By Dave Pack
Sep 23, 2013

Why I Love 50-Mile Hikes

I love 50-mile (80 km) hikes, not so much because they’re fun but because they teach young men to do hard things.

Most young men who start 50-milers think they’re prepared, but it doesn’t take long—just a few miles up that first ridge—before they wonder who talked them into it. That night, unlike on other campouts, they’re quiet and they go to bed early rather than stay up late talking.

The next morning, there’s a solemn feeling in the camp—not a lot of discussion. And as the young men start their climb again, they contemplate life and death. By that afternoon they’re missing their mothers and wondering whether they’ll ever see them again.

By the second night around the campfire, you have the most teachable, ready-to-learn, ready-to-listen-to-the-Spirit young men you will ever see. You won’t see them that way in priesthood meeting or at home or at school or on activity night. As a result, there will be an opportunity around that campfire for testimony bearing and teaching that will sink deep into their hearts and that they will remember for a lifetime.

Such experiences require dedicated adult leaders who are willing to get out with the young men, mentor them, allow them to lead, and be there for them.

By the last day of a 50-miler, the young men feel that they have accomplished the hardest thing they’ve ever done—and they’ve survived! They go home realizing that doing better in school and serving a mission may not be so difficult after all. The bar has been raised for them. In the process they come to love and appreciate their parents more, and they can’t wait to see them again.

When we do and teach hard things, we bring young men to a level of competence and confidence that prepares them for the future—the opportunity to serve an honorable mission, be successful in school, become a worthy husband and father, and do other things the Lord expects of them.

That’s why a functioning Aaronic Priesthood quorum is so important in the life of a young man. When we successfully integrate Duty to God and Scouting into an Aaronic Priesthood program, we help the priesthood quorum strengthen its young men and prepare them for the future.




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7 thoughts on “Why I Love 50-Mile Hikes

  1. social

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  2. Ryan Smith

    Thanks for the great article. It’s information like this that gives me courage to push back all the criticism and complaining that comes when we try to plan hard things. Thanks for reminding me what Scouting is all about.

  3. Jeff

    Do you have any advice about how to get the scouts excited about doing a 50 mile hike? We brought it up a few years ago and because the troop is boy led I decided to not push the fifty mile hike. After reading your article I have a change of heart. Do you have any advice about getting the kids and their parents behind a 50 mile hike?

    1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner

      Maybe your boys would get more excited about a 50 mile hike if they get to interact with other troops and have some competition. Eagle Mountain puts on a great 50/20 hike every fall. Check out the blog article The boys have to try and do the hike in 20 hours which makes it even harder, but the challenge may be appealing to some boys.

    2. Heidi Sanders

      The reality is you start with a two-mile hike and then you start doing overnighters where they hike in and hike out. They bring all of their equipment. No troop should do a 50-miler without multiple preparatory trips that are shorter distances. It doesn’t take very many trips to get the youth hooked on camping and backpacking. If you start out with a 50-miler, chances are that every boys that every boy will come back with more aches and pains than they should and will never want to do it again! The Scout program features for backpacking has a lot of great curriculum to help boys prepare and learn how to backpack. Good luck and I hope your boys will love to backpack as much as my boys have enjoyed 50-milers. J. Reinertson

    3. Russell

      I am a 50 miler convert! I believe a troop should do a 50 miler one year and an organized camp the next year. I have organized and helped 3 – 50 milers with different troops and it will be something they will never forget. We speak of the positive aspects of the 50 miler to get the boys interested. Several boys will not be interested and they are likely the ones that need it most. I have 5 sons and 4 of the 5 had the chance to go on 50 milers and they all speak about the hike in positive terms and how it helped them on their missions because they knew they coudl do “hard things”. A 50 miler needs to be planned months in advance and the troop needs alot of support and parental encouragement.

      Go for it! you will not regret it.


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