Chances are, you’ve likely come across one on your adventures, but what is the Hiking Grandpa? Here’s your field guide to the most common (and underrated) cryptid.


In North America, many claim that a Big Foot lurks amongst the trees. Australians often report to tourists the occasional drop bear sighting. And in the Scottish moors, you might even catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster swimming laps in the highland waterways. 

But there is a cryptid that has been spotted in woods the world over. They often drift into your path along hiking trails, impart cryptic wisdom and then fade into the forest with nary a trace. Often leaving you questioning whether you imagined the interaction entirely…

Hiking Grandpas – Who is he?

These old blokes haunt hiking hotspots wrapped up in fleeces older than the trails themselves. 

They sport beards in varying shades of silver and white, but the gleam in their eye and inexplicable pep in their step suggests that they’ve stumbled across some fountain of youth in their many years of bush bashing.


Some are adorned in oilskin hats with foraged feathers tucked behind the band. Others have well-loved gear you’d only dream of, because ‘they don’t make ‘em like this anymore’. But all appear to have an uncanny knack for making campfires out of thin air and damp firewood. 

However, unlike most urban legends, these cryptids are far more benevolent than say the Bunyip, or Mothman. More often than not, they seek only to impart sage advice (albeit of questionable origin and veracity).

Read more: How Many Of These Adventure Stereotypes Do You Know?

They’re Known for Their Pearls of Cryptic Wisdom

I’ll forever remember my first encounter with a hiking grandpa. We were deep into a multiday hike in the middle of summer, when a flash of walking sticks and grey hair trundled past us. 

‘Careful, ants are marchin’ so there’s a storm a brewin’.’

By the time we registered what he’d said, the hiking grandpa in question had disappeared into the thicket of gumtrees. We considered the cloudless sky above, giggled in confusion, and carried on.

Sure enough, by the time we reached our campsite, dark clouds had rolled in and thunder rumbled overhead. That night, as we cooked our two minute noodles in a picnic shelter with rain bucketing down around us, I was half convinced we’d crossed paths with a member of the fae.


In the years since, I’ve been gifted plenty more gems of trail-mix wisdom with varying degrees of usefulness and truth.

‘If you ever lose your compass, moss always grows facing south in Aus.’

‘You’ll never meet a store bought firestarter better than dried bracken.’

‘You can suck the nectar from lantana flowers and it tastes just like honey water.’

Whilst most of these suggestions should be taken with a large grain of salt, these hiking grandpas speak with the knowledge of someone who’s spent decades living in the woods. Only a fool would reject these wise words outright.

(For real though, don’t trust moss to direct you, instead make sure you’re well-versed in bush navigation).


Coffs Harbour to Yamba: 125km of Coastal Hiking, Wendy Bruere, beach, flowers

Also don’t eat just anything a random man in the woods tells you to! Here’s How To Forage For Local Knowledge (And Food!) | @wendy_bruere

The Stories These Grandpas Have Lived

If you ever find yourself across the campfire from a hiking grandpa, track down a perfect marshmallow stick and settle in. For the stories these grandpas have lived could fill a hundred volumes. 

One may recount stories of kayaking the Amazon River with nothing but a paper map and the stars as a guide (well… maybe also with the help of an actual local guide, he’d admit cheekily afterwards). Others will discuss their younger years hiking the Appalachian Trail, with snow up to their waists.

Another will reminisce about living on a hippie commune in the 60s and hiking the woods each morning to forage firewood (although I’m not entirely convinced the commune in question wasn’t a cult).

But these men of the woods have not only lived enchanting lives, they’re excellent storytellers; often keen to share their tales with any traveller who asks politely enough. Although, be wary as many agree that the truth should never get in the way of a good story.


A Word to the Wise

Perhaps you too have already had an encounter with these legends of the woods. Maybe you were even lucky enough to gain an insightful and potentially questionable piece of advice from them.

If you haven’t, not to worry. Go on enough hikes, and coming across a hiking grandpa becomes less a question of ‘if’ and more a question of ‘when’.

Regardless, whenever you cross paths with one of these cryptids, remember to listen carefully. You might find yourself wiser, more enlightened on the hiking customs of old, or at the very least shaving a few minutes off your hike. 

And if you ever find yourself longing for one of these wise men of the woods to appear, just remember; wendigos might smell fear, but hiking grandpas can smell when you’re not sure which trail to take. 



Feature photo thanks to Adam Baker