Wandering through the great outdoors solo is a fantastic experience (just ask Alison, who took on the Colorado wilderness alone). But sometimes, hiking with friends is just more fun. Studies show that regularly getting outside with a group has an impact on blood pressure, mental health, and overall physical condition, but if you’ve just moved to a new city or your friends aren’t into exploring, where are you supposed to find hiking buddies? We want to help you finish the year strong and meet your hiking goals. So if you’re not already connected to a hiking community and it sounds like something you’d be interested in, we’ve put together a guide to help you get started.
Where to look for a hiking group
Where there are hiking trails, there are hikers. And where there are hikers, you can bet your backpack that there are hiking groups exploring, socializing, and maintaining the trails together. Here’re some great places to find them:
- Trail associations: These are groups of people who serve as caretakers and advocates for a given trail or area. Many will be able to give you contact information for individual trail clubs, ranging from casual get-togethers to larger organizations with membership fees. You can also get involved with the association itself, which is a great way to make friends as you maintain trails (and even create new ones).
- Meetups: Meetup.com is a great place to either find an existing group or start your own. You’ll find some fantastic, long-standing Meetup groups that hike together regularly. Most are free, though a few may require a small membership fee.
- Nature or science centers: They’re a great resource for information on the surrounding area. While not necessarily oriented to hiking groups, they often offer guided tours and field trips, which can help you find new trails or get familiar with trails that you didn’t want to tackle by yourself the first time out.
- Local colleges and universities: Many schools have student hiking and outdoor clubs. Some even welcome non-students to join their adventures.
- Outdoor gear retailers: Though less common than the other groups, some local retailers have calendars that feature planned hikes. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, REI Adventures organizes some amazing guided trips all over the world.
One thing to note is that while it’s possible to find a hiking partner in places like an online forum or Craigslist, we don’t recommend it due to safety concerns. If you decide to give it a go anyway, do yourself a favor and meet at a coffee shop or some other public place instead of the trailhead. That way you aren’t stuck alone in the middle of nowhere if things don’t seem on the up and up. Even then, if you decide to go on the hike after that first meeting, it’s not a bad idea to make sure that a third person joins you.
Resources to get you started
Here’s a list of the more popular hiking associations, Meetups, and hiking clubs across the United States:
New York New Jersey Trail Conference A fun group of trail volunteers who serve as guides on the trail and hold hands-on classes on trail maintenance. Also offers contacts for local hiking clubs. East Hampton Trails Preservation Society (New York) A fantastic group on Long Island that hikes regularly for both maintenance and pure fun. Connecticut Forest & Park Association This association holds a variety of hiking and family-oriented educational activities, along with volunteer events. Appalachian Mountain Club Supports individual chapters along the length of the Appalachian Trail (through the southern states).
Florida Trail Association This is the Meetup site for two chapters of the FTA. Palmetto Conservation (South Carolina) This organization supports the Palmetto Trail and other greenways in South Carolina. They also offer multiple hiking events each month.
Minnesota Rovers Outdoors Club Members coordinate hikes and other events every week throughout the state. Tri-State Hiking Club A Meetup for hikers in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Over 6,000 members strong! The Sierra Club: Missouri Chapter One chapter of the larger Sierra Club organization. Holds lots of hiking and socializing events throughout the year.
The Mountaineers (Washington) Organizes events for hiking, kayaking, photography, and more. Requires a yearly membership fee. Idaho Hiking Club A Meetup with over 3,000 members all over the state.
Colorado Mountain Club Helps locals and world travelers alike adventure in Colorado’s fantastic mountain ranges. Take a Hike (Arizona) A Meetup that does hiking, biking, camping, and kayaking throughout the state. Urban Diversion (California) This group meets for adventures of all kinds around the Bay area. Most events require a paid membership, but their trips are open to non-member signups.
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Hero image: Flickr/Moyan Brenn, used under CC BY / Resized image 1: Flickr/Hugo Chisholm, used under CC BY / Resized image 2: Flickr/Hugo Chisholm, used under CC BY / Resized