Is Hiking Actually Inclusive? Surprising Ways That It’s Not and What to Do About It

Is Hiking Actually Inclusive? Surprising Ways That It’s Not and What to Do About It

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I grew up hiking in the mountains of Colorado. But, if I told you that I never went hiking with my  mom I bet that would surprise you. In fact, I went hiking and exploring through the many different programs that my mom was able to enroll me in. I was a part of YMCA, but Boulder, Colorado’s YMCA is pretty bougie. I was able to participate in Outward Bound, an incredible experience that I had when I was 13 years old. Myself and around 6 other teens and 2 counselors hiked for 3 weeks across the Rocky Mountains. 

To this day, it’s one of the coolest experiences that I’ve had in the outdoors and one of the most quintessential outdoors experiences you could have that is “peak” Colorado. As an adult I realized that my midwestern, single mom just didn’t have the time to enjoy these activities because she was so busy working. She did get to enjoy a lot of these activities later but that’s not my story to tell. 

Is Hiking Actually Inclusive?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this question. If you’re thinking about doing a thru hike, I even shared Patricia Cameron’s experience hiking the Colorado Trail and the pushback that she got when sharing that thru hiking and hiking is not necessarily an accessible activity. Someone reading this may say “All you need is a good pair of shoes and the ability to read a trail” But, I would say if that were the case then why do so few people of color feel uncomfortable hiking and enjoying outdoor spaces?

5 Reasons Why Hiking Isn’t Inclusive

I’m not just talking about inclusivity based on race, but also based on other types of accessibility. Here are 5 reasons why hiking might not be as inclusive as we thought.

  • Lack of transportation-For many years, it was very difficult to visit the mountains of Colorado without a car. If you lived in Denver and didn’t have a car, it was highly unlikely you would be able to go hiking unless someone set up a carpool or was part of a hike designed to get folks into the mountains who would otherwise not have access to those trails. 
  • A lack of visible diversity in outdoors focused media-It is often brought up that seeing people doing the things you would like to do leads to a positive perception of your ability to engage in activity or aspirational goals. Visible diversity in hiking related content is a relatively new thing. 
  • Cost-Weirdly, hiking equipment can be surprisingly expensive. When I went shopping for hiking shoes the range was between $35 for meh quality shoes to hundreds of dollars. Then there’s the cost of gas to get to a quality location, snacks and the time cost of  recreating outdoors.
  • Not having outdoors related skills to hike safely-Traversing across your state by foot is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t have basic hiking skills and knowledge it can also be dangerous to do.  
  • Proximity to outdoors spaces-This issue  is a little different from transportation accessibility. There are some areas that don’t have recreational spaces because of policy related to planning those communities.

Happily, there are a number of ways we can make hiking more accessible and it’s surprisingly straightforward.

5 Ways to Make Hiking More Accessible

  • Highlight and share transit access to trailheads in and around your town. Create Meetup groups that carpool to hikes that may be difficult to get to. Partner with organizations such as Outdoor Afro, Outdoor Latino and Asians Outdoors to design impactful and unique experiences for attendees.
  • There are a number of ways to lower the cost of getting your hiking gear.
    • Shop at second hand shops for hiking poles and other gear.
    • Buy hiking shoes on sale.
    • Apply for grants or scholarships that you qualify for from outdoors organizations focused on helping communities manage the cost of enjoying the outdoors.
    • Join hiking Meetup Groups.
  • Learn outdoors skills by hiking with friends who go frequently. Sign up for free outdoors skills experiences hosted by organizations such as Outdoor Afro-leaders will also host skills experiences where each hike is increasingly more difficult. 
  • Sign up for a hike the next time you visit a place known for it. I keep mentioning organizations such as Outdoor Afro, and Outdoor Latino. Joining pre-arranged events where you just show up and go is a lot easier than trying to organize it yourself in a place that you’re unfamiliar with. I feel a little admitting this but, I traveled to Australia and when I was there I wanted to go hiking in the mountains and avoid all of the things that could kill in the wild. So, I signed up for a hike being advertised on It was a fantastic experience and a great way for me to enjoy the outdoors while traveling. 

Finally, this feels a little cliche but, be the change you would like to see. Helping expand access to even one person who would like to enjoy the outdoors could be a profoundly impactful experience. I know that early experiences made a huge difference to me. 

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