What’s Your View of Heli-Hiking?

Heli-Hiking: The Latest Hiking Trend
This weekend in the Wall Street Journal there was an article about a new trend called Heli-Hiking. I certainly had never heard of it before, and sure hope this doesn’t gain popularity.

Apparently tour companies are setting up heli-hiking trips, flying people in to pristine wilderness areas so they can go on day hikes before being picked up and transported back to their resort hotel.

For me, the journey is what makes my hikes and backpacking trips adventurous and fun. Arriving at a beautiful mountain meadow or glacial lake is even more thrilling knowing that I arrived on my own two feet (after leaving the car behind at the trailhead of course!).

What will happen to pristine mountain terrain if helicopters start making frequent trips to remote spots in the wilderness? How will animal habitats be affected when whirling chopper blades interfere with soaring eagles… how about the noise pollution for the rest of us who will be hiking in?

Yes I understand that people with knee issues may never be able to see remote parts of the wilderness…and many pristine landscapes will remain inaccessible to most people…but perhaps that is how it should remain.

What do you think about heli-hiking? Check out the full Wall Street Journal article about heli-hiking tours and please share your comments below.


  1. Hiking Lady says:

    Thank you for your comment David. I fully agree with your last line about enjoying the great outdoors! I just continue to hope that fragile areas aren’t negatively impacted from helicopter landings.

  2. David says:

    As someone who went on my first Heli-hiking trip this year, I can say that it truly is a life changing experience. I have climbed many mountains in my life throughout the rocky mountains and I must say, there is something special about climbing areas that you know very very few people have ever been. Is it really that much more rewarding to climb from a parking lot up to an alpine meadow, or even the summit of a mountain? I can guarantee getting dropped of in an alpine meadow and climbing a glacier is just as rewarding, if not more because you don’t have to deal with the bugs in the swamp you just flew over. I mean after all, when it really comes down to it, the bears are probably pissed that you are driving through their front yard to get to your parking lot. The important thing here is that people are out enjoying the great outdoors. In my opinion, doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you are doing it and loving it…

  3. EJ says:

    Mountain meadows are very fragile. In an area with no established trails, the meadows can be trampled even with very few visitors.

    Wilderness Area designation in the US prevents any motorized traffic.

    The carbon footprint for heli-hiking must be huge – enjoy it while you can.

  4. Ryan Bailey says:

    I feel that taking a heli into remote locations is like hunting with an automatic weapon, it’s cheating. Plus it takes away from the experience of accomplishing a feat yourself. Not to mention the fact about noise and the overall effect of the heli’s themselves. The blog looks great keep up the good work Carol.

  5. Hiking Lady says:

    I’ve luckily missed the airplane doing barrel rolls at Casper’s Wilderness Park! I do hike a lot and go trail running in Orange County and I have now started to take my iPod along to drown out the helicopters that are constantly flying over. Kinda sad because I like hearing chirping birds and the sounds of nature. I look forward to my backpacking trip to the Eastern Sierras next weekend… no choppers up there yet! 🙂

  6. Steph says:

    For me the silence is just as much of a draw as the landscape when hiking. Have you ever been hiking at Casper’s Wilderness Park when that clown in the airplane is doing barrel rolls all day long?

  7. Jeanette K. says:

    I think it’s a really interesting concept. It definitely takes some of the adventure out of hiking. However, for those who might not be able to hike to the top of a mountain, it can make a big difference.

    I would not worry about this becoming mainstream. It’s pretty pricey, and most people who are into the great outdoors want to explore it the natural way :).

  8. Hiking Lady says:

    Thank you for detailed comment, Jane. I am pleased to hear that the trips organized by your company are cognizant of the potential noise pollution and avoid the popular hiking areas.

    My biggest concern is that this may become more mainstream, and expand well beyond the Canadian backcountry. I understand and appreciate that planes and helicopters are needed to get to remote regions – even the U.S. National Parks service helps people arrange short plane trips to get to the 2 northern most national parks in Alaska.

    While it sounds like CMH is responsible in how they travel, other groups may be less so, particularly if this becomes more popular.

  9. Jane says:

    Hi Carol
    Thanks for posting this article and raising some great questions. I work for CMH, the company that pioneered Heli-Hiking in 1978. We have been guiding guests in the remote ranges of the Columbia Mountains of Canada for over 30 years.
    The areas we hike in see very few hikers other than the guests of CMH as we have exclusive rights to the terrain in which we operate. We have two remote lodges in the backcountry which are used to accommodate our heli-hiking guests. Our season is short – July 6 to September 10 and we host, as the WSJ article says, only about 1000 guests each summer between our two areas.
    Why use a helicopter? To reach the alpine lakes and high mountain ridges in which we hike would otherwise take days of bushwacking through thick under growth, which is why there are so few other hikers in this area. This region of Canada is vast and rarely visited. Our 1000 guests are among the very few who see these mountains each summer. Unlike Andra’s experience, our helicopter rarely disturbs other hikers. There are numerous climbing parties that do journey to the Bugaboos to climb there and we do not fly over and around that area to allow them to enjoy the solitude of the mountains.
    Helicopter access to the mountains is not new – climbers and skiers have been using helicopters and small planes to reach remote locations for years and years. And in our case it does allow those with bad knees to see the world as they otherwise may have not been able to (as a cruise ship allows travellers to see places they would not be able to get to on their own and an airplane allows us to travel around the world to explore foreign cultures and lost civilizations) but many of our guests are fit, eager hikers and mountaineers anxious to explore new terrain with professional mountain guides.
    I hope you’ll come up and try it! It’s a fantastic experience.
    Thanks again,
    Jane Carswell / CMH Summer Adventures.

  10. Hiking Lady says:

    Thanks for the insightful comment, Andra! That must have been a little unnerving to have the fly-bys while you were hiking.

  11. Andra says:

    On a particular hike two weeks ago, we were subject to helicopter fly-bys approximately every 5 to 7 minutes for about an hour or so. We even commented about the disruption in the peacefulness that comes with mountain hiking. We had to be careful not to raise our arms above our heads for any reason, in fear they would interpret that as us saying we need help. We did wonder were they sight-seeing tours, were they transporting hikers to remote locations, were they making deliveries to mountain top lodges or were they on search and rescue missions. This was an unusual day for so many fly overs within such a short time frame. The norm is maybe one fly over every second or third time I am out hiking.

    I would love to hike in the places the helicopters fly to! If I could ever get to these places on foot then that would be my mode of travel. I am not wealthy by any means so the price of heli-hiking is way beyond anything I could, or would even want to, dish the cash out for.

Comment or Question:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *