Hiking has a diversity problem. Although people of color make up almost 40% of the U.S. population, about 70% of the people who visit national forests and parks are white, according to 2018 data from the National Health Foundation. Why? One possible reason is that the archetype of an "outdoorsy" person has long been anything but inclusive, primarily geared toward white, able-bodied, and straight size folks.
Hiking groups across the country, however, are changing that narrative and making the great outdoors safe and accessible for everyone no matter their race, gender, body type, physical abilities, or sexual orientation. They do this through social media advocacy, removing barriers (e.g. leading wheelchair-accessible hikes), creating communities that make underrepresented groups feel welcomed and included, participating in mentorship programs, and of course, lots of group hiking adventures.
Whether you're craving more hikes in your life for the fitness component, to nurture your relationship with nature, or to immerse yourself in a warm and welcoming community, here are seven inclusive hiking groups across the U.S. to check out.
Location: Based in Dallas, Texas with ambassadors across the U.S.
Members: 7,800 + members in Facebook groups and 12,500 + Instagram followers
About the Club: As its name suggests, this 501c3 nonprofit founded in 2019 is all about connecting the LGBTQ+ community to the great outdoors, encouraging IRL connection, and bringing diversity to the traditionally heteronormative outdoors industry. "We are out to let our community know the outdoors is for them, and it is a place where you are welcome — even when you feel like the bars and clubs are the only places you can be yourself," says LGBT+ Outdoors founder Justin Yoder. On the agenda this year is LGBT Outdoorfest in Texas and Colorado where attendees will camp out and learn lots of outdoor skills including archery, wilderness first aid, and cooking over a fire.
Location: Based in the Pacific Northwest with a national community
Members: No formal membership, 18,400+ Instagram followers
About the Club: Founded in 2018, Disabled Hikers is more than just a club of like-minded people getting together for a fun hike, although that is part of it. It’s on a mission to celebrate people with disabilities’ experiences and create big changes. "Disability is still incredibly underrepresented in the outdoors, but people with disabilities are just as interested in hiking as anyone else and have a right to access nature," says founder and director Syren Nagakyrie. "In addition to group hikes and events, we advocate for accessibility and inclusion, publish trail guides, and will be launching leadership development programs." For instance, the group recently hosted wheelchair-accessible hikes at redwood parks in Northern California, and all events are disability-led and centered on creating supportive, safe experiences for each hiker.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Members: Host events for up to 45 people each month, 34,000+ Instagram followers
About the Club: The Black Girls Trekkin group was founded in 2017 by and for Black women who crave community and outdoor adventure. Allies of all races and genders are also welcome. The group hosts monthly events all over Los Angeles county and often takes trips outside of the city. Whatever the itinerary, one thing is certain — Black Girls Trekkin is up for a challenge and sure knows how to have a good time. Case in point: Members recently braved the snow to climb up a mountain and headed to Joshua Tree for a fun-filled camping trip.
Location: Founded in Los Angeles, California
Members: 25,400 + Instagram followers
About the Club: In 2017, Evelynn Escobar founded Hike Clerb, an intersectional women's hike club and 501c(3), to help make the outdoors a place where Black, Indigenous women of color can feel safe, seen, supported, and collectively heal in nature through monthly hikes. In 2021 alone, they hosted numerous sold-out events in Los Angeles, Toronto, and New York City, where the group met up at Central Park to honor the site where the African American community of Seneca Village once called home. Beyond the hiking outings, the clerb also participates in mentorship programs supporting underrepresented youth in Los Angeles, instilling the belief in them that they too belong in nature. "It's been the most rewarding journey to see how it's taken shape and the tangible impact we've made in the community at large," Escobar says of making this inclusive outdoor fantasy a reality.
How to Join: Follow on Instagram @hikeclerb and sign up for the newsletter at hikeclerb.com. Other ways to support the clerb: attend virtual or in-person events, engage on social media, and donate money to help cover costs.
Location: Nationwide chapters, founded in California
Members: 43,700 + followers on Instagram
About the Club: Embracing culture, family, and the outdoors is what Latino Outdoors, founded in 2013, is all about. They do this through three key programs centered around creating inclusive outdoor experiences, championing Latinx stories, and leadership development. Expect lots of group day hikes (complete with delicious conchas, tamales, and dulces as hiking snacks, no less), but also many other outdoor adventures — think ice skating, camping, backpacking, bicycling, and climbing — many of which are family-friendly.
Location: Washington, Oregon, Los Angeles, Vermont, Texas, Colorado
Members: 6,000+ Instagram followers, 1,300+ members in chapter Facebook groups
About the Club: Find the Outdoor Asian crew doing all the outdoor things together: hiking, foraging for mushrooms, climbing, surfing, fishing, building sandcastles — you name it. However, the most valuable thing about being a member is the sense of friendship and community created through a shared love for the outdoors, which has, until now, been a challenge for the Asian and Pacific Islanders community to find in the outdoor space. According to co-founder Christopher Chalaka, "The magic is when we discover new ways of being ourselves and with each other, a transformation that seems to be so easily ignited by the joy, mystery, and awe that thrives in the setting of mountains, forests, plains, and seas."
Location: Worldwide, home base in Portland, Oregon
Members: 140,000+ followers on Instagram
About the Club: Jenny Bruso, an inclusive and body-positive outdoor community, nationwide hiking group, and a forthcoming podcast, founded Unlikely Hikers, in 2016. "We accept the diversity found in nature with ease, but we struggle with extending it to not only other humans, but to ourselves even though we are nature," says Bruso. This spirit of humans being the embodiment of nature, their mission to elevate underrepresented outdoorsy people, and their no-hiker-left-behind policy are just some of the things that make Unlikely Hikers a welcome space for all who are seeking healing and connection in nature, including people of color, queer, trans, non-binary, disabled, and neurodivergent. One of their most recent treks involved a climb on stolen Chumash land in Los Angeles complete with a stunning view from the top and a donation to the Chumash Indian Museum.
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