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What is Bushwalking?

By G. Wiesen
Updated: Feb 07, 2024

Bushwalking is a term for hiking that is typically used by English speakers from Australia and New Zealand, though it has gained popularity in other regions as well. In some areas it can refer to any type of hiking, both on trail and off trail, though in other regions where its usage is potentially less common it is often reserved only for off trail hiking. Bushwalking is a somewhat common practice by many people throughout the world, typically those seeking a sense of solace and quiet repose away from the noise and crowds of large cities.

Sometimes simply referred to as “walking,” bushwalking seems to originate in usage in Australia and was likely first coined by a hiking group formed in the early 20th century. Members of the group named themselves the “Bush Walkers” and later became the “Sydney Bush Walkers.” The term “bush” refers in general to dense areas of wilderness where passage can be difficult and may require a certain amount of effort or clearing to pass through. Specifically, the term “bush” is used to refer to the particular mixture of vegetation found throughout Australia, often a combination of forest and scrub brush that can be fairly dense.

In other regions, bushwalking has been used to refer to hiking off trails through this type of dense vegetation, though in Australia it can mean hiking on trails and off trails as well. There are a number of different bushwalking societies and groups in Australia and New Zealand, often devoted to promoting exploration and enjoyment of the environment. These groups and many independent bushwalkers are often committed to low impact enjoyment of nature, typically striving to ensure that natural beauty is not disrupted by clearing or leaving garbage. Many of these groups are against trailblazing, preferring to allow those who follow to explore and discover an area just as they did.

A great deal of bushwalking occurs in the national parks and state forests of Australia, much as most hiking in the United States is done in similar regions. This type of outdoor activity can be enjoyed by just about anyone, from infants to people in their 90s, and the truly committed bushwalkers will enjoy nature year round, from the heat of summer and through the snows of winter. Bushwalkers often travel in groups of at least two, since lone exploration can be potentially dangerous.

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