The Economic Value of Hiking: Further Considerations of Opportunity Cost of Time in Recreational Demand Models

Uses studied:
Place: Linville


This study found that hikers were willing to travel on average over four hours to visit the Grandfather Mountain Wilderness Preserve and its trail system, and did so five times per year. Although this study is old, it is one of the few with values specifically for a day of hiking, particularly in the southern U.S.


This study would be of interest for hiking destinations with unique natural resources or trails infrastructure. The study site is unique for its extensive trails and biodiversity, which is reflected in the long distances traveled to visit the site and frequency with which respondents visited.


This study was conducted for hikers in the Grandfather Mountain Wilderness Preserve in Linville, North Carolina, in the mountainous western part of the state.

Trail Type

The Preserve includes a 30-mile hiking trail network and is also unique in the area for its biodiversity and rare species. At the time of the study, the area was privately owned, with a conservation easement held by The Nature Conservancy. It has since been turned into a state park.


The primary purpose of the study was to improve on methods for estimating users’ value for a trail system based on estimates of the cost required to travel to the trails. The findings can be used to infer the value of a day of hiking in the Preserve.


Survey respondents visited the site frequently, visiting an average of 5.6 times per year. They also tended to travel far to visit the Preserve, traveling an average of 4.5 hours round-trip.

Based on the frequency of visits and relatively far distances traveled, visitors demonstrated a relatively high value for hiking in the Preserve. The estimated value per person, per year ranged from $1,207-$2,893 depending on the modeling assumptions used. Dividing this by the average number of trips per year (5.6) yields per-trip values of $216-$517 per person.


The authors surveyed visitors to the Preserve whose sole purpose was hiking, using mailing addresses obtained from hiking permits. Respondents were asked about their primary purpose for visiting the Preserve, the number of visits per year, round-trip travel time, time at the site, total costs for the trip, questions regarding household income, and whether they were aware that The Nature Conservancy held easements on the site. In the end, of the 453 surveys mailed, 43 respondents whose primary purpose was hiking returned usable surveys, a relatively small sample.


Casey, J., T. Vukina, and L. Danielson. 1995. “The Economic Value of Hiking: Further Considerations of Opportunity Cost of Time in Recreational Demand Models.” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 27(2): 658-668.