, 19-year-old Aspen Matis took to the Pacific Crest Trail — five months and 2,650-miles of persistence, resilience, and strength. In Girl in the Woods Matis describes her 30-mile-per-day regimen, as she hiked from Mexico to Canada: the solitude, the near-starvation, and the silence the forced her to confront the pain of her recent past. Along the way she discovers the limits of her body, her mind, and her heart, and pushes through all of them.
7. 'Tracks' by Robyn Davidson
Unreal is the first word that comes to mind while reading Robyn Davidson’s memoir Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback. Except Davidson’s account of her journey — through the Australian desert to the continent's coast with four camels and one dog in tow — is about as real as solo-hiking gets. Along the way Davidson fell in love with the stunning but unforgiving landscape, one that challenged her body, mind, and spirit more than anything she’d ever experienced before.
8. 'Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube' by Blair Braverman
Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube is in a class of solo-female-traveler memoir all its own — telling a story I definitely haven’t read anywhere else. At only 19-years-old Blair Braverman left home to work as a dog sledding tour guide on an Alaskan glacier; hardly as glamorous as it might first sound, so finish the memoir before you book your flight. In an arctic landscape dominated by men, Braverman not only braved the cold, she pushed through all of her physical and mental limits, surviving and ultimately thriving in this otherworldly landscape.
9. 'Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail' by Melanie Radzicki McManus
When you think of exciting, life-changing hike, Wisconsin might not be the first place that comes to mind — but Melanie Radzicki McManus’s memoir Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail, might cause you to think again. Thousand-Miler chronicles McManus’s 36-day hike across 1,100 miles around Wisconsin, a feat that earned her membership into a group of Ice Age Trail thru-hikers known as the “Thousand-Milers”. Wisconsin’s wildlife, forests, prairies, wetlands, farms, geologic wonders, small towns, and neighborhood bars will both surprise and captivate you — and maybe make you realize epic adventure doesn’t have to be quite so far away after all.