The Best POC Hiking Groups to Join
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I grew up in Boulder, Colorado and as a result of that upbringing, I experienced exploring the outdoors at a pretty young age.
But, my mom wasn’t the one taking me hiking, horseback riding, and camping. She was too busy working and trying to get through university, instead, the local YMCA actively introduced me to the outdoors and my love affair with the outdoors began.
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People of Color in the Outdoors
Hiking, climbing, and skiing are just a few of the outdoor activities that the average Coloradan enjoys throughout the year. I was fortunate enough to know of other people of color taking part in these activities but as I got older and more involved in the outdoor space that there were some underlying issues that prevented other people of color from enjoying the same activities that helped give me peace, energy, and the opportunity to connect with nature.
Lack of Community
I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve heard people talk about feeling uncomfortable exploring outdoor spaces. Especially on their own. No one wants to hike a mountain and feel like people are shocked that they are there.
Uncomfortable Being Outdoors
It’s interesting that just a couple of generations ago, most people lived lives that were firmly connected to nature. How things have changed.
Now, there are generations of Americans who’ve never had the opportunity to hike, bike, and explore due to proximity to nature, lifestyle, or even a lack of transportation. In fact, each time I’ve watched Survivor or the Amazing Race, contestants of color will often make off-hand comments expressing some of their discomfort with being outdoors.
Communities of Color In the Outdoors Space
One of the most interesting things about the rise of social media is the rise of not only influencers of color in the outdoor space, but the growth of communities that support, encourage and educate those individuals who would love to explore nature within a nurturing and safe community.
1. Outdoor Afro
Outdoor Afro is a community focused on encouraging African-Americans and allies to get outdoors and enjoy different experiences that members might not get the opportunity to enjoy. Outdoor Afro events are organized based on the chapter, chapter leader’s areas of interest, and what activities are available in the area that you currently live in.
I belong to the Denver, Colorado chapter and recent events include the following:
- Hiking 14ers: Colorado is the #1 location in the US for mountains that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. Hikers regularly look to hike these peaks. These types of hikes are incredibly technical so the Outdoor Afro chapter helped prepare members who weren’t used to this type of hike by doing a series of hikes that increased in difficulty over time.
- Ski Trips: Many of the members ski or snowboard but they might not have transportation available to them to get to the mountains. Carpools are organized to make sure that everyone has access to the event.
- Hunter Training Safety Course
- Camping Trips
2. Outdoor Asian
Similar to Outdoor Afro, Outdoor Asian has the same mandate to encourage support and share outdoor events and opportunities to members of the Asian community and people allied with the community.
Currently, there are 6 chapters out West: Washington State, Colorado, Oregan, San Francisco, L.A., and Utah.
Past events include the following: hiking, meetups, dirt biking, skiing, and more. In preparing for this post I looked at their social media and I’m thinking they are in the process of gearing up for the warmer months (no pun intended)
3. Latino Outdoors
This community is incredibly active and focused on the intersection of conservation, advocacy, and building a long-lasting community of people in the LatinX community who are not only enjoying outdoor spaces, but leading conversations driven by leaders nurtured and supported by the community.
Originally launched in California, Latino Outdoors is now a national organization with chapters across the United States.
4. Native Women’s Wilderness
One of the most interesting communities nurturing people of color in nature is Native Women’s Wilderness. What makes this organization so incredible is the ongoing conversation concerning whose land are we really exploring? How do we enjoy nature in a respectful way?
Social Media Creating Outdoor Equity
There is something to be said about seeing people who look like you doing the things that you want to do. Social media can be a hot mess of toxicity when left unchecked, but it is also a place that creates equity in unexpected ways.
When people follow my social media feeds they will see me, a black woman, regularly enjoying the outdoors. I make a point of showing that I hike, bike, snowboard, camp, and explore nature as often as I can. And, I love seeing platforms such as:
How to Find Outdoors Communities Of Color
There are a number of ways to become an active member of this space and begin exploring the outdoors with the different communities mentioned above.
- Create Your Own Group: Feel empowered enough to create your own outdoor community. Create your own podcast, blog, vlog, and attract your new community to your events. Use Eventbrite, Meetup, or Facebook Events to tell people about your events.
- Google: Use Google to search for communities based in your community.
- Reach out: If you don’t see a chapter for the community you would love to be a part of, reach out to see if and when a chapter may find its way near you.
- Meetup.com: Meetup is an incredible way to find community and people with similar interests. I belong to numerous hiking groups that aren’t just limited to groups of people of color. One of my favorite groups that I belong to here in Denver is called “Trails and Ales” the members are wonderful, the hikes are mind-blowing, and they always have carpools for the trips.
- Instagram: Here are a couple of #hashtags you can use to look for a community near you
- Podcasts: Search for shows that share outdoor adventures. You can find these shows via the Apple Podcast App or doing a search in Google.
Hiking Shouldn’t Be a Big Deal
Every time I go hiking, I’m deeply aware of how fortunate I am to have grown up with the experience of being in nature. And, I’m very aware that the fact that feeling the sun on my face, the breeze in my hair, and feeling secure as I explore spaces is an experience unique to my situation.
It’s my hope that you will find inspiration and encouragement to seek out a community that will nurture and encourage your interest in hiking and other outdoor activities.
Are there any more groups you know of that you want to add to this list? Leave them in the comments below!
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Michelle Jackson is passionate about getting outdoors and normalizing POC faces in outdoor spaces. She grew up in Colorado and jokes that she’s a Colorado cliche. With a love of hiking, biking, camping, walking, and snowboarding you can find her doing one of those things throughout the year. She shares her love of Colorado via her blog and podcast Square State.