by Diane Spicer
If you’re a social animal, you’re instinctively drawn to hiking groups.
You’re a social hiker if:
- You like to chat while you hike.
- Solo hiking doesn’t interest you – too much planning and decision making.
- You want to meet new people.
- You feel safer on the trail with lots of people around.
- You want to pick up some new hiking skills from more seasoned hikers.
- You’d rather just show up and let someone else take the lead while you enjoy the hike.
- You like to carpool to a trail head, reducing your carbon foot print.
- You’re new to the area, and don’t know the best hiking trails yet.
Any or all of these reasons make finding a group to hike with a great idea for you!
But here’s the thing…
Before you jump into a social hiking situation, consider your answers to these questions:
*How much structure can I tolerate before, during, and after a hike?
*How flexible am I with my available hiking time?
*Do I want a mixed gender group? A mixed age group?
*How far am I willing to drive to meet up with my hiking group?
*How much input do I want into hiking destinations, types of trails, and other decisions?
*Are there fees for joining the hiking group? If so, what are the fees used for?
Once you know exactly what type of group hiking arrangement you’re looking for, it’s time to find the perfect set of hikers for your hiking style.
Types of hiking groups
As you read through these descriptions, try to picture yourself hiking with these folks. Would they make ideal hiking companions for you?
Hard core mountaineering groups
The attributes of this type of social group include:
structured and regimented approach,
- focused on attaining a goal,
- may require taking classes
to build skills before being allowed in.
Serious hikers only in this
Informal, casual groups
This type usually springs up
organically from a cluster of hiking friends/families.
You may be
invited by knowing a member of the group, or a friend of a friend.
Expect this type of hiking:
- light hearted, companionable trail time with revolving members,
- may be dog and kid friendly, or not
– be sure to ask before your first hike with them.
Organized regional groups
These tend to be loose collections of
hikers of all different skill and interest levels. Hikes are arranged at
various times of the year, and whomever shows up is “the” group that
Membership “rules” are very relaxed.
- various skill levels, so you may end up mentoring others, or learning new trail skills,
- friendly, non-competitive hiking,
- may not hike in less than ideal weather conditions,
- may run a forum and post invitations for new members,
- may allow you to
join the forum and post without actually being a member (see below for why that’s helpful).
Hikers who self identify in various ways often get together to day hike or plan backpacking trips.
- religious affiliations
- alumni groups
- training for a long trail
- peak baggers
- trail maintenance junkies
If you don’t buy into the theme of the group, you’ll be an outsider either overtly, or in subtle ways.
So be sure the group you are considering is a good fit for your background and interests.
Ask questions about the types of hikes they plan, too. You want a good fit for your trail style and preferences before you commit to the group.
are well organized hiking groups!
If you get a chance to take a professional level class on a hiking or camping topic, or a specialized backpacking class, you’ll have a ready made pool of avid folks as potential hiking partners.
And maybe the instructor(s) will have the name of potential hiking partners or groups, if you take time to ask them.
REI Co-op runs amazing outdoor classes, taught by experts and attended by folks in your region.
Check out my thoughts on this approach to finding a trail buddy here.
Advantages of hiking groups
Many hikers love the benefits of hiking in a group, for these reasons:
- safety against predators,
- first aid help if needed,
- new friends,
- potential romance,
- broadening of hiking horizons,
- skill building,
- building a shared set of memories,
- not waiting on the sidelines to get out there and explore.
You’ll love group hiking
If you yearn to take off for a social hiking adventure but don’t want to spend a lot of your precious time and energy planning it, why not consider a group hiking trip for your next vacation?
- Read how to get started here.
And the flip side:
disadvantages of group hiking
Being a member of a hiking group might not be for you due to:
- loss of control over hiking pace and decisions,
- inflexible scheduling,
- scheduling conflicts,
- personality conflicts or friction,
- cancellation due to weather which may not seem all that bad to you,
- divergent hiking philosophies,
- bullying in terms of hiking pace or expectations.
Finding the perfect match for you
The perfect group is not going to fall into your lap.
In fact, you’re going to have to do a bit of leg work (which should prepare you for some tough hikes) to find them.
Here are ways to do just that.
One option is to look for MeetUp groups in your area, using key words such as “hiking” and “outdoors”.
Keep your eyes open for local websites and forums that publish trail
- If you join the online community, you can ask for companions on
your upcoming hikes.
Social media groups with “hiking” in their names are a no brainer, but be careful to consider the tone and photos which are posted to ensure a good fit.
Or create a profile on an app for platonic friends. Be sure to mention the area, type of hiking, and your hiking bucket list in order to weed out non-hikers quickly.
Low tech approaches
I’ve had luck with posting my quest for trail buddies on bulletin boards in local book stores and coffee shops.
- Be sure to create a free email address that you use only for this purpose. You can always delete it if it’s spammed.
- And having little tear off stickers with that address on it makes it easy for others to contact you.
Take a class at a gear store: REI classes receive rave reviews and are a great place to find other hikers.
Community colleges sometimes offer free or cheap classes related to the type of hiking you like best. There are bound to be other hikers looking for trail buddies in those classes.
- Related class topics like local botany, wildlife tracking, outdoor photography and birding may also connect you with hikers.
- Don’t confine yourself to classes strictly related to hiking and camping – even a class on historical landmarks or cooking can lead you to outdoorsy folks!
Go on a few low risk solo hikes and chat with any solo hikers you meet on the trail.
- Maybe next time you can team up.
Spread the word that you’re on the lookout for a hiking group when you attend meetings & classes.
- You never know who knows another hiker. Anyone can open that door for you.
Volunteer on a trail crew or for projects sponsored by a nature or environmental group. Like minded folks, right?
The easiest way to find
ideal hiking partners
Not the fastest, but maybe the easiest way, is to let other people do the leg work.
In other words, tap your current in person and virtual social networks for potential hiking buddies.
- Do you attend worship services?
- Take exercise classes?
- Shop at a food co-op?
Make it a point to chat up all the folks there with hiking as a topic of conversation.
Think really outside the box, like a dentist appointment or a pedicure.
- When they ask how your weekend was, mention your hike, or lack of one.
Maybe they don’t hike, but they may have a family member or friend who loves hiking.
Because you already know these folks, the trust level is a bit higher.
After all, you’ll be seeing them on a regular basis, and may already have a feel for how reliable and friendly they are.
Keep at it!
Don’ give up your quest for the perfect hiking partner.
You’ll have to pull yourself out of your comfort zone, no doubt, but if you want to join the perfect (for you) hiking groups, it’s worth it.
Best Hiking Groups And How To Find Them
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This article was printed from Hiking-For-Her.com