Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Wildland Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Forest Resources

Committee Chair(s)

Richard Schreyer


Richard Schreyer


Kent B. Downing


James J. Kennedy


Brian L. Pitcher


Gary E. Madsen


This study explored how recreation specialization and different types of motivations were related to environmental settings preferred by backcountry hikers. A questionnaire was developed that measured the level of hiking specialization, desired psychological outcomes, and preferred environmental setting attributes. Questionnaires were mailed to 619 backcountry hikers from three Intermountain West hiking areas; a response rate of 68 percent was attained.

Results of the study revealed significant associations between the level of hiking specialization and the psychological states desired by backcountry hikers. In general, increased hiking specialization served to increase the importance of specific psychological outcomes such as autonomy, exercise, achievement and nature. Significant associations were also found between the level of hiking specialization and the types of environmental settings preferred by hikers. Hiking specialization exhibited significant relationships with 55 percent of the studied environmental setting attributes, especially within the physical and managerial setting domains. The five study motives were especially adept at explaining the physical setting attributes desired by hikers, but lacked predictive power in explaining preferences for managerial settings.

The final study analysis utilized two canonical correlation analyses to allow the specialization and motive variables to be combined as a set of independent variables to see which combinations would emerge as important predictors. The specialization variable emerged in both canonical analyses as the first and dominant indicator of the setting attributes. Additional interpretations of the canonical results indicated that two motive-based orientations to backcountry hiking may exist.

The findings of this study have implications for researchers and managers seeking to understand why environmental settings are valued differently by recreationists, even within the same activity style. Secondly, researchers studying recreation motivation could utilize recreation specialization as a useful developmental framework for explaining differences in motivational states over time. The results also imply that management strategies sensitive to changes in levels of recreation specialization may be less costly in dollars and offer a more precise way of defining the diversity of opportunity and settings sought by recreationists.