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Portable Speakers on Hikes: Fun or Obnoxious? [Opinion]

In 2015, the 14ers in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains alone, endured the pounding feet of 72,000 hikers! Saturdays are the most popular peak bagging days by 30%. On a given summer Saturday, a popular peak like Grays or Torreys can experience up to 1,200 hikers between 6am and 2pm! We expect crowds at summertime amusement parks and beaches–it comes with the territory–but in the wilderness? Needless to say, people are surprised, grumpy even.

Long line of hikers on Quandary Peak Trail in Colorado on a busy summer Saturday.+PIN

Check out this long line of hikers on a summer Saturday on Quandary Peak’s trail!

Everyone in pursuit of a peak summit wants an outdoor adventure, a break away from society, an experience with nature, and popular hikes can present challenges to that ideal experience. You can see how sharing the trail becomes a shared responsibility that requires the patience of everyone. For example, you might have to adopt a slower pace or stop more frequently to let uphill hikers pass. But should you have to tolerate the audible sound of music from fellow hikers’ portable speakers?

Last weekend, I did trail restoration work with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative on Quandary Peak. I stopped working to move aside for hundreds of hikers throughout the day, many of them sporting backpacks with built-in speakers or portable speakers clipped to their packs. Their hike was soundtracked by their personal choice of jams. I heard Tim McGraw, Drake, and The Lumineers. Music can be a comforting and motivating companion on a hard climb to a summit. Who doesn’t want to get pumped up with their favorite song, or compile the perfect, epic playlist for your badass summit soundtrack? I definitely caught myself doing a little dance to someone who walked by playing a Chvrches song.

But some of my fellow volunteers balked. “Seriously?” they said, as these people partying on the mountain passed.  On a summer day, in Colorado at least, your epic soundtrack is suddenly forced on the ears of hundreds of other people too, and while some of them might dance or sing along with you, others might view the jam session as bothersome noise. I’m not going to lie: I had this same thought.

Trails aren+PIN

Trails aren’t meant to be wide for a reason so it can get tight with so many people and their pups.

After thinking about this issue, I decided to ask other outdoorists their thoughts on Instagram: What’s your opinion of music on the trail?

I thought I’d receive a lot of negative feedback, but many people viewed music as a positive experience in the outdoors. Some even said that they’d rather someone use portable speakers than hike with headphones because it’s safer–using headphones, they said, could make you dangerously oblivious to your surroundings and to nearby wildlife. That’s an interesting perspective! I think it’s awesome we’re looking out for each other!

Here’s what some rad outdoor adventurers from all over the world had to say about the issue, on Instagram.

Portable Speakers on Hikes: An IG Survey

ImKathleenFrank I think it’s a tough call! I prefer to be surrounded by nature out on a trail. It’s where I go to get away from social media and the usual buzz, but if someone is having fun with their music out on the trail, I try to just of with the flow and enjoy it. Part of the adventure!

InternationalHobbyist It would annoy the hell out of me. Fortunately not a trend that’s hit Switzerland yet…

meredithgoesoutside I’m with the use headphones crew. I get out in nature to break away from the city and people and noise of everyday life. If you have to bring that with you and project it into nature I feel like you’re missing the point of being out there, or at least messing with my enjoyment of it. Music can be a great motivator when you’re working your body hard, and I understand that (I need it when I’m running hard and need to distract myself from how difficult it can be), but keeping it to yourself is more respectful!

Patrick_Bodnar I don’t mind people listening to music as long as it’s at a reasonable volume. If music helps you, use that, just don’t blast it and potentially ruin somebody else’s hike!

PrepareforAdventure On the other hand, I’d rather the speakers than thme listening to headphones and not be able to hear anything around them!

FeetontheMap Depends on the music. I love listening to Tibetan songs in the Himalayas.

Line of hikers on ridgeline on Quandary Peak trail almost to the summit at 13,500ft+PIN

The line of hikers look like a line of ants moving along the ridgeline at 13,500ft, almost to the summit of Quandary Peak!

Sound Off: What’s Your Opinion?

Overall, it seems the common consensus was: If you’re going to listen to music, please use headphones so as not to disturb the sounds of nature for others.

So, do you think broadcasted music could be considered noise pollution? Do you think it’s everyone’s right to hike the way they want? Could hiking with headphones be dangerous? Let’s continue the conversation! Leave a comment, and remember to be please be nice.


  • Ellie from Chasing Little Wond

    I really loved this post, congrats!
    I believe that it’s important to respect other people adventures, too. But at the same time it’s true that everyone should be able to enjoy their own hike as they prefer. So I think it’s okay to use speakers, but at a low volume so that other people won’t be disturbed.

    Ellie from Chasing Little Wonders

  • Deepika Gumaste

    This is a great article Mandi.. love the post. This idea never even crossed my mind before you asked the question. Thanks for the mention too. And yes… again as I said before.. music can heal. But let it not be a nuisance to others…