A tour activity that's growing in popularity? Take a hike

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There's been a lot of talk in luxury circles in recent years about biking being the new golf. But if the latest booking trends from one of the world's leading active-travel companies are any indication, hiking may be on its way to becoming the new biking.

Backroads, a 38-year-old company that was founded on biking trips, says walking and hiking tours are now its fastest growing segment, posting double-digit growth in the past few years.

K.C. Hoppe, who manages travel adviser relations for the company, said those tours had always been kind of a "sleeper" segment, with biking and multi-adventure options driving its core business.

"Walking was just sort of plugging along, not doing much," she said. "Then suddenly, the last few years it really started really growing." She noted the company has added 300 walking and hiking departures this year.

"It's a really a growing trend, and we're all sort of asking why," she said.

One reason, Hoppe said could be that perhaps people were "aging out" of biking. "That is the case for me. I used to be a biker; after a double-knee injury, now I'm a hiker." The rise in multigeneration travel may also be playing a role. "A walking trip certainly appeals to a broader audience," she said. "If it's a family or a group of friends and you have someone who's not going to bike, that's a game changer. Everyone can hike."

The company, which offers a variety of luxury itineraries, says Italy's Cinque Terre, California's Wine Country and Iceland walking and hiking tours are the company's most popular, while its Taste of Camino de Santiago is the most requested custom walking and hiking itinerary for private group travel.

Backroads is also creating more crossover between its trips and its marketing. "We've always done a separate catalog for walking," Hoppe said. "Now we're seeing more crossover. Now we're putting some more multisport trips in our walking brochure. People are doing more than one activity. I think people are mixing it up a bit more."

The company said trips that combine walking and hiking with other activities such as biking, kayaking and rafting in locations like Iceland, Yellowstone & Tetons, and the Canadian Rockies have ranked among its top 10 bestsellers in the past two years. 

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