What hiking while high taught me about cannabis consumption

Hiking high: photo of people enjoying overlook.

Enjoying cannabis in nature heightens my experience. The amplified sounds of leaves in the breeze and the fascinating fractals of a common fern become even more engaging. But as I began regularly hiking longer and more arduous trails, I noticed that starting a hike stoned could also affect my experience negatively.

I grew up in the stucco-crusted suburbs and moved directly to a concrete city when I turned 18. It wasn’t until I was offered a dispensary job in a small mountain town that I began to connect to nature. In that mountain town, I met my now-husband, an avid outdoorsman whose idea of a good time involves chopping wood for three hours.

When we first started dating, he asked if I liked hiking, and of course, I said yes. But to me, a girl who spent the last eight years living in San Francisco, hiking meant wandering into Golden Gate Park to find a neat grotto for rolling a joint. So you can imagine my confusion when I showed up stoned for a chill hike with said future husband, and it turned out to be a suffer-fest. While it wasn’t what I had in mind, that experience kicked off a revolution in how I choose to consume cannabis outdoors, especially when it comes to hiking.

Trail to Bridal Veil Falls in Index, WA, ancestral home of the Skykomish people; 2018

Since the plant deepens my connection to nature, I used to start a hike with a toke, but that became unsustainable when I started embarking on longer treks. Personally, as my cannabis high wears off, lethargy will often kick in, which is not ideal on the first leg of a 10-mile round trip. Getting droopy-eyed and yawning after two miles didn’t provide a positive outlook while trudging over rocks and through seemingly endless switchbacks. So I asked myself if my cannabis use was serving me, and in this instance, it turns out it wasn’t.

It was only after self-reflection on my cannabis use that I realized using cannabis at the beginning of a hike hindered my experience. That realization reshaped how I enjoyed the plant on the trail. I still believed that cannabis helps me appreciate all of the little delights found in nature, but I wasn’t using the tool in the right way. Rather than removing cannabis from my hiking rituals, I reshaped how I consume it. Instead of starting a hike with a toke, I take a hit when I need a pick-me-up amidst a long journey and as a recovery tool once I’m home with my boots off– now my cannabis use is intentional both in my daily life and on the trail.

I wasn’t consciously engaging in my relationship with cannabis at the start of my relationship with hiking. But picking up the hobby forced me to confront an aspect of my cannabis consumption that had become habitual, and that lesson slowly carried over to affect the rest of my life. Now I regularly check in with myself about why I’m using cannabis, how much I consume, and how it affects my daily life.

The way cannabis interacts with the human body is different for everyone, so while advice is helpful, it’s most important to stay in dialogue with yourself about your cannabis use. Whether you’re questioning your wake and bake or considering switching from a bong to a dry herb vape– you should regularly engage in self-assessment. Shifting my cannabis consumption has helped me find a deeper connection to the plant—and the natural world around me.


Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.